Practice the art of falling well

Published 9:00 am Saturday, September 23, 2017

By Erin Smith

This past Thursday was the Autumnal Equinox, nature’s official start to fall.

The word equinox is Latin for equal night, implying a balance between duration of light and darkness. The equinox occurs when the sun crosses the celestial equator, marking the shift to shorter days and more darkness.

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It’s perfect timing, as it’s been a dark time lately on Quisenberry Lane. We unexpectedly lost one of our own, a wonderful husband and father of four. This one hit close to home, but I’m certainly not alone in feeling broken.

Everywhere you look, bad things are happening to good people. Tragedy and trauma abound. People are hungry, addicted, fueled by fear or hatred. Many are dead and thousands homeless from the hurricanes. Racial tension continues to divide our nation.

It makes you question if there is indeed a reason for it all.

But then I remember nature and her innate intelligence.

Fall is a season of dark, of dying, of lying broken on the ground. Life promises us fall, just as life promises us falling.

The fall happens in many ways, large and small. We lose our health, our minds, our financial security, our sense of self, our car keys, our loved ones. We are called to have faith, to trust that everything happens for a purpose. Yet we are not necessarily designed to understand that purpose. Sometimes we must simply endure the fall.

As a yoga teacher, I try to teach my students to fall well. In standing poses (like King Dancer Pose, pictured at right), you find balance by holding two opposing forces in harmonious tension. You push forward in one direction and pull backward in the other, attempting to maintain equilibrium. That’s rarely easy and falling is a given. So we also practice falling well, staying mindful as we go down and then surrendering to gravity for a bit to catch our breath.

Falling well requires acceptance.

Acknowledge that you will be pushed off balance, that at some point you will be a tiny pebble in the cosmic rock tumbler. And remember acceptance is not the same thing as approval.

No one is asking you to say you are on board with the pain or grief, just that you recognize it as an integral part of existence.

Toppling is a given, but so is being pissed at the universe for the cruel twist of fate.

Falling well requires resilience. Do you simply throw in the towel or do you brush yourself off and try again? Sometimes it takes a huge fall to truly know where you stand in life. How you get back up says a lot about your character.

Falling well requires grace, to minimize the risk to yourself and others as you topple. Protect your head and your heart as much as possible. Let go in such a way that you land on the “meat rather than the bone.” Don’t fight the fall, but surrender and relax into it (this is why people who are intoxicated often avoid getting hurt in car crashes. They just flop into the impact).

Falling well requires a release of the ego. Consider children and how clumsy they are. They are arguably the best fallers because they are not self-conscious about falling. They just accept it as part of their existence, tumbling into and rolling with it without shame.

When I learned to surf, my surfing instructor told me if I would let go of my ego, then “falling is just another way to fly.”

Falling well requires trust and hope. It’s all too easy to buy into the illusion that the fall is your new reality, that it’s all you deserve.

But a fall, no matter how horrendous, doesn’t have to be permanent. It might take a long time. Consider how long winter feels around these parts. But spring will come.

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.

It might not be for us to understand that purpose. It might simply be our job to be present, searching for steadiness but accepting our time on the ground.

So if you are currently in a season of fall too, take heart.

The sun will return, shining more light on your days with every cycle of moon.

Erin Smith is the owner of the OM place in Winchester, the author of “Sensible Wellness for Women” and the online host of a yoga and mindfulness channel for Eppic Films. Send her a shout out at or play along at