Smooth Havoc

I have been so excited to share this week’s quote during each of my yoga classes (you can watch those replays here!)

This bit of poetry totally resonates with me – I wonder if you feel the same way! Let me know in the comments below.๐Ÿ˜Š

Each time I have shared this quote recently I have entered into a daydream about immediately throwing a bunch of beach gear into the car and hurrying to the shore. Summer is in full swing and I haven’t made it to the beach yet! I am craving the feeling of sun on my skin, sand between my toes and – of course – some rejuvenating beach yoga! Here’s to hoping I make it there soon.

The poem has prompted lots of deeper contemplation for me, though. The speaker addresses the reader directly and I can’t help but feel… well… seen. ๐Ÿ™ˆ

Mary Oliver’s poem offers the juxtaposition of a benevolent being with that of a wicked and devastating force. These two parts form a single whole – embodied together in the entirety of the ocean.

The invitation is to examine this juxtaposition within ourselves and then to integrate that sense of wholeness. (Even if it feels tricky or uncomfortable.)

No one escapes the observation of the narrator; the sea behaves and misbehaves “As I can too, and so, no doubt, can you, and you.” That last part leaves no escape for anyone in the reading audience: if you skirted by the first direct address, then surely you can’t avoid the second. By owning the full spectrum of destruction and healing that lives inside of themselves, the narrator makes it okay for us to recognize and own it inside of ourselves, too. We’re all in it together. We make up an ocean of humanity that ebbs, storms, gently undulates and thrashes for the sake of thrashing, sometimes. We’re just as beautiful and severe as the sea.

The ocean can be cruel and fierce, but that doesn’t make you any less excited for a trip to the beach, does it? The ocean is also soothing, cleansing and lots of fun, too! As with anything in life, we have to take the good with the bad.

Learn to love yourself – all of yourself – as you love the ocean. With admiration, delight and awe. Embrace all of your strength and power, while tenderly nourishing the shorelines of your life. ๐ŸŒŠ

This equanimity is a part of the process of yoga. It’s the work of threading a peaceful connection between all aspects of mind, body and spirit – with yourself and with everyone else.

I encourage you to practice yoga with me. I can help you along this path of integration and connection – we will ride the waves together!

PS – I started a YouTube channel! ๐Ÿฅณ Subscribe here and hit the notification bell while you’re there so you don’t miss new posts! ๐Ÿ””

PPS – Join the Compass Yoga Community Facebook Group here and sign up for my FREE beginner-friendly guided meditation for sleep and relaxation here.

Summer Celebration Yoga

Sign up for live yoga with me this Saturday, June 19th @ 10AM (est)!

Is anyone else really, really looking forward to this weekend? I do my best to appreciate each and every day, but sometimes it’s hard during a busy work week. I grow impatient and urge a few days to fly by. And it feels especially hard this week with so many wonderful celebrations to look forward to during the weekend!

Saturday June 19th is Juneteenth – the celebration of the official end of slavery, two and half years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Declaration. Juneteenth is now officially a national holiday – an overdue recognition that will help refresh our focus on past ills and current injustices, so that we may eradicate these systemic issues forever. Most importantly, the day invites us to celebrate the strength and vibrancy of the Black communities in our nation. ๐Ÿ–ค Happy Juneteenth!

Sunday June 20th is Father’s Day – don’t forget to pick out a card or a gift, make a phone call or spend quality time with with your Dad or the dad-like figure in your life! ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿ‘ง If anything, the holiday is an opportunity to show appreciation for the close and supportive forces in your life, whoever they may be. My dad is incredibly generous and hilarious, and I am looking forward to the opportunity to make sure he knows! Happy Father’s Day!

โ˜€๏ธ Sunday June 20th is also the Summer Solstice – the longest day of the year (in terms of daylight hours) which heralds the official start of the summer season. (The Sun is also representative of the divine masculine/father in astrology. Lots of “Dad” energy this weekend!) The energy of this hot summer solstice gives you lots of momentum – lights a literal fire under your ass ๐Ÿ”ฅ๐Ÿ”ฅ – to achieve a goal, finish a project or follow through on something you’ve been daydreaming about. Pay attention to the quiet voice that tells you to make a dream a priority – the time to listen is now!

And of course, for all of June we celebrate Pride – an opportunity to support, recognize and advocate for LGBTQ+ members of our community. Happy Pride! ๐ŸŒˆ

๐Ÿ‘‰ And I am happy to share that I am adding yet ANOTHER reason to celebrate!

I will be teaching a Summer Celebration Yoga class on Saturday, June 19th at 10AM (est.)

Hooray!! ๐ŸŽ‰๐ŸŽ‰

I will be donating a part of the event proceeds to the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) in observance of Juneteenth and Pride. Our donation will support Black LGBTQ civil rights and empower marginalized communities!!

Take this opportunity to harness the power of the sun and the celebratory energy of liberation and freedom. Treat Dad to some yoga! Cherish your family, your community and yourself. Spending time doing the introspective work of yoga affords you the clarity and peace to step out as your best self – for you and for those around you.

Yoga will make you SHINE like the SUN! Join us โ˜€๏ธ

๐Ÿงญ

Manage Your Mood

Have you ever noticed how thoughtful movement and exercise clears your mind and elevates your spirits? If you are present to this sensation then you know it’s really kinda magical. โœจ

On the flip side: have you noticed how impatient, achy and withdrawn you feel on a day when you don’t incorporate enough movement? I have certainly noticed, and this is why I have made daily yoga practice a part of my routine for many years now.

Maybe you haven’t thought about any of this before and this is a new opportunity for reflection. ๐Ÿค” No matter where you land, I’d like to extend an invitation for you to explore healthy, relaxing movement and tune into the nourishment that your body craves. When you nourish your body it helps relieve your mind and spirit, too.

I offer free virtual yoga classes every Monday that can help set you up for success throughout your whole day! (I also make the replays available in my Compass Yoga Community Facebook group, so that you can revisit and harness that success throughout the whole week!)

Relax every muscle in your body, quiet your racing mind, and spend some quality time with yourself during any of my 3 free classes.

Sign up here for tomorrow’s FREE online yoga classes and learn more about each class – Align, Center & Release – below:

Align Morning Flow

7AM (Eastern)

Welcome to Align: 30 minutes of gentle movement to ease you into your day and help you set a meaningful intention. We explore breathing exercises, yoga asanas (poses) and meditative reflection to help us ALIGN ourselves with our best intentions and our highest Selves.

Register for Align.

Center Afternoon Chair Flow

1:30PM (Eastern)

Incorporate movement into your day with Center – a 15-minute Chair Flow

This class is great for all ability levels! Whether you are chair-bound or working at a desk all day, this will help you get some blood flowing and clear your mind before you dive back into your day.

Perhaps you had a great morning with a clear sense of purpose and boundless energy…but then life happened. ๐Ÿ™ƒ Work, parenting, chores, Mercury retrograde… something may have knocked you out of peaceful alignment and into a tailspin.

Come back to yourself with Center. This quick class is designed to give you a grounding break so that you can face your day feeling refreshed and ready.

Register for Center.

Release Evening Flow

8PM (Eastern)

Unwind and get ready for sleep with Release – a 30-minute evening flow.

Enjoy a gentle flow to ease tension and soothe your body for a restful night! This class incorporates asana (poses) pranayama (breathing exercises) and meditation.

You’ve worked so hard all day and now you have earned a treat: deeply relaxing and soothing self-care in the form of feel-good yoga poses and gentle encouragement to Release what is no longer serving you.

Register for Release.

I look forward to seeing you in class!!

โ“ Questions? Comment below or email me @ compassyogawithkristen@gmail.com

๐Ÿ‘‰ Don’t forget to sign up for my FREE guided meditation (it’s beginner-friendly!)

๐Ÿ‘‰ Join my Compass Yoga Community on Facebook.

๐Ÿ‘‰ Follow me on Instagram: @ compassyogawithkristen

Yoga Outdoors

Intoxication with color, sometimes subliminal, often fierce, may express itself as a profound attachment to landscape.

Ellen Meloy, The Anthropology of Turquoise: Reflections on Desert, Sea, Stone and Sky

Rolling out my mat in the grass for an outdoor yoga practice has felt natural to me from the very beginning. (More comfortable than a studio ever has, in all honesty.) I know it all comes down to personal preference, but for me: yoga outside is the ultimate!!

Yoga on a lunch break at a garden near work!

This is why I am SO excited to be teaching outdoor yoga, on a farm, later this month!! If you are local to New Jersey then I hope to see you there! More details below.

My primary yoga teacher, Lesley Fightmaster, released beautiful HD videos each week of herself teaching yoga on the beaches of southern California. This got my gears turning. Why limit myself to a yoga practice in my dusty home, or in a dark studio, when I could hit the sand instead? Or the grass? Or the wood planks of a quaint garden gazebo? I began traveling everywhere with my mat, often using my lunch breaks at work to scout out the next lush, vibrant, out-of-the-way space for me to post up and reset in the middle of my day through some yoga poses and mindful breathing.

Now that the weather is turning mild again you can expect that I will be prowling around for the best yoga spots again! And oftentimes the best spot is the backyard – simply as a matter of convenience. Yoga doesn’t have to be grand or fancy, and you can definitely gain a new appreciation for your own space through the lens of outdoor yoga.

Last night I finished reading The Anthropology of Turquoise: Reflections on Desert, Sea, Stone and Sky by Ellen Meloy. (I highly recommend! ๐Ÿ‘) The entire book is an invitation to look at nature, and all of the natural forces, with reverence, awe and humor. Full appreciation of nature is about taking on new perspectives and engaging all of your senses.

For a homebody surrounded by the familiar or a traveler exploring the strange, there can be no better guide to a place than the weight of its air, the behavior of its light, the shape of its water, the textures of rock and feather, leaf and fur, and the ways that humans bless, mark or obliterate them. Each of us possesses five fundamental, enthralling maps to the natural world: sight, touch, taste, hearing, smell.

Ellen Meloy, The Anthropology of Turquoise: Reflections on Desert, Sea, Stone and Sky

It’s hard for me to imagine a better way to channel healthy “intoxication with color” than to practice outdoor yoga. Great news – I’ve scouted out a new place for us to roll out our mats together, yay! ๐ŸŽ‰๐ŸŽ‰

Join me for Farm Yoga & Volunteering @ School Lunch Organic Farm in Hackettstown, NJ on Sunday, May 22 @ 10AM. Registration/Information link below.

Feel the warm sun and the tickle of a light breeze on your skin as you lay in savasana on your mat. See the green of grass and plants, the blue of sky, the rainbow of mats spread around on the ground. Smell the dirt, and hear the call of birds, the breath of the wind. And then who knows: take home a veggie seedling while you are at the farm and then taste the earth transmuted into tomato flesh after you nurture your garden into fruit! ๐ŸŒฑ๐ŸŒˆ๐ŸŒฟ

I would love to see you there! *Sign up soon – spots are limited!*

I’m curious: Where do you like to do your physical yoga practice? Or – better yet – where would be your *dream* location to practice yoga? Let me know in the comments below!! ๐Ÿ‘‡

PS – Do you need help unwinding from your day? Let me help! Sign up for your free guided meditation here. ๐ŸŽฏ

Another lunch break yoga set up

Let it go.

I come back to this Caroline Myss quote time and time again – I’ve been sharing it in my free yoga videos this week, and I thought it was important to share it here with you, too.

(Remember – you can join my Compass Yoga Community on Facebook and meet me virtually for free live yoga each week! And sign up HERE for help falling asleep with my free, beginner-friendly guided meditation. ๐Ÿ™Œ)

Now, back to our quote….

When you take the bold and brave move to step out of your own way, you make room for your wonderful life, exactly as it is, to play out around and through you. Maybe it doesn’t look or feel too wonderful, and that’s okay – this quote offers a simple invitation to stop adding additional pressure to the situation. The pressure of expectation and control takes you farther from contentment and satisfaction, farther away from wonderful.

The pain and the friction in your life? That’s rope burn, and it comes from clinging too tightly to things that need to be let go of. The only relief from the struggle will come from YOU as you resolve to let go. You can’t change the weather, someone else’s habits, the housing market or bad driving, and you will waste a lot of precious time if you try.

Notice where frustration and disappointment are showing up in your life, gift yourself compassion, and then accept these things that you cannot change.

Follow the simple directive that Caroline Myss has to offer and “Just let go.”

It certainly takes practice. But the price you pay for neglecting this practice is to head down a path that winds you away from wonderful. Gently, as slowly as you need to, lift one finger at a time up and away from your clenching grip until you are ready to release the illusion of control. It is only when you commit to this surrender that you can see the gifts of your life more clearly and dance a little more gracefully through the twists and turns.

Personally, I’m practicing the art of letting go at work a lot lately. It feels way easier to complain about circumstances and heap blame. But easier doesn’t always feel as satisfying or fulfilling. In fact it feels draining. When I catch myself gripping to an idea of “how things should be” I course-correct, reminding myself that things can’t be any other way then how they are…otherwise they wouldn’t be this way! ๐Ÿ˜‰

That might be a lot to chew on, and it might sound really hard. Maybe like wishful thinking. But isn’t it more delightful to wish that these scenes are showing up in our lives for wonderful reasons, instead of wishing these scenes away?

I’ll be curious to know how letting go shows up for you in your life – leave a comment and let me know! ๐Ÿ™‚

Don’t forget to join the Compass Yoga Community and try out my meditation, too!

๐Ÿ‘‰ I plan to start offering private one-on-one yoga sessions soon – be on the lookout for an update! ๐Ÿฅณ

Choices, Choices

This is the quote that I’ve shared in this week’s Compass Yoga Community videos – I wanted to share here with you, too, in case it offers you valuable reflection. ๐Ÿ’ญ

Before I expand on this quote, I want to remind you to sign up HERE to receive my *free* guided meditation for sleep and relaxation. If you need help unwinding during/after a long day, let me help!

It’s really easy to get caught up in the self-doubt and negativity that may swirl around your head. ๐Ÿคฏ It can lead you to make impulsive choices out of desperation – choices that don’t really feel much like “choices” in the end.

What if, instead of letting fear take the wheel, you were to operate from a place of thoughtful, empowered choice? What would that life look like? Feel like? You can always offer yourself love, and you can always make decisions from a heart-centered place. ๐Ÿ’“ It takes practice, but it’s worth your life to prioritize your highest self and your highest values. Don’t let any part of you be compromised along the way.

I’ve found that through yoga I am able to connect with my heart a little easier, a little deeper. Again, it has taken practice, and I still have a lot of work to do. But it’s been a powerful journey.

If you’re looking for access to more love in your life, and less fear, join the Compass Yoga Community and practice yoga with me. I truly believe yoga can help.

You can join HERE.

๐Ÿงญ๐Ÿ’•

PS – I’d like to add some context here about Osho, or Rajneesh. Have you seen that Netflix docu-series Wild Wild Country? Well…this quote is by that guy. To be clear, I don’t condone the dangerous criminal acts that any of his followers enacted within their community in Oregon. Admittedly I’m uneasy about sharing the words of a man who ran what was ultimately a radicalized cult. But the sentiment shared here is universal and potent – no matter who the words are attributed to, it’s important to let love and joy guide your life. That message is resoundingly clear.

Practice Yoga With Me!

I am thrilled to announce The Compass Yoga Community Weekly Yoga Schedule!

๐ŸŽ‰๐ŸŽ‰๐ŸŽ‰๐ŸŽ‰๐ŸŽ‰

*Free* live yoga offerings on Mondays through May 24th

Classes will stream live on Facebook or you can join on Zoom.

Join here: Compass Yoga Community

๐Ÿ‘‰ Don’t forget – I can help you alleviate stress in your life. Do you ever have trouble falling asleep at night? Are you looking for a simple way to relax? Try my *free* meditation offering.

โ— Subscribe here – when you sign up for the Compass Yoga email list you will receive my FREE Yoga Nidra Guided Meditation Practice.

Read on for free live yoga details.

๐Ÿ‘‰ย Replays will be available in the Facebook group. Don’t worry if you can’t catch the livestream! You can fit any of these videos into your own schedule throughout the week. Enjoy!ย ๐Ÿ’–

7AM

Start your week off on the right foot withย Alignย – a 30-minute Wake Up Flowย โ˜€๏ธThis class will warm you up for your day and incorporates asana (poses) pranayama (breathing exercises) and meditation. We will set intentions for the week ahead in this morning class.

1:30PM

Incorporate movement into your day withย Centerย – a 15-minute Chair Flowย ๐Ÿฆฝ๐Ÿช‘This class is great for all ability levels! Whether you are chair-bound or working at a desk all day, this will help you get some blood flowing and clear your mind before you dive back into your day.

8PM

Unwind and get ready for sleep withย Releaseย – a 30-minute Evening Flowย ๐ŸŒ™โญ๏ธA gentle flow to ease tension and soothe your body for a restful night! This class incorporates asana (poses) pranayama (breathing exercises) and meditation.

๐Ÿ‘‰For Align and Release you will need a mat (or comfortable surface) to practice on. Props are not required, though you might like to have 2 blocks (or water bottles, soup cans, etc.) and a strap (or tie, belt, scarf) as well as a cushion/blanket for sitting and kneeling on.

๐Ÿ‘‰For Center you will need a sturdy chair. Props are not required, though you might like to have 2 blocks and a strap (see alternative suggestions above.)

Questions? Comment below!

See you there!ย โ˜บ๏ธ๐Ÿงญ

PS – Class is free, but donations are always appreciated!

Venmo: @Kristen-Falzon

Paypal:ย https://paypal.me/kristenfalzon?locale.x=en_US

What now?

The story of how I found and fell in love with yoga – Part Three

So I quit my desk job… and then I felt kinda sorta guilty about my unemployment! I told myself that I needed a job and some hobbies to fill up my days so that no one could say I was loafing around aimlessly. So I applied to and was hired at a local bakery.

Cupcakes at the bakery!

Working at a bakery can be just about as awesome as it sounds. For starters, your customers are primarily joyous. People are out of their minds with delight and anticipation from the moment they walk in the door and there you are: the hero, handing down cakes, cookies and muffins from a bright, spotless and magnificent pastry altar. Thatโ€™s not to say that the random odd entitled person with a bad attitude doesnโ€™t occasionally walk through the door, but for the most part you are surrounded by intoxicating smells and fantastical sugarcraft all day as you connect with people on their way to celebrate birthdays and holidays. (You also get to take home day-old pastries.) This was not a bad part-time gig for me to land as I navigated the liminal space between unemployment and my next career. It also left some time for reflection.

After years of telling myself that I was frail and that I shouldnโ€™t push myself, I hit a wall in this lame, self-limiting story – a wall about as tall as the mountain I had climbed. My body, apparently, is capable of great hiking feats! My story had to change. This opened up a world of possibility for me โ€“ I felt truly liberated, knowing that I could likely trek anywhere I wanted to if I just had the presence of mind to show up and get it done. My part-time job at the bakery afforded me a good amount of downtime, so I began hiking more and more.

Black River County Park, Chester NJ

The bakery also afforded me a lot of sugary calories, though, and I worried about when these would catch up with me. Hiking was great exercise, but there were rainy days and busy days mixed in there when hitting the trail wasnโ€™t an option. I needed something to fill in the gaps. Something that wasnโ€™t too exercise-y, because I still held some baggage about my physical prowess.

Indoor gyms held little appeal for me, and eventually the thought of yoga bubbled up into my consciousness. I had experimented with yoga in college and really enjoyed the serene environment of the yoga studio; it offered a vibe of peace and calm that I was totally unaccustomed to (especially as a college student!) I was pretty broke and I couldnโ€™t afford a yoga studio membership, so I developed a home yoga practice by following along with yoga teachers on YouTube. I considered myself to be “trying yoga on for size” – I didn’t foresee that it would develop into a passion of mine.

Eventually I left the bakery to become a seasonal Park Ranger for the local county park system – all the hiking I had been doing led me to course-correct towards a job that emphasized the outdoors. The job consisted of lots of hard, physical labor in the hot sun and I loved it! I was blown away by all that my body could do, and I was becoming strong. (I could really go on all day about this job, but for now I will leave it there!)

My wheels at the park system.

Even though I was no longer working at the bakery and consuming an impressive amount of muffins, and even though I was getting all of the exercise I needed (and more!) in my role as a Park Ranger, I still stuck with the yoga. I spent time on my mat each and every day. Maybe, I pondered, yoga wasn’t just about the exercise after all

Looking back on it now, my initial pursuit of yoga was rooted in vanity and misunderstanding. Yoga was going to be my ticket to a toned body ahead of bathing suit season – that’s how yoga is primarily represented. (This is problematic – it represents a pernicious, whitewashed/Western and culturally appropriated version of yoga as just a physical exercise.) As I kept returning to the mat for more yoga, though, my reasons for showing up evolved. My cheap and โ€œlow impactโ€ avenue for exercise transformed intoโ€ฆwellโ€ฆa transformative experience.

What started as a fitness pursuit soon turned into a mind-bending soul explosion. Through practicing yoga I gained a sense of purpose and pride and I tapped into my rich inner world for the first time. Yoga encouraged quietude and stillness, contemplation and self-compassion. I was able to bring the peace and calm of the studio into my home and increasingly into many aspects of my daily life. I was taking care of my body from a place of reverence and compassion instead of from a place of expectation and pressure.

Previously prone to staying up late, binge-watching Netflix and scrolling past my own reality in favor of the fantasy offered to me by social media, I noticed myself going to bed earlier. Through experience I learned that if I didnโ€™t do yoga first thing after waking up, then the rest of my day would get in the way and I wouldnโ€™t make it to the mat at all. So, I had to rise a little earlier to make sure I could accommodate yoga into my schedule. I also noticed myself drinking less often โ€“ if my head was foggy in the morning, it was likely that I would sleep in and skip yoga. Skipping didn’t sit well with me. Slowly, incrementally, prioritizing yoga in my life helped me to actually prioritize my whole life. I started taking care of my body and respecting it, deeply. I made commitments to myself and then honored them. This helped me build confidence, and lots of dumb stories I had been telling myself since my time on the grade school soccer field began to fall away. It all happened gently, with lots of compassion for myself, and it happened subtly, without me being totally aware of all the changes.

A butterfly, the classic symbol of transformation. Photo by Zaw Win Tun on Pexels.com

During all this change, I never heard a voice say, โ€œWait, wait! Youโ€™re veering a little too far away from your exercise goals and getting carried away.โ€ Instead, I heard and felt deep appreciation for giving my body and soul exactly what I needed โ€“ careful reflection, gentle movement, a safe space to process my life, kind guides to help me along and a way to ground myself whenever I felt life having its way with me. These were all the gifts of yoga at work in my life. Eventually I felt called to share these gifts with others, and I completed my yoga teacher training. If you’re reading this then I hope I can share yoga with you, too.

So much of my worldview has changed thanks to the spiritual practice of yoga. Yoga is not an exercise program โ€“ the physical poses that are so often emphasized actually only represent one small part of a rich and complex philosophy. Yoga encompasses the ability to harness lifeforce energy and the recognition of the inherent value of all beings everywhere. Yoga guides you to lead a life in integrity with your highest self. I still have so much to learn about yoga and yet ultimately the goal is to know thyself. There is no finish line โ€“ just a call to embark on a mindful, steady path towards meeting your highest self. Iโ€™m certainly no expert, and so I hope to remain first and foremost a student, even when serving as a guide through my capacity as a yoga teacher.

Find the love you seek, by first finding the love within yourself. Learn to rest in that place within you that is your true home.

Ravi Shankar

It feels important to share the story of how I came to find and love yoga with you – I’m new on the scene and I want to lay it all on the table for you! Maybe a piece of my journey may resonate with you, or maybe it may inspire you to share your own story with your own audience. Either way: thank you for following along. ๐Ÿ™

I would love to hear about your own journey, whether through yoga or a different transformative experience/practice โ€“ please leave your comments below!

๐Ÿ‘‰ PS – Do you ever have trouble falling asleep at night? Are you looking for a simple way to relax? I can help! Subscribe here – when you sign up for the Compass Yoga email list you will receive my FREE Yoga Nidra Guided Meditation Practice.

๐Ÿ‘‰ PPS – Stay tuned for an announcement very soon about a regular live yoga schedule in my Compass Yoga Community Facebook Group! (Go join!) Iโ€™m really looking forward to growing the community and offering more yoga practices that hopefully encompass all that yoga is, beyond just the poses.

I QUIT!

The story of how I found and fell in love with yoga – Part Two

On top of Katahdin, with Knife Edge ahead. Baxter State Park, ME. Aug 2015.

I rock scrambled on Knife Edge, occasionally staring over at the sheer 4500-foot drop-off into nothingness on either side of me. I was talking to myself as I went, reminding myself to take it easy, stay low and breathe. One wrong move and I was toast. I had never done any hiking quite like this before, and I asked myself more than a few times what right I thought I had to be up on the ridge at all. (Especially since I didn’t wholly trust my body not to betray me.) All of my fear was compounded by the fact that I was scrambling with my brother. If one of us has to fall today, I offered up to the mountains, the sky, the wind, please let it be me.

My brother, Andrew, and I were on Mount Katahdin in Baxter State Park in Maine after having summitted Baxter Peak with my Dad and his two friends. Andrew and I opted to descend on a path that included the infamous and dangerous 1.1-mile-long ridge trail – the Knife Edge – while the other (smarter?) portion of our hiking party returned down the same route we had just spent the day ascending (which was certainly not without its own challenges.)

Lost in the clouds.

On Knife Edge we were in the clouds. The trail ahead and behind would disappear from view into foggy whiteness for a few minutes and it would seem as though Andrew and I were alone in the world on top of a cruel and rocky hellscape. (Think, like, Mordor.) Then the clouds would drift away and we would be awed by humbling, expansive beauty in every direction. We would periodically exclaim “Four on the floor!” – a fun reminder to stay low and ground down into the surrounding rocks with each limb. We laughed, we worried about my dad and his friends as we questioned our own sanity, and we philosophized about life. We even made trail friends with a group of boy scouts and their amazing guide.

It took over 2 hours to cross just over 1 mile of terrain that day. Somewhere along the way, as I shimmied over rocks and climbed a natural feature called a “chimney,” my fear converted fully into joy. The sense of humility that the mountains and vastness imposed on me was enlightening. This was the feeling of aliveness. My whole being buzzed with clarity, gratefulness and contentment. It was as if being so high up on a mountain allowed direct downloads from the ethereal space between my head and the stars – my body was the antenna and the connection was clear.

From what I have surmised, lots of people feel this same way in while extreme terrain and/or while pushing their bodies to the limit. Fortunately not everyone has to go to crazy lengths to tap into the feeling. People even catch a whiff of it for themselves at quiet neighborhood parks. It’s the sensation of being tuned into your brilliant vitality, while also knowing that this one life is very precious.

At the summit, Baxter Peak (5,268 feet)

I felt something changing in me on the mountain, though I couldn’t pinpoint why or how. A gentle but powerful inner voice, familiar but oft ignored, caught my attention. The voice assured me that it was okay to be happy and to want to be happy in this life. That I wasn’t asking too much for myself to be embraced in stunning natural beauty more regularly, or to be working at a job that enriched my life and my connections. I let a vivid fantasy of life beyond my current job set soar. The voice told me that if I were to quit my job that it would be okay; I would figure it out. I didn’t have to know all the steps ahead of me on my life path – it was just important that I didn’t fall off the current path on top of the mountain.

I hadn’t dared to contemplate quitting my job so seriously. It felt “irresponsible.” But, honestly, yes – I was increasingly unhappy at my job and I was having more trouble each day making the most of it. The work felt shallow and I felt restless. I was only 25 and I wondered, Is this it?

All of the conditions on Knife’s Edge were right for me to hear and to trust my inner voice. My soul. I didn’t have these words to explain it to anyone at the time. I just had a giddy conviction that I could do whatever I wanted and that I should stop wasting time.

The “trail.”

Having made it beyond the ridge, Andrew and I still had an arduous descent along a boulder-filled trail back to the car. (Where, hopefully, the rest of our hiking party would be waiting for us. They weren’t. That’s another story!) I was delirious. Loopy. We had been hiking since 6AM and it was now approaching the dinner hour. I kept asking my brother if we could lay down and nap in the middle of the trail (Let the bears have me! I don’t care!) and I butt-scooted down each rock ledge we encountered – I didn’t think my knees and ankles could bear another step. So I slid down a couple-thousand feet of a mountain on my ass.

Despite this delirium I still felt a deep, ringing clarity in my body, mind and soul about my mountain-top, cloud-tinged decision to quit my job and take more ownership of my life.

So I did just that: I returned home from my trip to Maine and I gave 2 months notice at my job. I didn’t have anything else lined up. Then I left the country for a month and half to visit Singapore and New Zealand.

When I returned home again I didn’t know what I would do with all my newfound free time, but it would turn out that I had plenty of time for yoga.

To be continued…

On our way to the summit! Me, center, with my Dad and my brother, Andrew.

I sucked in gym class.

The story of how I found and fell in love with yoga – Part One

I stared at the grass, gently knocking the fluff off of dandelions and watching my shoe lace slip out of its knot and come undone. I stooped to fix it, lingering longer than I needed to so that I could appear busy. This was how I preferred to spend soccer days during 7th grade gym class. While my peers hustled around, trying to drive the ball up and down the field, I preferred to get lost in thought, distraction and diversion: tying my shoes, watching planes, thinking about lunch… anything other than soccer. Whenever I kicked the ball it never reached its target, and I truly ended up doing more to aid the opposing team than my own. Honestly, it was better this way: me, spaced out and playing with the grass, staying out of the way of the action, while the team zipped around and scored goals or whatever. Just spare me the humiliation and let me do weird-kid-stuff on my own.

On this particular soccer day in 7th grade gym class, I quit fussing with my laces and I unwittingly rose back up right into the middle of the action. Somehow I was now central to the play. Kids were barreling up the field towards me, specifically the largest guy in my class – I’ll call him Tim. At 12 or 13-years-old Tim was already nearly 6 feet tall and broad. And heavy. I was directly in his path, and he had too much momentum. I was a goner. Before I could think or move, Tim had stumbled on top of me and flattened me, just like a pancake, onto the grass. All of the wind was knocked out of me, I couldn’t breathe, and, oddly enough, I completely blamed myself in that moment. What’s wrong with me? Why am I always in the way?

Whether those were reasonable thoughts or not, that was my takeaway from the experience.

Fast forward to a different gym class. Sophomore year. On soccer day. All these years later and the scene was very much the same: I was still spacing out, not engaged in the game, and just waiting for it to be over. Mr. Tag, the gym teacher, called out to me, “Falzon, get in the game!” I looked up at him, smirking, and gave him sass, “Oh yeah??” And then I wound my leg back – very dramatically – and tried to kick the ball away from my opponent, who was dribbling towards me. The opponent? Tim. The very same Tim! I kicked hard. I had something to prove: not only was I paying attention, but I was playing aggressively. This bluff did not serve me well.

I didn’t connect with the soccer ball at all. Instead, my toes CRUNCHED as they impacted against the inner arch of Tim’s giant foot. I knew immediately that I had messed up: the pain was sharp. Tim apologized to me, as if this was somehow his fault, and then carried on with the game. I don’t think he felt my kick on nearly the same scale that I had. I tried to look smooth, look cool, but something was definitely wrong with my foot. I toughed it out for a little while longer, but then I couldn’t ignore the fact that my toes and foot were swelling. I limped over to Mr. Tag and confessed that I had goofed, big time, and that I needed to see the nurse. I ended up having to get x-rays and then living in an orthopedic boot for 5-6 months to heal all of the toe ligaments I had torn. It was cool to have an elevator pass at school but ultimately not worth it. I do not recommend.

We won’t get into it now, but yes – there was also a time that I received a concussion from a basketball during gym class. Unreal!

Thinking back, I was sick and injured a lot. (Bizarre fact: most injuries and illnesses have been on the right side of my body. What’s up with that? A sketchy birth mark was removed from my right thigh. A large cyst formed and then ruptured on my right ovary. Pneumonia developed in my right lung. I fractured my right wrist. I passed out and shattered a glass, which then lodged itself in my right elbow as I collapsed on top of it. I passed out on a few other occasions, too. A different cyst was removed from my right shoulder. Oh, and the kick that wrecked my foot in high school? Yes. It was my right foot.)

I blamed my body through every injury and illness. I just thought I was frail, clumsy and weak. On top of this I was a girl (and am now a woman) in a society whose main emphasis is on female perfectionism and unrealistic beauty standards. With no other good information to go on, I believed that I was stuck in a seemingly useless, dysfunctional vessel and so I treated it like one. I had no real appreciation for my body, I didn’t trust it. I didn’t respect it. I was very skeptical and I kept asking myself, What’s wrong with me? Why am I always in the way?

That is, until I started hiking and practicing yoga.

To be continued…

-Kristen