01/20/2015 09:38 am ET Updated Jan 20, 2015

The Congressman On A Quest To Make America More Zen

Bill Clark via Getty Images

“It really is disgusting, if you think about it,” Tim Ryan is saying. The six-foot-four, Italian-Irish Congressman from Ohio is sitting in his office. Behind him is a blown-up photograph of his baby in a “Tiny Democrat” onesie. He’s inviting me to come to a hot-yoga class he regularly attends with his staff, but he’s careful not to oversell it. “People are sweating everywhere. Dudes are in there with their shirts off. If you’re like a petite, clean woman, next to this beast who’s sweating like … ” He makes a face. “Anyway, you’re invited. We’d love to have you.”

Almost everyone comes to Capitol Hill to espouse a set of ideas; usually, those ideas fit neatly in the ideological confines of a political party. Ryan’s are a bit different. He's established himself as Congress’s mindful member, penning books on the power of meditation and what he calls “the real food revolution,” advocating for yoga, meditation, and unplugging from the internet as a salve to the stresses of modern existence. Think Deepak Chopra meets Michael Pollan, in the body of a former high-school football player turned Democratic Congressman from the Rust Belt. He’s introduced bills to add holistic and alternative-medicine programs for the treatment of veterans, to teach schoolchildren social and emotional skills through better self-awareness, to fund “integrated nutrition curricula” in medical schools — and that’s just in the last Congress.

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