Why Rihanna’s Halftime Performance Was Actually Yoga

Why Rihanna’s Halftime Performance Was Actually Yoga
Feb 2023

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Among the hundreds, if not thousands, of recaps written about Rihanna's halftime performance at Super Bowl LVII, there is one that is different. It includes no mention of her being a fashionista or her net value in dollars or how long her fans have been waiting for her next release. Instead, the Instagram post penned by a yoga and meditation teacher quietly emphasized the simplicity and power that we witnessed in Rihanna on the world stage.

"I was watching it and I found that I felt really calm. I was noticing how it landed in my body, and I thought, 'Why am I feeling this?" says mother, wife, rest coach, and obvious Rihanna fan Octavia Raheem. "She looked so comfortable in her own skin that I felt that same way looking at her. She just seemed alright with herself. Very authentic."

And that moment when Rihanna sat down? Raheem says, "I was like, 'Wow. I am here for this.'"

Afterward, Raheem kept thinking about it. As she was reading different accounts of the performance, she noticed many of them asserted Rihanna didn't do enough. "'I was like, 'What?!' And this is everything that is the problem."

Then she read someone's comment, "I wanted to see her shake her ass, not sit on it."

That's when Raheem sat down to write. "I thought that she did something kind of legendary for women and mothers and Black women," she says. "I know it was on purpose. I know to show up with ease, there is effort. And she was saying, 'This the Rihanna you gonna get.'"

One of Raheem's primary teachings is that "yoga takes us back to who we were before the world tells us who you were supposed to be." What Rihanna expressed, says Raheem, is "I will not be told who I am. You cannot tell me or contain me. I will be me. In my mind, her standing in her authenticity is her embodying what yoga is teaching, which is how do we remember and access who we are."

That is exactly what can be felt upon reading Raheem's Instagram post. There's yoga here.

There was an ease in Rihanna's presence and performance last night. This is what I want for all women and people who have been underestimated and marginalized. Especially you, me, and us.

In Rihanna's presence, I saw a Black Woman and Mother sit down when she wanted and needed to. I also saw a Black Woman and Mother soar above the ground, sing, and be free with a kind of grace and comfort that made me take a fuller breath.

I also saw a Black Woman and Mother be surrounded by, protected, supported up and down, fully seen, and at times concealed by others when she needed to gather herself. We deserve this.

In Rihanna's simplicity, there was a pure genius. Rihanna disregarded Black Excellence and instead rested and poured out from an overflow of her authentic Black Genius.

She did not "do it all." She left room for every single choice, move, turn, hip circle, bounce, and note to be experienced without the distraction of razzle, dazzle, this, that, and the other.

She held our gaze and sang in our ears. She did not rely on distractions to deliver her voice or "elevate" her message.

What I am deeply deeply inspired by in Rihanna's presence and performance though is this:
There was the clearest statement of "as I am, I am enough" in Rihanna's decision to be the sole act.

My goodness.

The choice to say,
Here I am, and I am enough.

This is what I pray to be restored in each and everyone of us.
The knowing that
As we are, we are enough.
Then we will have more ease.
Then we will rest.

About Our Contributors

Octavia Raheem is a wife, mother, and author of Pause, Rest, Be and Gather. She is a rest coach and experienced yoga and meditation teacher and activist. She began practicing yoga in 1999 and has been teaching since 2007. With 10,000+ hours of training and teaching experience, she shares her wisdom and knowledge from a place of embodiment. She is a real, relatable, and visionary leader in the field of rest, wellness, and yoga. As a teacher, author, and coach, Octavia has a distinctive approach and voice. One that is warm, down to earth, and also cosmic. Her teaching is grounded in her roots and real-life experience as a woman learning to love herself as well as center her well-being, transformation, and liberation via storytelling, yoga, rest, meditation, and Yoga Nidra. Follow her at @octaviaraheem.

Renee Marie Schettler is a senior editor at Yoga Journal and has worked as an editor at The Washington Post,Real Simple magazine, and online media. She started studying yoga nearly 20 years ago with teachers in New York City who emphasized the challenging of finding precise alignment in a posture. Her understanding of yoga changed when she began learning from teachers who believe the practice is less about how we execute the posture and more about whether we can surrender into the stillness of it. She finds that editing, writing, and practicing yoga are each about becoming more aware of truth. She has been teaching yoga since 2017. Follow her at @reneemarieschettler.