We’re squarely in the dreary days of winter, and although they won’t last long, relatively speaking, most of us need coping mechanisms to make it through.
Frequent Methow Valley visitor Todd Wagner recommends yoga, not just as a strategy for combatting the winter blues, but as a daily habit. Fifteen years ago Todd went to a yoga class and the instructor kept mentioning “your daily practice.” Todd was stunned. Was yoga something he — “a 55-year-old male with hardly any flexibility — was supposed to do regularly? Apparently it was.
The next day Todd decided to embark on a daily yoga practice but couldn’t remember a thing from the previous day’s class. So he went to the library, learned a thing or two, and began what has become a 15-year stretch of almost-daily yoga practice (“on a yearly basis I might miss five or six days,” he says).
“As I went through my routine, I kept adding on new poses,” Todd says. “Now I’m a 70-year-old male with incredible flexibility and stamina. Yoga has given me so much: a community, mindfulness, gratitude, a sense of calm, and peacefulness.”
Reading is another great way to escape the doldrums, especially if you read a book that puts your own situation or complaints into perspective. For example, I’m re-reading “Mawson’s Will,” about Australian polar explorer Sir Douglas Mawson’s 1911 expedition to chart 1,500 miles of Antarctic coastline in what Sir Edmund Hillary called “the most outstanding solo journey ever recorded in Antarctic history.”
If you’re feeling disgruntled by the epic snowfall plus the epic cold snap plus the epic rain, you might cheer yourself up with Mawson’s description of the pain of snow blindness (which was treated with cocaine and zinc tablets under the eyelids), the discomfort of sleeping for weeks in a damp and molting reindeer skin sleeping bag, and the “fishy, foul” flavor and “slimy, clinging texture” of dog liver and what destruction it wreaks on the human body.
If that doesn’t lift your spirits, skip ahead to the chapter where Mawson notices a lumpy “squelching” feeling in his feet, removes his boots and socks, and learns that the soles of his feet have separated from the upper part of his foot. Luckily his bandage supply wasn’t swallowed up by the crevasse that claimed the sled that contained nearly all of the dog food, nearly all of the human food, the tent, the good stove, and one of his companions, so Mawson is able to strap the soles of his feet back on for the remaining 250 miles of crevasse-strewn glacier travel.
The book fresh in my mind, I ran into some visitors on the ski trails who were inquiring about what winter was like in the Methow. “Is it pretty chill?” they asked. “Yeah,” I said, thinking of Mawson finally reaching the outpost he’d established the year before, only to learn that the ship that could have carried him home had departed six hours earlier, stranding him through another Antarctic winter. “All unicorns and rainbows.”