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What is Restorative Yoga?

If I had to choose one kind of asana to be my whole physical practice, I would choose Restorative Yoga without a doubt. I think when I say this to people there are a lot of preconceived judgements that I am not into an active, sweaty and physical class. Anyone who has taken a Vinyasa class with me recently can definitely share that this is not true. I love being physical, working hard and smart with my body, and getting very sweaty while jumping around using my energy in a joyful way. Also, I can think of a million ways to be active. I would miss Vinyasa Yoga very much but I think I could find a way to fill it’s role in my life. There is only one Restorative Yoga.

Okay, yes there are actually many different variations of what Restorative Yoga classes can look like. They all have a few things in common.

A general answer to the question “What is Restorative Yoga?”

  • Restorative Yoga postures are held for longer times, 5-30 minutesish
  • Restorative Yoga uses props. Blocks, blankets, bolsters, chairs, etc. to support you in a pose so that you don’t have to hold yourself up.
  • Restorative Yoga uses archetypal alignment to support the body in poses that encourage the most efficient function of your joints, vital organ, and nervous system.

A more specific answer, if you are taking my Restorative Yoga class or one like it: Restorative Yoga is a relaxation practice which uses supported positions, breathing and meditation techniques to de-escalate your nervous system. In my opinion there is nothing else like it and I love it very much. I also believe with all of my heart that every human needs a relaxation practice to be well and to realize their full potential.

It’s taken me years to come to the phrase “de-escalate your nervous system.” I wouldn’t be surprised if you have no idea what that means because I think I’ve made it up. Imagine that you’re having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Everything feels painful, the world is crashing down around you. Your stress levels are at an all time high, a TEN OUT OF TEN. Stress is not an imaginary thing or all in your head, it’s a state of being in your nervous system.

The chances are that if you are the most stressed that you can be, a Restorative Yoga practice might not take you down to feeling great and at ease and a 0 out of 10 on the stress scale. That’s really a lot to ask and in a lot of circumstances, only time can do that. What practicing relaxation will do for you in this state is settle you down. Help you feel better. When I feel like my stress is a 10, I would be incredibly grateful to feel like I was at a 6 or 7. Your nervous system actually does work as more of a gradient rather than an on/off switch, as you probably experience. You are not either STRESSED or RELAXED, you are constantly mediating and navigating the entire spectrum of  human feelings.

You can be stressed and at ease simultaneously in varying degrees. Restorative Yoga has helped me experience relaxation during stressful times of my life. I am still uncomfortable and unhappy in some parts of myself, and I am able to see a larger picture of myself where there exist other parts that feel calm and peaceful. There will always be circumstances I can not control that may make me feel uneasy, and there will always be a peaceful and stable energy inside of myself that I can connect to which helps me feel better.

You need rest. Real rest, which means time without sensory input and stimulation. Still, quiet, dark space where you can process. This is how you digest, your food, your experiences and your emotions. Netflix binging and drinking wine with your friends are a good time but they are not rest. Many of our “unwinding” activities are actually still stimulating, most humans go days or even weeks without any true quiet space. This isn’t healthy, it’s damaging and results in chronic stress and chronic fatigue. Restorative Yoga practice is an antidote for these symptoms and this lack of true rest. It can heal a frazzled nervous system. It has healed me over and over again.

I could continue to elaborate on reasons to practice Restorative Yoga. The physical benefits, psychological, that it’s linked with weight loss, honestly there are books full of benefits. Instead, I really just want to encourage you to practice Restorative Yoga. I currently teach four classes each week that are either 100% Restorative or 50% Restorative practice. If you live in NYC and can not afford one of my classes please reach out to me. If you can not make it to my Restorative classes, that’s okay! Practice wherever and whenever you can. Learn your favorite poses and practice them at home, one time once in a while is not enough to touch the true potential of the practice.

Do you love Restorative Yoga? Are you one of the many humans who struggle with stillness and rest? Let’s talk! Leave a comment or reach out via email to elizabeth [at] love-by-e.com and tell me what Restorative is like for you.

 

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Choosing a Tarot Deck


For a Tarot beginner, choosing a first deck is an incredible and impactful moment. The right deck will communicate clearly to you and become a powerful ally, while the wrong one will end up gathering dust somewhere in a corner. So what makes a deck right or wrong? There are as many answers as there are individuals. There is, in fact, no such thing as a wrong deck. A cousin of mine taught herself the Minor Arcana with playing cards. Others I know collect 5 or 6 decks as beginners and slowly become introduced to each.

One deck is more than enough to learn how to read Tarot. The most important criteria is that you feel connected to it, this connection will create the bond that allows you to communicate with your cards. I know it can be overwhelming to choose a deck from the myriad options available. I put together this comparison of TWELVE decks which I hope will help you get a feel for what you want in your Tarot cards and some inspiration in which ones you might like.

I chose the Star and the Two of Cups to photograph, not for any particular reason other than that they are both happy cards to me that can display some range. One Major and one Minor Arcana, although of course looking at two of seventy-eight cards does not give a full picture of the deck it does give some feel for the cards. I invite you to spend some time comparing the images below. What’s different and what’s the same? Do you get a feel for the archetype the cards are all referencing? This is a wonderful way to learn the cards.

L to R :: Rider-Waite, Claude Burdel, 1751, Thoth, Voyager

These four decks are classics in their own right. None of them are the first but each has made large contributions to Tarot readers and taromancy as a practice. The Rider-Waite deck, illustrated by Pamela Coleman, is probably the most well known and widely used Tarot in the world. They were first published in 1909 and many modern Tarot are modeled after these. I recommend learning with this deck or one inspired by it to beginners who ask me. This isn’t the only option for a new reader but it certainly does make the road to learning a bit easier, especially as many books on how to read are also written in reference to these cards.

The Claude Burdel, 1751 deck next to it is much older as the name implies. The Major Arcana have many similarities, the Rider Waite expanded on these images in many cases. The Two of Cups makes a major difference known, before the Rider-Waite, all Minor Arcana contained very little imagery and mostly the suite symbol displayed in arrangement. The Two of Cups actually has quite a bit more symbolism on it than some of the other cards in this deck as it contains the lion’s head and intertwining serpents. These cards are wonderful but in my opinion harder to read from as they give you fewer symbols to interpret and require more memorization.

The Thoth deck was designed by the controversial Aleister Crowley in 1944. Crowley made many changes to the Rider-Waite cards along with Lady Frieda Harris, who painted the original images. It is not exactly the same in numbering and interpretation of some cards including a few Major Arcana. Learning with the Thoth deck can also prepare you to read many others as it is similar enough to most decks, and there are many decks which take influence from the Thoth directly as well. This was my first Tarot deck and I have always found it to be very powerful.

In 1984 the Voyager Tarot was released making it more modern than the others. It’s incredibly different than the classical Tarot and uses collage as well as different suites and some differing Major Arcana as well. I’ve included it here as I feel this deck really opened the door for Tarot to have a vast interpretation and there are many modern Tarot, particularly made by independent artists, that explore the boundaries of the Tarot with their own suites and symbols. I’ve seen many decks using collage in more recent years, these decks usually deviate quite a bit in imagery and sometimes meaning, they are just as powerful as the classics if you are drawn to them.

L to R :: Ethereal Visions 2018, Mucha 2015 , Fenestra 2008, Sun and Moon 2018

In the Ethereal Visions Tarot, designed by Matt Hughes, the style is quite minimal but some of the same symbolism appears in these cards, giving you more of an essence of the meaning and a bit less to work with. There’s a lot of beauty in this deck and it has a wonderful thick stock with gorgeous gold foiling; however, it’s more minimal style may be harder for new readers and this is something to consider in choosing your deck.

The Tarot Mucha (created by Lunaea Weatherstone) have a classical feel and beautiful painting modeled after the work of Czech artist Alfonse Mucha (1860-1939). It is relevant to note that while the feel is very classical, this deck reimagines many of the classical Tarot symbolism in order to stay true to the aesthetic and inspiration. The images are parallel to Rider-Waite but there are distinct differences. This is true of many of the decks here if you look closely. What difference does it make for the figure in the Star to be gazing into the water, into the sky, or off into the distance? There’s actually quite a different feeling and these gazes can be interpreted in their own ways as well; one being reflective, one aspirational, and one avoidant. Again, there is no right or wrong, as I’ve collected more decks I’ve come to get to know each one and I honor each deck’s energy as well as what I know about each archetype (each card).

The Fenestra Tarot by Chatriya follows the Rider-Waite imagery like a lot of the decks we see here. It’s very romantic with rich symbolism. I love this deck for readings related to matters of the heart and love. At the same time, there is something quite orderly and pleasing about these cards, they feel extremely well thought out to me and, being more classic, a wonderful deck for a beginning reader.

Finally, the Sun and Moon Tarot, inspired by Thoth and designed by Vanessa Decort, is quite modern in it’s beautifully illustrated and deceptively simple artwork. I say deceptively simple because this deck is very rich in symbols and gives you a lot to work with as a reader. Looking at the Two of Cups from this deck as well as the Thoth referenced above, you may see the different meaning given for this card “Love” as opposed to “Equilibrium” or “Balance” from others. Maybe you see how these interpretations stem from the same concept of balance in your emotional body. I point out this distinction only to remind you of the importance in getting to know each deck that you purchase. Do your homework and research the meanings of the cards, read books etc. to give yourself a fuller understanding of each card and how to interpret them for yourself in collaboration with the artist’s intention.

L to R :: Spiritsong 2017, Ostara 2017, Sacred Rose 1987, Zillich 2018

The Spiritsong Tarot, from Paulina Cassidy, offers a combination of traditions, introducing animal guide symbolism with classical Tarot meanings. In my opinion this deck is really well done. While not traditional, it does contain rich symbolism through the animal chosen for each card, including the Minor Arcana. The meanings of the cards remain pretty true to Rider-Waite; learning these meanings will help you get to know Tarot more generally, the symbolism will be different and change things a bit. The guide book on this one is very good as well and gives wonderful rich meanings for each card. Overall this is a strong deck which could be great for a beginner, especially an animal lover.

The Ostara Tarot was a collaborative effort between four artists and friends in British Columbia. It also comes with a gorgeous and really well done guide book that offers really good information. This deck is again inspired by the Rider-Waite, however it has been reimagined quite a bit. The essence of the cards feels the same to me and some cards bear more resemblance to the classics than others. The Ostara comes on a very nice, more plastic card stock. The cards stick together at first but with some handling the deck has become easy to use and I imagine it will hold up very well in time. The feel and stock of the cards can play a huge role in your connection to a deck, and unfortunately is pretty difficult to know unless you feel the cards in your hand. This is not always possible so researching and reading reviews is the best way to get an idea of what a deck will actually feel like in your hands.

Johanna Gargiulo-Sherman is an artist and psychic who designed the Sacred Rose Tarot. This deck does stick to a lot of the classic imagery but has been heavily stylized into a Gothic vibe. This is a good example of a deck having a kind of “vibe,” to me it’s moody and feels more serious than a lot of the others displayed here. This has a strength in some situations and I wouldn’t say this deck is negative. I do think decks with this much of their own flavor are very individual. A certain feeling can be great for readings of that nature, or for a client that exudes a certain energy.

The Zillich Tarot is another that’s based on the Thoth, designed by Christine Zillich, it comes in a smaller size in a wonderful tin you can easily carry. The cards are a nice stock and easy to use. I’ve used this deck a ton since I received it this year. These cards, like others in this row, reimagine the Tarot using the meanings of the classical decks and exploring new imagery. This deck gives you a lot to work with, there’s color symbolism in addition to image and shape. When it comes to shuffling, size does matter. Thinking about the size of the cards you want to use can be helpful! If your hands are smaller or larger, you may want to consider how well a certain deck may sit in your hands. Many classic decks are even available in more than one size if you find you have a preference.

If there is one lesson I can really push (and maybe am pushing?) it’s that each deck is going to have it’s own experience. As a reader, getting to know each deck you use is most of the work! It’s also incredibly joyful work to examine the cards and explore what you see in each one as well as what you receive from the author in the guidebooks provided. If you do have more than one deck to look at, compare a few of the cards for yourself and notice what is the same and what’s different. This practice gives you an idea of the quintessential meaning of each card as well as your own particular tastes as a reader. Spending time with your cards is the best way to learn Tarot and create a powerful connection with your deck as a tool and friend.

I love talking about Tarot and sharing with you. I offer one on one guidance for readers in addition to readings, and I’m always happy to answer a quick question via email. I hope you’ve enjoyed this comparison and that you have fun picking out your next Tarot deck! Let me know which is your favorite in the comments section!

***please note the Ethereal Visions, Sun and Moon, Spiritsong, Sacred Rose and Zillich Tarot were gifted to me in exchange for use and review by US Games.

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June Tarot for Yogis (originally published on Wanderlust Journal)

this post was originally published on Wanderlust Journal here.

Summer is almost upon us. Have you been growing in the direction you wish? June is a month of heightening energy and you may find yourself facing a need to redirect and refocus. The growing light in the Northern Hemisphere increases the fire element within. Passions are heightened and with that can come an increase in sensitivity, irritability, anxiety and feelings of instability. (Or is it just me?) When used well, this increased energy is a skyrocket for growth that will lead you closer to your dreams. So I have asked the Tarot for June, “Where is our energy best used this month?”

The beautiful deck I used this month is the Zillich Tarot, created by Christine Zillich with a guidebook written by Johan Von Kirschner. These lovely watercolor illustrations offer deep symbolism and follow the tradition of the Thoth Tarot. The Thoth Tarot is another classical deck quite similar to the Rider Waite, but with a few differences in court cards and the interpretation of certain Major Arcana. I thoroughly enjoy this take on the deck, and I’ve been getting very accurate readings with the Zillich Tarot so it’s become a fast favorite of mine.

Our trusted three cards this month work well to paint a picture. In this case all three cards are relevant to the matter at hand. They represent the foundation of the matter, what is under the surface. The path forward, advice for these circumstances. And finally the ultimate fruition, what this approach is leading towards.

The foundation: Eight of Wands
The path: Three of Wands
The fruition: Prince of Cups

The Foundation

The foundation of the moment is the eight of wands, swiftness. This represents the growing fire of the season, the heightened energy and the swift movement of emotions and reactions right now. Recognizing this foundation is a reminder to slow down. As fire rises, use your practice to slow down and seek the stillness within the movement. Restorative Yoga classes are ideal to find calm through the storms that arise this season. If you look closely at this card you see a woman frolicking. A rainbow runs through her mind with a diamond prism above her; her thoughts are liberated and she is free. This is the beauty of passion, it bears freedom and independent growth. Honor your most authentic wishes right now.

The Path

The three of wands, virtue, is the advice of the Tarot this month. Generosity, honesty, and strength are symbolized by the lotus flowers, in various states of opening, various states of understanding. These flowers also represent the unity of body, mind and spirit. The three of wands still has fire at its heart as a wand, in this case the fire is balanced and grounded in the body. This card represents choice and choosing from your highest Self. When do you feel most connected to your highest Self? Meditation, yoga practice, intuitive dance, walking through the woods… Whatever brings you peace will be an important part of your practice right now to remain in balance.

The Fruition

Finally, the Prince of Cups calls us forward, he is the airy part of water. While the cups are tied closely to emotions, the Princes are logical and ambitious. Therefore, the Prince of Cups is well-balanced between his head and heart. The scorpion tail on his crown represent passion and action; the snake is transformation and intellect; and the eagle over his shoulder is perspective and vision. The sinking lotus is a reminder not to overlook the matters of the heart and spirit, yet this figure is equipped with all of the tools necessary to work with these matters and grow. This archetype is your inspiration for the month. You are capable of finding the balance within of your passions, your commitments, your intellect and your emotions. Journaling and other introspective practices will help you maintain this balance and make proper use of all of the tools that you’re equipped with.Facebooktwitterpinterestmail

Tarot and my Grammy

Here in the states it was Mother’s Day yesterday, May 12. My Grandmother’s birthday is May 11, and had she lived another 12 months and 3 weeks, she would have been 95 years old this past weekend. Grammy was the matriarch of our family, my mother and her two sisters each had three children of their own, upon Grammy’s passing she had 9 great grandchildren to boot including my sister’s baby in her belly. She was a truly special woman and her loss affected me greatly, I have looked up to her since I was a small girl.

My grandmother inspired me by living alone for many decades in New York City, dancing and taking painting classes well into her retirement. She had a strong relationship with Tarot, before I was born she taught yoga at Integral Institute (her mother was a yoga teacher and student of Transcendental Meditation also). Most of all, Grammy took each of us aside at our tenth birthday parties and showed us how to use iChing for divination and guidance. She had many decks of Tarot cards tucked in baskets and onto the shelves amongst her dozens of books. She was mystical and quiet about it, while simultaneously generous and lavished me with teachings whenever I asked. Which was more and more often as we both aged.

I owe much of who I am today to my Grammy, and I’m beyond grateful for everything she has given me. The practices I’ve learned from her inspired me to continue on this path and shape my own spiritual practice. My practice involves a lot of privacy and it’s always a balancing act for me to discern what I’d like to share with the public and what remains for me and those in relationship to my practice. Reading Tarot is such a wonderful place to share one of my dearest practices with others. I have read Tarot for people in many different walks of life, who are on their own spiritual journeys. Sometimes the only overlap we both share is an interest in the Tarot, other times there are many layers of overlap and there are further practices we might share like yoga or ritual.

Sharing Tarot had been slowly growing as more of my public practice as well as some ritual work, and suddenly in 2018 Grammy became ill, and within six weeks was gone. I had the chance to say goodbye to her, and it was incredibly hard for me. The following months I took space away from sharing publicly because of how much Tarot was tied to my relationship to Grammy. Even as recently as 2 months before she died I was in her apartment comparing dozens of decks with her and learning from her long time relationship with the cards.

This year I decided I was ready to return to sharing Tarot, it brings me so much joy and it delighted my grandmother to know I was sharing this work with the world. I started a monthly article for Wanderlust Journal, I’ve loved writing for them for a long time and it’s been wonderful to collaborate with the amazing team on these posts.

You can see them here :: January, February, March, April, May.

I offer readings via phone call or FaceTime video (your preference) and I’ve got some great workshops coming up for you soon on Tarot. Contact me to discuss one on one readings, group workshops or mentoring sessions.Facebooktwitterpinterestmail

April Tarot for Yogis (originally published on Wanderlust Journal)

this post originally appeared on Wanderlust Journal here.

Spring has almost sprung! It’s getting easier to believe that the cold is actually over, and it’s time to clean house. In the astrological calendar, spring marks the beginning of the year. This season is associated with transformation, renewal, resurrection, and rebirth. These themes predate modern religion and related holidays; it is the Earth that was the first to offer this theme. Throughout human history, we’ve been continually revived by those first crocuses and green buds appearing on trees. This powerful time of transformation offers you an opportunity for serious growth in the direction of your choosing. As such, I asked the Tarot this month where should we look for support.

In honor of spring I chose the gorgeous Ostara Tarot deck created by artists Molly Applejohn, Eden Cooke, Krista Gibbard, and Julia Iredale. This deck was designed to honor spring and the goddess Ostara, the Germanic goddess of the season. Ostara is associated with Neopaganism, though she was likely historically worshipped before then as well. Much evidence of pre-historical goddesses has been destroyed by conquering kingdoms throughout the centuries.

I purchased this deck recently; I tend to charge a new deck before I use it for readings. For me, this means spending time meditating with the deck, shuffling, looking at the cards, and reading whatever materials are provided. It’s an opportunity to “break in” your new tool and form a two-way connection.

This month I used a top-down pyramid spread with the first card representing our advice. The bottom left card symbolizes the unseen, unconscious energy present. The bottom right card is the conscious manifestation, where we feel the most supported. Creating a spread is an opportunity to be very specific with the Tarot and receive a clearer reading. For me, this really only works if I have assigned my intended meanings to the card placements before I pull the cards. My experience is that deciphering the meaning after the fact can lead to more “negotiating” with yourself over what you want the reading to say… Which can make it too easy to overlook the advice presented.

Subconscious manifestation: Strength reversed
Conscious manifestation: The Star reversed
Ultimate advice? The Five of Coins

The Ostara Tarot is a good example of a deck that is based on the Rider Waite but has taken many liberties. The artwork for each card does have rich and intentional symbolism, and for this reason the meanings of each card can deviate from the traditional meanings in some ways. My Grandmother insisted that you should use the meanings provided with each deck. I only partially agree, but in the case of this reading that’s what I’m doing.


Subconscious Manifestation

The Strength card here is reversed. Rather than a classical lion, we see a young woman with cities on her shoulders, night on the left, and day on the right. She is holding a glowing heart gently in one hand and stroking the head of a dragon in the other. Her expression is serene and she is wearing an eye patch. This wise woman has been through war and found her calm. She represents a balance of Yin, the Moon, night, feminity and Yang, the Sun, masculinity, daylight. Seeing this card reversed tells a different story.

This is a warning and a question. When the world turns upside down do you keep your calm? Your own self-confidence is what supports your subconscious mind. Without it, your emotional self feels unsafe and you become weak. This is Tadasana practice. Forget any of the fancy tricks, learn how to stand on your own two feet. For the wise this is a lifelong practice. Without it the foundation of every other pose is cracked.

Conscious Manifestation

The Star is also reversed—in this case representing boredom and the dulling of the creative mind. It is a suggestion to step outside of the mundane and monotonous routines you may have built. A cozy routine helps you survive the winter, but it is time to give yourself a little push in a new direction. Change doesn’t have to be dramatic; try a yoga teacher who is new to you, explore a new style of yoga or movement, make time for a long walk through a not-often visited area of your neighborhood. This card is also a reminder that creativity is supported by the mundane. If you want to be good at drawing, draw. Commitment is more powerful than inspiration. Keep steady through boring times, and you will find inspiration again. Balancing postures will help you remember what’s important by creating harmony and focus in your mind.

Ultimate Advice

The Five of Coins offers final advice, a naked woman wrapped in a thin cloth and a serpent. A frosty winter scene, this card also shows a glowing pink window with five illuminated coins. This woman has come to refuge, the Five of Coins suggests that support in a time of need will come from your community. The woman can also be seen as one who has refused the help of others and now suffers due to her own pride.

Support from others can look like many things. If you see yourself as weak for accepting help you will only find yourself weaker. It is the generosity and support of those around you that makes you strong. Meditation will clear your mind to give you insight on who, what and when to reach out to others. Life is a balance, remember that you are needed as much as you need and be generous with your own help this month. We are all strongest together.Facebooktwitterpinterestmail