Counting Each Exhale

miriam snow picIt’s 4:19 am. I’m hungry, again, so I grab some cashews and blanched almonds and go back to bed, the stillness in the room on par with the same calm inside. I close my eyes and try to exhale to a count of at least eight. They say that longer exhales increase the amount of oxytocin flowing through the body, or some chemical buzz-concept that I read online while stuck at a desk, my breathing constantly short and snappy.

It’s 5:30. I’m awake. Fuck.

I get up in the dark and figure that it’s time to start this day. What else am I supposed to do? Go to work early? Then I peer through the brand new blinds my apartment management company provided, and see another snowy quilt lying all over the ground. There was brown sickly grass there yesterday. Today, I’ll probably break these fancy blinds because I seem to ruin everything anyway. Inhale. Exhale. A count of three. At least my shoulders are away from my ears and I am able to push the air from my lungs. When I first moved to Pittsburgh I thought I was getting sick again, but it was my body clearing out city pollution.

I stopped coughing yesterday.

I’m not dreaming anymore, because I just registered myself as a yoga teacher.

If my eyes had only been opened in the way they have over the past six months across my thirty-two years of life, I’d have been full of oxygen and light, swinging from open arms, limbs loose, eyes full and bold and slightly hungry to experience more, than gasping for breath and blinded as I was in New York. For years there, I couldn’t get past an exhale of two for the majority of my time on this planet. What didn’t help to rectify this was that I used to smoke cigarettes, despite all the yoga and kale. They say balance is good for the soul, but when the air is thick, I only make it thicker with vices and tears.

The sun is up now and reminds me that I chose to change a year ago rather than suffer at the hands of the angry Greek gods by which I was surrounded. Medusa, I remember, had the power to turn people to stone, but I knew – no matter what – my lungs were strong and my heart stronger and that I would never look her in the eye. So here I am. Whole. Alive.

I stop watching the clock.Instead, I watch the snow. And then my breath. And then my inbox. I’m responsible for myself and my schedule these days, and if I don’t get out in that precious gap between blizzard and nightfall, then I’ll be trapped. Yet I pinch myself, again, because I know I’m awake.To reinforce that fact, I close my eyes, count to eight, and that’s when I find how the oxytocin is not only coming from my body’s reaction to the stillness, but from the arms that are wrapping around me, unseen, but clearly felt. If this is contentment, then I’m awake and alive and breathing in and out to the count of ten.


Miriam Lamey is a Pittsburgh-based writer and yoga teacher. She strives to be open and attentive to the everyday, using life’s beauty and tragedy as inspiration for her writing and yoga practice. She’s an avid Ashtanga practitioner, also partial to a great new album, excellent bottle of wine, a good Manhattan, and attentively-cooked meal. Check out more of her writing and yoga things at


Miriam Lamey
Miriam Lamey is an Pittsburgh-based writer and yoga teacher. She strives to be open and attentive to the everyday, writing with vulnerability and honesty - things she also continually explores in her personal ashtanga yoga practice. She loves the discovery and adventure of being and aims to render experience via prose. Miriam's head is also turned by thoughtful and poignant music, an excellent bottle of wine, well-crafted cocktails, delicious food, the wide outdoors, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. She is grateful to have so much support and love in her life. Her photography and insights are on Instagram under Ldym_07. Read more on her blog at