The Road Less Traveled-Heather Falkin's Journey to Becoming a Yoga Enthusiast
I had a revelation one day in my late teens. It would be the first of many awakenings brought on by a quiet and encouraging voice within me that I now call my inner teacher. At age nineteen this voice simply said “Enough is enough. It’s time to move on.” These words were accompanied by a strong feeling in my gut that I was compelled to trust and so the trajectory of my life shifted. The path was wide open. All I needed to do was figure out which way to go first.
If there had been a sign post early in my journey that read “Shortcut to Happiness this way - Yoga” I would have walked right by it. I didn’t know anything about this strange practice because in 1996 it was still mostly something the hippies did. The woman I was working for at the time encouraged me to take a class, and because I sort of idolized her whole being, I went! My first teacher was dynamic and funny. It was a small carpeted studio in a business center in Bellevue. The practice was a set series of poses in a room heated to 105. This was before so many studios became hot. This was the OG Bikram style of yoga and the intensity was compelling and effective for a young person like me who needed a healthy dose of fierce compassion.
If that same sign had also read “This Shortcut is Physically Demanding and Mentally Grueling” I would have definitely avoided going that way. Before yoga I was like Alice falling down the rabbit hole. My teacher’s careful guidance began to create a parachute for me. My breath was the rip cord and I learned that I could pull it at any time, slow down my mind and gain perspective. I practiced 6 days a week because I needed the almost daily reminder that feeling good and being clear was so much better than being high! For over a year I showed up at my studio ready to put my body through 26 grueling postures held for 30 then 60 seconds. I stared at my reflection in the mirror for 90 minutes and faced some of my biggest demons! It was an uphill climb and every step was new and exhilarating.
At the time that rigorous practice was what I needed to move away from harmful behaviors. I was hollow and spiritually homeless and yoga started to wake me up to the strategies I had developed to keep myself safe after a childhood plagued with adversity and heartache. We all have a story! We have pivotal moments in our lives when something shakes us to our core and invites us to explore the deeper purpose of our existence. I thought that my story defined me but I would later learn that defying the story would guide me back to who I truly am.
While you’re waking up there is always a part of you that is still asleep and an even deeper part of you that doesn’t want to wake up at all. It would be these persistent shadows that would create lots of twists and turns on my path to becoming the person I am today. I followed some good and not-so-good signs over the next few years of my journey. I began practicing vinyasa yoga - Good. I started dating a narcissist - Not-so-good. I took a bigger interest in my health - Good. I became bulimic - Not-so-good. I broke up with the boyfriend and left LA - Good. I recovered from bulimia - Good! I found my soul mate - Really good! I found Samadhi Yoga Studio - Very, very, good. I became a certified yoga teacher - So, so, good! And from that point on my life became more than good, it became truly wonderful. I got married to that soul mate, we had three children, and now own a yoga studio together that was inspired by the yoga studio that awakened me to the spiritual practices of yoga.
All along the way yoga has been my compass. It has alerted me to when I’m traveling in the wrong direction and aligned me with my inner teacher. Some parts of the path felt like detours but ended up being the most enlightening aspects of the journey. And there have been times when I headed down a familiar road and found that path only brought me back to being in the dark. I have woken up but I’m not fully awakened and I know that so much of this work is preparing me to both celebrate the moments when life is wonderful and weather the times when life is not-so-good.
If my inner teacher were to offer you some guidance I think she would ask you to be compassionate and kind with yourself. She would reveal to you that good friends can be your guides in disguise. She would suggest that you trust your teachers but trust your own inner teacher more. She would remind you that patience is potent and humility is medicine. She would affirm that love is the antidote and only you can do the work!!! The work has always been what I do as soon as I step onto my 2 ft. by 6 ft. piece of sticky mat. Learning how to take that work off the mat and into my daily life will continue to be the path I follow because I know it will continue to take me to places where I never expected to find what I thought I’d lost many years ago…myself!