Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Finally February. Exhale.

I really hate to admit this, but I loathe the month of January. I hate the pressure of New Year's resolutions and the general feelings of deprivation based on self-hatred that always seem to accompany a resolution. The month of January feels so empty and cold, probably the way someone would feel inside if they actually attempted that ridiculous Special K diet of eating processed cereal for every meal (and no offense if you dig the Special K diet, but at the same time, really?!?) It isn't that I hate winter - I actually like winter a lot. I love December and February, and when I was a little kid I used to love playing in the snow more than anything. I was one of those children who lived in her imagination, dreaming up fantasy worlds and playing in them all of the time, having to be shocked back to reality by the adults in my life. I remember, distinctly, laying completely still in a huge snow drift in the yard of my childhood home in Cleveland Hts., Ohio when I was about six and thinking "I'm not cold! I'm not cold at all! I must be a snow angel. Yes! That's it! I bet I'm a princess from a magical snow world!" and being REALLY ANGRY when my mother made me come inside, and even trying to explain to her that no, I didn't need to warm up, because I was a snow princess, DUH.

So it's not the COLD of January that gets me. The cold of January always feels less about the temperature and more about something else. It's an emptiness, a hollowness, something dark and gray and awful that the cold temperatures make all the more unbearable and obvious to me. It's this painful ice-blue color that I'm not sure I've ever seen in real life. I'd be remiss to not also acknowledge that my mother passed away in January, 2004 after a 2 year battle with breast cancer. She died on January 25, so the whole month that year was living through the final stages of her illness. It was an awful, devastating month. I don't necessarily associate my negative feelings about January with her death, but at the same time I'm sure in some underlying way it makes it that much worse. Suffice to say - I tend to plod through the month of January focused solely on making it through. And, true to my nature, I always seem to FORGET that January has this effect on me and I spend a lot of the month wondering why I feel so completely awful most of the time. And, in fact, it isn't until I suddenly feel better on February 1 that I realize how bad I actually WAS feeling. Oy. Life is such a curious thing.

The good news is that I honestly feel myself come out of the January fog the MINUTE the month ends. It's so strange. I woke up this morning and felt better than I have in a long time. I'm excited and hopeful about a whole slew of things, and sometimes feeling excited and hopeful is the best part, right?

So, hello again blog-world. You will be hearing a lot more from me in the next few weeks, I'm quite sure.

And now for a bit of yoga, if you're interested:

Some unsolicited advice: take at least five minutes today to be ALONE and quiet, and do some pranayama (breath work) today to welcome the month of February. Here is my suggestion:

Find a comfortable, seated position, perhaps on the edge of a cushion, block or folded blanket to bring the hips higher than the knees. Soften everything in your body as you elongate and extend through your spine, imagining the space between each of your vertebrate expanding like a fluffy pillow. Feel your energy both grounding you down but also lifting you up: a bouyent torso on a firm, strong base.

Begin by noticing your breath exactly as it is in this moment. Do not change a thing. Meet your breath wherever it is. After a minute of observation (non-judgmental, compassionate observation if at all possible!!) begin to deepen your inhale, filling to the bottom of the belly, letting it puff out (all those years of sucking in can be a hard habit to break, I know!) and then watching as the breath continues to come in, filling and lifting the rib cage three dimensionally, finally coming all the way over the collar bones in the upper chest. Exhale and release starting from the top, then from the rib cage, finally squeezing all of the air out of the belly. Continue taking long, slow inhales and releasing controlled exhales through the nostrils, just watching the breath as it travels in and out, in and out. Do this for at least five minutes. Then, inhale deeply and hold the breath, hanging suspended for a count of 10 - noticing what it feels like to be completely full - and release with a big, audible SIGH. Do this a few more times - big, slow inhale, hold, exhale with an audible sigh, letting go of January, letting go of stress and anxiety, letting go of everything you think you need to do or accomplish. Letting go of everything in your life that is holding you back or not serving you. Just let go.

Now, close your eyes and notice how you feel for a minute or two. Notice the effect of the practice, the effect of breath and prana - life-force - as it swirls within.

End with a big OM and say hello to February. =)

PS - I'd love to hear your experience if you take five or ten minutes to do this!!


  1. Thanks for that Hilary. I don't share your overall view of January, especially now that Thea was born in January, but I definitely needed the reminder to breathe. As you may have read on my blog, it's been a rough almost-week here, and a little breath work was appreciated.

  2. Hey John, I *did* read your blog, and I'm SO sorry about what's going on with your mom. I really do relate with the shift you're talking about - the responsibility we have to our parents as they (and we) get older, especially having lost a parent at a relatively young age when all the responsibility to care for her fell to my other parent, and I was mainly along for the ride, as you said so well. Oy. Life, life, life.