Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Omily Tarot: The Gift of Wisdom

Well, this is it! One week left to go until Christmas, and Hanukkah has already begun! Have you got all your gift shopping taken care of? Still swooping up some last minute items? Haven't even started yet (husband, I'm looking at you)?

Ok, well, don't panic. A few solid shopping trips should get you squared away. You have your list, right? Of what you're getting who?

Oh. You haven't...

Ok, well, this is a tarot post, after all! Why not ask the cards?

No, seriously, why not? Your trusty tarot deck has seen you through bigger challenges than this! Now,  I know, no matter how good of a reader you are, your deck isn't going to tell you what size sweater to get your sister in law, or whether the kids-these-days on your list would prefer the Fault in Our Stars dvd or that trendy sweatshirt. (Seriously? A trendy sweatshirt? Feck it, she's getting the dvd) BUT, your deck can jump start the free association process and point you in the direction of where your loved ones' interests and needs lie. That intersection is pretty crucial for successful gift buying.

Now, in general, I'm not a fan of cosmic peeping. Tarot readings should be about yourself. If you have a question about a relationship, it's about you in the relationship, not your partner...but in this case, I'm happy to make the exception, and trust my desk to protect my family and friends' privacy.

If your people have shown any interest at all, a beautiful new tarot deck is an awesome gift choice! I don't believe that nonsense that your first tarot deck MUST be a gift, but that doesn't mean it isn't nice to receive one, whether it's your first one or not, and if it is, it may be just the push you need to ignite a life long love.

Do you have that one family member who is just a sucker for Christmas? Who literally counts down all year long, and decorates the tree the day after Thanksgiving? The Tarot's got you covered.
Yes, seriously, this is a thing. And I kind of want it...
Have you ever asked your deck for gift-giving advice? Think you'll try it this year? Hmmm...maybe I'll give it a shot for that last hard-to-shop-for person, too!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Eating Omily: Sometimes Love Means Shutting Up

Ok, we all love the magic of the Holiday season...and we all get stressed out with how busy it is, and how much is expected of us. Add in our fat-shaming culture, and a patriarchal society that only values women as decor and baby-makers, and this food-centric season can be especially rough for ladies.

But if you're a person suffering from and/or in recovery from an eating disorder, those issues get compounded in big ways. Food is EVERYWHERE, and it's not just food: think about how you would hesitate to take a slice of your aunt's pie after she made a big fuss about making it. Think about how you like to bring an extra tray of cookies to your workplace to share.

We use food to show our love, and there's nothing wrong with that, but we have to be sensitive to the fact that for some people, navigating these caloric social interactions is a nightmare!

Here are some articles to get you thinking about how you can make the holidays easier for those around you dealing with this all too common mental illness...and remember, that's all it is. An illness. Like chicken pox. Like cancer. Your friend or family member didn't choose to have it, and willpower or other people thinking they're thin or pretty has nothing to do with it.

This article is specifically about Thanksgiving, but it's totally relevant for the end-of-year Holiday Avalanche: a simple list of do's and don't's for the loved ones of eating disorder sufferers. I wish I had this resource a long time ago!

This article also talks about Thanksgiving, but again, it's good for any meal you're sharing with other people, and what I love about it is that it's not specifically for people who know they'll be eating with someone living with an Eating Disorder. Many of us are around people struggling with this issue, and don't even know it. Many people may not be diagnosable with an eating disorder, but still struggle with an unhealthy relationship with food. Our whole society basically has an unhealthy relationship with food! Aside from sparing your loved ones, you'll be a mentally healthier person, too, if you ban  these ways of speaking, and thinking, from your table.

This article particularly deals with men who suffer from eating disorders.

Up to now, these articles have been mostly directed at people who aren't personally struggling with eating disorders, but statistics being what they are, odds are, more than one person reading this is struggling with this disease. Here is an article from the National Eating Disorder Association offering twelve ideas to help you navigate this difficult time. Know that you are worth it, and you are strong enough to recover. If you haven't already, please reach out to someone you love and trust, and if you have, keep reaching out. Stay connected. You can do this.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Seasonal Work

Winter is coming.

Sorry, I've been reading A Song of Ice and Fire, better known as the Game of Thrones series.

But it is, obviously, and coming fast! I love every season with the exception of those 90 degree Summer days when going outside feels like dying, but I know, I know. Most of you would take that anyday over the onslaught of ice, snow, deceptively deep slush puddles, and freezing temperatures that make up an NYC Winter. Unfortunately for all of us, we don't get a choice in the matter. The planet moves, and the seasons change. Magic!

A very wise friend of mine once pointed out that Spring and Summer are the time for exploring our world, moving outward from ourselves, and Fall and Winter are the time for exploring ourselves: the vast world we contain.

Perhaps that's why I find myself more interested in the contortion side of my aerial training as the weather chills. I have more patience with sitting on the floor, and putting my body in positions ranging from downright pleasant, to mildly uncomfortable, to a combination of pain and panic that is basically a high speed form of therapy: let go and let gravity, or break.

Once I was explaining my nightly stretching routine to a friend and fellow yogini. She stopped me to ask, "Wait, why are you calling it stretching and not yoga?" That was easy to answer: it wasn't yoga. Yoga is about cultivating acceptance of your body, and by extension, of the present moment. Contortion is about changing your body's connective points from the inside out so that you can make beautiful lines and shapes. In spite of certain physical similarities, the goals of the two couldn't be more different. Or so I thought.

Over the course of long years I've watched my hamstrings lengthen, my quads release, my straddle widen, and my splits deepen. My shoulders are slowly but surely yielding to my continual demands for greater range of motion, but for many a moon my spine seemed to yield what it's always yielded and not an inch more.

I've had teachers tell me I have a bendy spine, but I'm accessing flexibility in my thoracic spine, that I have a pretty good back bend, but whatever it is they were seeing, I still felt stuck, miserable, and unable to breathe in back bends.

And then I went to a contortion class at the Muse, with a teacher I've worked with before I was fond of...and I felt my toes rub across my skull for the first time...quite possibly in my life.

And then we did the same pose in a yoga class, and slowly, carefully...there it was again, almost, a brush of hair on the skin of my feet!

And then I went to open workout and pulled, and yanked and pulled in half monty...to no avail. Another friend and yoga teacher put me in wheel pose and pressed, firmly and lovingly, the way you might press on the hip of a large horse to move it out of your way, on my thoracic spine, reminding the vertebra there to play their part.

And then I went to another open workout. I rehearsed, and then went in for a couple more tries of back bending. I stretched, I pulled, I wished, I wanted...and there it was! A small miracle more earth shattering maybe than the original time, since there was no instructor guiding, coaxing, and lifting me deeper into the shape: toe met skull.

So why tell you this? Because maybe contortion is more similar to yoga than I thought. I spent years accepting the spine I had, but dreaming (literally. I've put my feet on my head in my dreams more times than I can count) of a bendier one. Working slowly, not forcing the issue, not getting frustrated, and then...it happened. In a way that seemed some how utterly disconnected from any effort I made to get there.

Which is a whole lot like the way yoga changes my life: I learn to love and accept myself right where I am, and I just keep practicing, and suddenly I realize I'm living with greater compassion, greater generosity, and greater joy.

These changes happen when we focus our energy inward, and what better time to commit to this inner work than when we aren't so keen on going outside anyway? Don't have a goal in mind. Don't expect to get to a certain point. Just do the work. Starting with the hardest part of all: accepting where you are before the work has commenced. And someday, you'll surprise yourself with a miracle as magical and precious as the one many celebrate on December the 25th.

I''ll be working right along with you. I still have a long way to go, starting with loving and accepting the self that I am right now, but that acceptance will blossom into greater growth. I know it.

And maybe someday I'll nail that chest stand and pull my feet down on the floor in front of my face. A woman can dream!
Here's a picture of my half monty pre-foot-on-head days. And here's a very important call to action. This particular miracle happened for the very first time at the Muse, the same place this performance happened, at the last class that took place at their old space. They've secured an awesome new space, but they desperately need to fund their kickstarter to outfit that space to be a safe and comfortable place to train. Please donate whatever you can, and spread the word far and wide! Remember that some of those rewards can make great gifts, and the Muse will gladly provide you with a beautiful gift certificate if the reward won't be ready in time for the holidays. Just e-mail them. Even if you don't train there, even if you don't do circus at all, even if you live far away, please contribute to keeping independent arts alive in Brooklyn! Thank you so much. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/363821638/move-the-muse-brooklyn-circus

Live Omily,
~em

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Omily Tarot: Are We Looking at the Same Spread?

You know that moment when you lay out the cards, not for a professional, or even a semi-serious reading, but more just playing around, with a friend who enjoys the tarot as well, and who you trust...and then they start talking complete nonsense about the innocent spread you just revealed??

No?

Sooner later it will probably happen. You find yourself face to face with just how little of the tarot is about the cards themselves, no matter how much has been written about what each one means, and how much the tarot is about the reader.

Of course, that's why we love the tarot! That's why it's awesome! But sometimes, that very aspect of it can also be confusing.

Like when you suddenly want to defend the Page of Coins from an accusation of gazing lewdly at the High Priestess. The feck? He would never!

Or like when you're giving a reading to someone you care about and you know what the cards are saying, and they're blithely absorbing a message from them that you fear, or even know, is more what they want to hear than what they need to hear.

What do you say?

Well, it's always worthwhile and interesting to suggest alternative interpretations. It's quite possible, and in fact quite common, for a single card in a spread to have two contradicting meanings at the same time.

But, it's never good, or helpful, or ethical to tell your querent, or your friend, that he or she is wrong. Each person absorbs from the tarot the wisdom she or he ready to receive at that given time. You may think you know what wisdom this person should be receiving, and maybe you aren't entirely wrong: maybe the alternative message you're seeing is another shade of the truth, but it's not the one this person is ready to receive.

If you throw those seeds down on frozen, or even unplowed ground, they may germinate, but they won't take root and grow.
So, you may be tempted to put your hand to the till, and rip right on in there so the tarot can get through!

Bad idea. This is not a process that can be rushed. And, it's not your job as a querent, or even in this case as a loved one or friend. To assume that you know what message this person needs, and when this person needs it is to misuse the gift the tarot has given you. You'll almost certainly do damage to your relationship with this person, and you may make her or his journey to enlightenment that much longer when he or she quite reasonably, resists your meddling, and moves away from where you're shoving her or him.

You may also be wrong! I know, sounds crazy, but it's true! Even with the tarot at your disposal, you don't know everything! Join me, won't you, in one of my favourite, and most useful mantras for personal growth: "I don't know."

Practice biting your tongue, nodding your head, and saying something along the lines of, "That's an interesting interpretation!"

Trust me, you'll be a better, more ethical tarot reader for it.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Eating Omily: There's Always More to be Thankful For!

Thanksgiving happened already!!! Did you get to feast on your favorites? Do you go uber traditional? Give those beloved dishes a twist? Or throw the turkey and cranberries out the window in favor of more exotic fair?

Either way, the Farmers' Market can stock your Thanksgiving table from cocktail hour, to second piece of pie!

Speaking of which, I just bought a bottle of vodka at the Farmers' Market! How's that for a win?? Distilled from sugar beets, this booze retains a hint of that earthy veg, making it delicate and delicious all by itself over ice. Even if you wrinkle your nose at the smell of vodka, trust me: try this one! I've never enjoyed vodka! It's my least favorite spirit even in a mixed drink, but this stuff is good! Orange Country Distillery also has a white un-aged whiskey, and a bourbon is on its way! It'll be ready in time for the holidays, and you'd better believe a bottle will be under my Christmas tree! Mmmm...bourbon...every ingredient is grown on their own farm, and every step of the distillation process is done by hand for a truly crafted, and love-infused product.

The weather in NYC has taken a turn: it's been raining and sleeting all day! If you're worried about staying warm on your way to your holiday
destinations, you can look no further than...you guessed it!! Alpaca wool mittens, gloves, hats, headbands, tote bags, and insoles to keep your tootsies toasty, are all available at Union Square Farmers' Market!

If you don't think you can make yourself shop out in the open once Winter weather descends, don't forget you can always warm up mid-shop with a hot apple cider, or if you prefer, a creamy hot chocolate, made with grass-fed local milk! Yum!!

You can also add some nutrition to your table, and wow your family and friends with a veggie they've probably never seen before: kale sprouts! You buy these on a big stalk, just like Brussels sprouts, but they're little purple kales instead of cabbages! Amazing!! I couldn't resist picking up a bunch for myself. Don't forget: cole crops get sweeter and crisper after a frost! Pull on your new alpaca hat and get your hands on some super-food goodness!

So how about that dessert I promised you? Well, if you're in a hurry, you can grab a ready-made pie at Bread Alone, or brownies, tarts, cookies, and other treats at a variety of Farmers' Market vendors. If you're feeling more ambitious, and want to prove your pie skills, you'll definitely want to swing by Flying Pigs Farm. What are you doing at a pork stand looking for pie? Well, I heard it straight from Alton Brown himself: lard makes the best pie crust! Theirs is a blend of lard and butter of course, since butter gives such perfect pie flavor. With their ready-made pie crust in hand, you don't even have to be ambitious to make your own pie!

Ok, so it's too late to deck your Thanksgiving table with all this Farmers' Market goodness, but those leftovers can't last forever, and the cold weather is here to stay! It's easier than ever to buy local and support farmers working hard to hang on to a job that is so much more than a paycheck: it's a passion and a vocation, and it's up to all of us to keep this vocation alive on our land.

This Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for people who are actually interested in reading what I write...and I'm even more thankful for the people who take those small steps in the right direction, slowly aligning their lifestyle with their principles...or maybe just slowly learning and reprograming your principles! What YOU do, even if it's just buying an apple from a farmer on your way home, even if it's just thinking about this stuff, reading about it in other sources, talking to your friends about it, makes a difference! Put that energy out in the universe, and keep going!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Teaching Others; Learning About Myself

I'm back in New York! And it's the best thing ever! Never mind that the jet lag is making me average seven hours of sleep a night!

I did a lot of teaching over the past month. It was an interesting practice in Svatyaya: Sanskrit for, more or less, self-study.

The way that you teach the fiftyth front hip lean, versus the first, says a lot about you. So does the way you handle the third person in one day putting herself into a dangerous position by deliberately disobeying your instructions.

Yoga has helped me to grow into a much more patient and compassionate person than I used to be...but I've discovered that my patience still has an expiration date, and my compassion is not unconditional. I can teach the same thing over and over and over and see the subtle nuances that make each time unique, and have fun doing it...but if I feel like I'm wasting my breath, eventually I can't hide my frustration anymore.

Even though I know it's not THIS student who has earned my frustration. It's the whole long line of them, and the fact that I'm seeing them as all connected, all allied on some level against me, when in fact the only thing they have in common is a survival instinct for keeping close to the earth that had served them well up until they found themselves in the peculiar set of circumstances that is an aerial yoga class.

Having reached this conclusion, I now know the outside limit of yoga classes I can handle on a daily and weekly basis without losing my zen, and failing to be the teacher I want to be.

It'd be easy to be hard on myself, and in the name of those poor students, push myself to teach more and keep my mouth shut...but that would be as bad for my students as it would be for me. You can't force growth. And, if you're seeking to be more compassionate with others, you have to start by being more compassionate with yourself.

Over, and over, and over again.

I feel certain that there's such a thing as too much self-compassion...but I haven't hit that point yet, and maybe I'm wrong about that anyway. Maybe thinking that just goes to show how much more compassionate I need to be with myself.

It's tough when self-study turns up stuff we might not be so keen to know about ourselves. Even if you can reach for that compassionate response, you still need that compassionate response because it's a bit of a downer to find out you're not as kind, or patient, or humble, or whatever it might be as you had thought you were. But in a way, it's tough when it turns up the good stuff, too, because you want to have about the same reaction to both: something along the lines of, "Huh...interesting."I tell my students that we're trying to cultivate the attitude of a scientist observing an experiment. Objective, and equally interested in whatever outcome she or he sees.

Don't be afraid to observe yourself in action. You never know what you'll find, but that's the point! The only way to truly know yourself, and to slowly but surely grow into the person you want to be, is to pay attention to who you are right now, instead of assuming you already know. You can try it in a yoga class at first: observing how you react to each pose, and each sensation in your body. You'll want to bring this practice off the mat, too though. And get meta! How do you respond to the things that you're discovering through your svatyaya?

It's a study that never gets old. There's always more to learn! Will you be getting started at your next yoga class? Have you already worked with svatyaya? What discoveries did you make about yourself that surprised you?

Live Omily,
~em

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Omily Tarot: Can Your Deck Go the Distance?

I used to take a hard line on giving people readings when we weren't physically occupying the same space: Tarot is too intimate, too dependent on the energy flow between the people involved, to 'work' long distance.

Full discloser: I'm not exactly a tech-maven. I had to be dragged kicking and screaming  into the age of smart phones by my apple-devotee husband, and I only surrendered because of the visual voicemail, and my Pandora and Rdio apps...ok, and the camera. But that's it. I only have three pages worth of apps after three years of smart-phone ownership, because I object to the whole thing on principle. For most people, they're just glowing pacifiers keeping them from engaging with the real world around them, and I want no part of it. Same thing for the internet: theoretically an incredible tool for human growth and development, most of the time just a massive time and brain suck.

But, hey, I use the smart phone, and I have a blog. And a Facebook page. And a twitter account. And a tumblr...or two...and vine...so, I mean, I can only throw so much shade before I start to look pretty silly.

The realization of of creeping hypocrisy (which is not to say that I'm giving into the rising tide of subsuming our lives to technology) planted the seeds of my change of heart. Simple necessity completed the job.

I live in New York. The only member of my family who also does is my husband (and our cats and plants, but they rarely request tarot readings). The husband's mom in Texas, my little sister in Ohio, my childhood best friend in Portland, all people who I love very much, started asking me for tarot readings. It wasn't so easy saying no. I gave it a try, with many a reservation...and it was fine.

It's a true fact that you can connect to and read a person better in  real life than via Skype, or any other technological connection. It's also a true fact, at least I think so, that we're all one. Energetically, we're all connected. If you can tap into that, then being in the same room as the person you're communicating with becomes far less important. And, anyway, people have been doing this for ages. Are they the most authentic outfits with the most integrity? I have no idea because I've never worked with them. But I know that I am.

All this is to say, if you get asked for a tarot reading, and you can't be there in person to do it, that doesn't necessarily have to be a deal breaker! If you're able to use some kind of interface so that you can look at each other while you talk, and the person you're reading for can see the cards, that's certainly preferable, but I wouldn't even rule out a phone tarot reading entirely.

That's not to say that you can't still feel uncomfortable with the idea. If you do, it's very unlikely to be a good reading, so what would be the point?

Aside from giving you the freedom to share the tarot near and far, I also impart this story to let you know that, yes, I will give you a tarot reading while I'm in Shanghai. You don't have to wait till I get back on November 17th. It'll be on Skype or Facebook or whatever, for a reduced rate because, to me anyway, it still doesn't feel quite the same. Interested? Shoot me an e-mail at Emily (at) emilyhursh dot com.

Or why don't you get out your own deck and give me one? Might be good practice, and I'm sure to be wanting a reading while I'm there...

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Eating Omily: A Balanced Autumn Breakfast is a Baked Apple in Each Hand

Happy Fall Equinox! Are you ready to dive right into Autumn, or are you like many many people out there who thrive in the high, hot sunshine of Summer, and shrivel up into a little icy ball when the whispers of Winter start?

While I can't properly empathize because I love Winter, you definitely aren't alone! There are lots of ways to slowly prepare your body for the weather ahead. I find eating locally and seasonally goes a long way toward helping me appreciate each season as it comes. I'm not a fan of weather over 80 degrees, but I know we need it if I'm going to enjoy flavorful tomatoes, and juicy peaches.

While there's not a whole lot growing in the dead of a New York City Winter, this dormancy period is essential for our fruit trees, and it also kills off last year's population of pest bugs. That may not sound as sexy as a sweet, juicy peach, but I just spent a few days in Texas, where they don't get a whole lot of hard frost, and having to keep my shoes on at all times and my eyes open for scorpions, tarantulas, giant beetles, and fire ants wasn't much fun. Winter really does have its advantages, aside from the beauty of drifting snowflakes, and the fun of sledding.
I actually really like tarantulas, but would you be willing to trade Winter for these guys?
But we don't have to worry about Winter yet! We have a whole season of crisp breezes, colorful leaves, and of course, pumpkin spice everything to enjoy first! Here's a home chef secret: pumpkin is really hard to work with. It tends to be really watery, and a bit bland. You're better off with an acorn, butternut, or delicate squash (or just about any other variety of winter squash). Kabocha squash looks like a squat, greenish-blue pumpkin, and tastes like a richer, fleshier version of one. It's a beast to chop up though, so get your hands on a really good knife, or a really strong sous chef before you haul one home.
What's an easier way to bring the flavor of Fall into your kitchen? Baked apples! Trust me, you can't go wrong with these. Cheap, easy, and a crowd-pleaser.

Preheat your oven to 350 or 375, depending on how hot your oven tends to run. If you're not sure, think back to previous experiences: do you have to pull your cookies from the pan before the time the recipe suggests, or leave them after? A hot oven will brown things before they cook thoroughly; a cool oven will dry things out or turn them to mush without browning them.

Slice your apples in half from top to bottom. If you're feeling inspired, take the extra moment to cut each stem in half, too, so each half looks like a perfect apple cross section. Using a knife, or grape fruit spoons work well if you happen to have those, carve the core out of the apple. You should be left with a roundish whole in the center of each apple half. Put a little butter, up to a teaspoon, into each apple, then top it with brown sugar, or better yet, cookie crumbs. Those Italian almond cookies, or the biscoff, those extra yummy cookies you sometimes get on airplanes early in the morning, are extra awesome. I like to crush up the cookies in my mortar and pestal, and then whisk in extra spices: all spice, freshly grated nutmeg, cardamum...if there isn't cinnamon in the cookies you're using, or you're just using brown sugar, you should definitely add that, too. Cloves are another yummy choice.
Ok, if you've made it this far, you have two options:

The easy route: put a dab of butter, up to a teaspoon, on top of each pile of brown sugar or cookies crumbs. Pour half a cup of water into the baking dish, and put these babies in the oven for about half an hour. The steam from the water will help to get the apples tender all the way through, and by leaving them uncovered, they should have a chance to start browning, too.

The Over-Achiever Route: add the half cup of water, but don't top the apples with butter yet. Cover the baking pan with foil. Leave a bit uncovered, so some steam can escape. Bake for fifteen minutes. Remove the foil, brush the tops of apples and crumbs with butter, and keep baking until the water has evaporated, and the apples have browned, about another fifteen minutes.
(photo of baked apples)
These do find as leftovers (and yes, they make a great breakfast the next morning), but are, like most things, best fresh and warm from the oven. You can hold them in your hand and take bites, like a healthy Autumnal cupcake, or if they turn out really tender, cut them up with a knife and fork.
I love the pink color seeping into the flesh!
Just about anywhere in the U.S. you can get your hands on local apples this time of year, so no excuses! Welcome Autumn with this warm and fragrant celebration of the season. So do you think you'll make a batch of baked apples this Fall? Tell me how they turn out for you, and if you discover any new variations!
There were lots of nifty critters in Texas! Here I am with some bona fide, branded long horns! And yes, my deltoid is cut like a diamond, thank you. ;-)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Satya Blues and Visa Yellows

Last week I did a lot of teaching with my regular yoga classes, assisting an aerial silks class, and subbing two vinyasa classes, a core/booty fitness class, and an aerial yoga class! This week I'm switching over to student mode in more ways than one:

I'm not subbing any classes this week, and I even  subbed out my slow flow vinyasa class today so I'd have time to drop off my sweet foster kitten at the adoption center, and head on over to the Chinese Consulate to apply for a visa, and tomorrow, I'm leaving for a five-day aerial retreat with a teacher of one of my teachers...

I've been so nervous filling out the application over the last few days. It makes me think about Satya: truth-telling. It seems easy enough to fill out an application honestly, but when you don't have all the answers yet, is it better to hazard a guess, or leave it blank? What about my photo? Most sources just say, 'recent', but one specified less than six months old...do they really want me to delay applying by a week while I get another identical photo taken at Walgreens?? Should I have explicitly mentioned that my husband will be joining me for just two  and a half weeks of my five and a half week stay? Will it seem weird that I listed my mom as my emergency contact, and not him, when he's listed as helping to finance the trip?
This is the first time I've googled Shanghai. Looks like quite a place!
 And...I am taking this trip as a tourist. According to my visa. Which is true. I'll totally be touristing...Is there anything else I'll be doing? Is this a moment of just putting Satya aside, or is there such a thing as telling a lie to live your truth, like Dimple Lala embraces in Bombay Blues? And will I have my own case of Shanghai blues as the days without my husband add up? Satya blues? Currently if I had to choose a color, it'd be the pale yellow of the receipt I'll be bringing back to the consulate to pick up my passport, hopefully with my three to six month two-entry visa in it.

Tomorrow is not promised to us, so of course, my visa certainly isn't.

I hope to keep up with my regular blogging schedule on here, but I'm also going to have another tumblr going temporarily, detailing my adventures in Shanghai and beyond...and of course, I'll be calling it Shanghai Blues, in homage to Dimple, and to her creator, the author of Born Confused and Bombay Blues, Tanuja Desai Hidieri. This is supposed to be a yoga blogpost, but I have to give a shoutout for these two beautiful books. Read them!

And read my blog, Shanghai Blues, at omilyshanghaiblues.tumblr.com. I'll have lots to say about my aerial retreat of course, but you'll have to get on over to Talitha Koum: An Aerial Omily Tumblr to get the scoop.

In the meantime: invert or backbend back and forth: are you a teacher, or a student? You are always both. But sometimes more one than the other. So, if someone asks, what's your Satya..? Live the question.

Live Omily,
~em


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Omily Tarot: In Case You Weren't Clear on This

Can we just talk about how awesome the Tarot is? I know: we do this a lot. But seriously!!! YES, it's a way to turn inward and explore your subconscious. YES, it's a rad parlor trick that will save any lackluster party or outing. YES, it's a way to help your loved ones broaden their horizons and find their true paths...but it's even MORE than that!

It's a 22-step guide to enlightenment!

It's  a window into Carl Jung's work!

It's a lens through which to view basically ALL of Western culture: old, new, and in between!

It's just freaking gorgeous to look at, and regardless of your beliefs or understanding of the tarot, or the other aspects of western culture it touches on,

it's ALWAYS thought-provoking for everyone!

Um, can you name any one other thing that is this awesome?

Ok, chocolate. Nom nom nom...

And kitty belly.

But seriously, those things are STILL not as useful as the tarot is!

So...assuming you ARE reading this, and you AREN'T a tarot geek...why haven't you picked up a deck and got in the game??

Do you feel intimated by the complex wisdom locked into that flimsy cardboard?

Do you feel like it has nothing to offer you because you lack the background info that sets the tarot into context?

Are you concerned that using the tarot clashes with your spiritual beliefs?

Or, do you feel like using the tarot is tantamount to HAVING spiritual beliefs, and you don't feel that you do?

Do you feel like you don't have time to do it justice?

Or that you'll never be good enough to read professionally, or for others at all?

Ok, well, here's one more thing the tarot is that makes is so awesome:

It's for everyone!

You don't HAVE to be a tarot geek! You don't HAVE to read up on the history! You don't have to ever lay out a divination spread, or meditate on a card, or anything else! And, you don't HAVE to believe a damn thing to enjoy it! It's YOUR tarot deck! You do what you want with it, when you want. You make it your own! That's what makes it so rad! For every person who has ever shuffled through a deck, there has been a different take on what the tarot is and what it is for.

In fact, you don't HAVE to buy one! Google image search, or borrow a friend. Follow your own level of interest, which includes, of course,

just not being interested in it at all...though if that's the case, I can't help but ask...why are you still reading..? ;-)


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Eating Omily: Honey, Please

Remember Winnie the Pooh? Philosophical bear with a honey obsession? Well, I'm beginning to think he was onto something. No, not about finding your way out of the woods by following sand pits. No, not about walking in circles around copses of trees, either. Nope, not even flood survival tactics, or hefalump and woozle precautions (and if you don't get these references I don't know what kind of childhood you had, but it sure was different than mine). The HONEY, you guys! It's all about the honey!
I've always enjoyed honey as a way to perk up peanut butter toast, or smooth and sweeten a cup of tea, but lately it, and other gifts from our friends the bees, have become my favourite health supplement.

Naturally, I get my honey from the Farmers' Market in its raw, unfiltered state: deep golden, with a complex flavor that reflects what blossoms the bees were dipping into at the time. If you think wine tasting at the Farmers' Market is fun, you've got to get over to one of the apiary vendors and start tasting their wares!

I was enjoying just this pastime with some honey-sweet friends visiting from my hometown a couple weeks ago, inhaling the fragrance drifting from not only the honey itself, but the beeswax candles, lip balm, and ointment for sale, when I noticed something called, 'hon-e-lixr' on the top shelf. Of course I asked what it was, and was awarded with a taste.

Hon-e-lixr is creamed honey mixed with bee pollen: a half ounce of bee pollen per pound of sweet, creamy creamed honey! If you happen to enjoy scraping the last of the crystallized sweetness out of your honey jar, cream honey is like that, only a zillion times better, because it's slowly and carefully crystalized to create teeny tiny crystals, resulting in a smooth, thick, creamy, spreadable texture. It's the same difference between popsicles and premium ice cream: one is good, the other is awesome.
Here's what hon-e-lixr looks like! Creamed honey looks similar, but paler in color since it doesn't have the pollen mixed in. Don't mind me...nom nom nom...
Incidentally, you can also get your creamed honey without added pollen, which may not be a bad idea for reasons we'll get to in a minute. You can also get bee pollen alone, and I was enjoying my hon-e-lixr so much, that I went back and did just that a few days later.

So, what's bee pollen? It starts life as flower pollen, but is gathered by the bee, along with the nectar that gets made into honey. The bees carry it back to the hive as little pellets stuck to a special place on their legs called 'pollen baskets'. Back at the hive, the pollen is rolled up into little balls with bits of honey, nectar, and/or bee spit to make it stick. Each tiny ball is then popped into a single, perfect hexagonal cell, ready to be the first food of a freshly hatched bee larva.
But don't worry: gathering the pollen from the bees is easy, and harmless. The bees are simply forced to enter the hive via opening small enough to scrape some of the pollen pellets off the bees' legs. The pellets fall down into a container with openings too small for the bees to retrieve the pollen from, and the bee keeper harvests the pollen daily. This pollen is frequently sold as a health supplement, but some of it is held back as well, so that if the bees need supplemental food early on in the Spring, the bee keeper is ready to help them out. Think of it as a mandatory savings account for bees that pays sweet interest to the human bankers!

So what does bee pollen have in it for humans? Well, you can compare it to milk: as the first and only food needed for baby mammals, it's self-evident that milk is a potent source of nutrition. Pollen is the same thing for insects, and since we're not so very different, it packs a powerful punch for us as well, and while it's not vegan, since we obtain it by taking it from bees, it IS vegan in the sense that the protiens, fats, enzhymes etc. it contaisn are 100% plant-based. I take it in the morning by dipping my spoonful of delicious Hon-e-lixer in the bee pollen jar, for an extra pollen punch to energize me right out of my morning slump.

Now, this is important, so pay attention: pollen, as you may well know, is a common allergen. If you are allergic to pollen and you eat it, you could have a reaction. Anything from some mild itchiness all the way up to full anaphylactic shock. This has happened to people who eat pollen, generally people who are aware of having severe allergies, but rarely, to people who haven't yet been diagnosed with having allergies at all. It is something you choose to do at your own risk. You can minimize your risk by talking to your doctor about it, getting tested for allergies, and/or taking an antihistamine at least an hour before consuming pollen. I'm not a doctor, and I can't tell you if the benefits of pollen outweigh the risks for you. It's worth noting that no scientific studies have found pollen to be good for energy, allergies, the immune system, inflammation, or any of the many other health claims that have been made about it. It's also worth mentioning that bee products are notoriously difficult to test for efficacy, because the exact make-up of these products varies from region to region, hive to hive, even hour to hour! Some flower pollens may well boost the immune system, calm down inflammation, increase energy, or any number of other things. Other flower pollens could well do nothing at all, or even something negative. Bee pollen is not recommended for pregnant, or nursing women, but again, that's something you can discuss with your doctor or midwife.

Something that's safe for everybody (except babies under the age of one year because infant botulism is a thing) is honey! Delicious, sticky, sweet, honey! Honey touched by the fruit that will later develop on the trees from which the nectar was gathered: crisp with apples and pears, or full-flavored, and rich with hints of blackberries...you can't go wrong! And yes, honey can have some surprising health benefits, too!
Mmmm...delicious, raw, local honey...
My husband read on a coworker's blog that taking a spoonful of honey before bed can decrease instances of waking up in the middle of the night, because it provides your brain with the particular kind of sugar it needs to work hard filing and organizing during your dream sleep. I'm not sure how much evidence there is for this, but I don't need much encouragement to eat honey before bed, so I've been trying it the past few days. I generally sleep like a rock once I drift off, so I wasn't too worried about that, but I was more interested in the oft-sited side effect of bedtime honey eating: vivid, strange, and more readily-remembered dreams! I'm sure effects vary, but I've had a conversation's worth of crazy dreams to report every morning since I started taking bed-time honey!

So what do you think? Want to incorporate more bee yumminess into your life? You could also try some propolis: a resin bees collect and mix up from evergreen trees and other sources, and use to seal up their hives.
as pictured here
It's been used a natural remedy for a long time, topically for burns and rashes, and internally for sore throats and colds. Does it work? Let me refer you back to the bee pollen lecture. Although propolis doesn't carry the risks that bee pollen does, it does carry the same challenges for rigorous scientific testing. It may work for you, and it may not. And just because one bottle worked like a charm doesn't mean the next one will.  Bees are tricky that way! But hey, what's the worse that can happen? I can't vouch for propolis, but the rest of this stuff is insanely delicious...and you can always mix your propolis with honey if it tastes a bit like...well, sealant.
This is propolis in its raw state. Some people just eat it this way to help them get over a cold.
When propolis is made into a tincture, it's often used to treat cold sores...and sores elsewhere caused by the same virus.
Make sure you get your bee products directly from a bee keeper, who manages their bees humanely and sustainably, so you know they aren't heat treated, pasteurized, or mixed and processed within an inch of their lives. If you buy these products from a store, even a health food store, you run the risk of their being cut with less beneficial ingredients to make them cheaper to manufacture. Supplements are very poorly regulated in America. This can be a good thing in some ways; we don't necessarily want moneyed interests getting their paws on all our natural cures, but it does mean you've got to check your sources carefully.
Enjoy licking those sticky paws clean...and if you have any truly fantastic dreams, come back and report them in the comments!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Quit Being a Baby Ego, and Start Being a Baby Cobra

Today I'd like to talk about a pose that every student of vinyasa yoga has done before, perhaps daily: Baby Cobra.

This varies from teacher to teacher, but I always cue knees-chest-chin to baby cobra for the first few vinyasas in my classes, and if I get the feeling most of my students aren't exactly yoga veterans, that's as far as we go. In a more mixed class, I'll offer plank, floor, cobra, and chaturanga to upward-facing dog, but I emphasize that knees-chest-chin baby cobra remains a solid choice.

It's a solid choice alright, but very few yogis take it once I open up the floor to other options.

And that's a shame, because Baby Cobra is an awesome pose! In fact, it's one of my favourites. It improves mobility in the upper back and shoulders while stabilizing and protecting the sensitive lower back, promotes expansion of the chest, highlights body awareness and isolation, and works both the front, and the back of the core. It's a pose that's good for everybody, and there are very few injuries or issues that make it a bad idea to do.

With all these rad benefits, why are people so quick to ditch it?

Well, the name doesn't help. Who wants to spend an hour and a half doing itty bitty baby cobra? It's understandable that the assumption would be that this pose is for newbs (and babies) only, and the big kids are all moving on to more exciting things. Like a lifetime of back pain.

Because, you guys, upward facing dog IS a more advanced pose than baby cobra! Do you know what that means? It means that you need to be a more advanced practitioner in order to do it safely! It does NOT mean that doing it makes you a more advanced practitioner, or that the benefits of updog are greater or better than the benefits of baby cobra. Just because it gets tossed around in all level classes does not mean you should be doing it, and if you can do upward dog safely, that still doesn't mean you always should. You need to consider what benefits your body is looking for in a given class, and choose the variation that will help you reach those goals.

Before attempting it (even if, or maybe especially if, you've been doing it for a while already), you need to take the time to learn it properly, and that means either waiting for a class in which a teacher takes the time to workshop it, or getting yourself a private lesson where it can be covered with the attention to detail necessary for proper alignment.

For most of us, it's not a matter of doing baby cobra one day, and upward dog the next. It's a pose we need to work into slowly, as our bodies build the strength necessary to support themselves in this shape. There are several in-between stages you can rock that will keep your spine safe, and maximize the benefits of both shapes, while building the strength you need to tackle the Big Dog.

Humans are pack animals: it feels good for all of us to be doing the same thing at the same time, especially when the music is pumping, the teacher is inspired, and we're all moving as one, our breaths synchronized. Of course we don't want to break up the cosmic harmony! But when we're untrue to the body we're working with on any given day, we violate Ahimsa, and disrupt the cosmic harmony within.

Our baby ego sees our separation, and believes the shallow unity of doing the same physical action at the same time can bring us together, but the Big You knows the truth: we are already one, and if we choose to sacrifice what's best for ourselves for the sake of our ego, we don't just hurt ourselves. We hurt everyone we wish to feel that already existing connection with!

So here's a challenge for you: Even if you've carefully learned Upward Facing dog, even if you have the strength to do it beautifully and safely one-hundred and fifty times in a row, even if the benefits of that deeper backbend are more immediately useful to you than those of Baby Cobra, walk into a yoga class, and choose Baby Cobra. Choose it over, and over again. Choose it every single opportunity...and notice who is suddenly freed to try it along with you...starting with yourself.

Live Omily,
~em


Monday, August 25, 2014

Aerial Omily: Took a Tumbl

So, I self-identify as an aerialist. Writers write; aerialists...aerial. And I aerial. Big time. All the time. I like to show off the calluses and peeling skin on my hands from lyra training, those weird speckly broozes on my belly from smoothing out my star drops, my astonishingly sore shoulders from conditioning my skin the cats every. Single. Night.

Over the past four years, it's consumed more and more of my life, as I've gotten brave enough to let it grow and spread, feeding on the euphoria I feel when I wrap my fingers around fabric, or a bar, and hoist myself gracefully away from gravity...

and along the way, it's taken over more of my blog, too.

I'm not so solidly sure that this is a good thing.

Because, this blog is already about a lot of things! Yoga, eating sustainably, tarot...and, also, you know, Tumblr is apparently the shit. All the kids are doing it. Aaaaaaand the husband did just start working there...so, I'm thinking it's just going to have to happen.

I'm getting a Tumblr. And it's going to be All About Aerial All The Time! So if you want your flying fix, whether it's pictures or videos of my badassery, or tips and tricks as you work your way toward your own, you'll be wanting to point your curser on over there now.

Don't worry, I'll try to keep things simple for you. It's no trouble for me to link to the new blog from this blog.

Speaking of which, I'm still trying to figure this out, but hopefully this is the link to the Tumblr. I don't know how all the kids have figured this platform out. It's the most difficult thing I've ever used.

https://www.tumblr.com/blog/omily-nyc

Whew, getting that posted was exhausting. I'll see you next time.

Happy Flying! And Tumbling!
~em
This is maybe kind of how I feel about Tumblr. Ok, definitely.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Eating Omily: Veggie Summer Love–Flavors that Belong Together

Have you been reading this blog long? Like, were you around last Summer? Because, if so, I don't have to tell you. But, in case you weren't, I will.

IT'S SUMMER!!! The time of plenty is here! Every delicious thing you can imagine is waiting for you at the Farmer's Market!

Tomatoes, blueberries, summer squash, string beans, peaches, chili peppers, raspberries, eggplant, corn, shelling beans, apricots, black berries, watermelons, nectarines, sweet peppers, cantaloupes, currants, potatoes, herbs, (the earliest) apples, okra, winter squash (ironically enough), radishes, and sundry heat-tolerant greens, just to name a few.

THIS is the time of year when you can eat (just about) anything you want. This is the time of decadence, of bringing home your bags of produce and feeling like Scrooge McDuck swimming in his money vault!
So, now that everyone knows this, what are you waiting for? Are you perhaps paralyzed by choice? Unsure what to do with this crazy beautiful bounty? Ok, here are a few of my favourite summer time combinations. Some of them are no-brainers: flavor combos that are so woven into our culture that you may not have realized you can eat them separately, and others are a bit more exotic. You should try them all.

Tomatoes and basil: Topping the obvious list, this particular veggie love affair began in Italy, and spread far and wide. You can punch it up a notch by adding mozzarella cheese (they've got it at the Farmers' Market, at Central Valley Farm, Union Square, Monday and Friday), olive oil, and balsamic, but you can also just chop our tomatoes and toss them with torn basil and a little salt for an easy, honest Summer salad that no one will think anything is missing from.
Leeks and stringbeans: My wonderful friend Karen (who just started a rad Etsy shop; you should check it out) makes the most delicious green beans. I've always enjoyed green beans cooked with a light touch: crisp, and vegetal, but her recipe cooks them down until they caramelize, and show off a complexity I didn't think string beans possessed! When I picked up a few leeks at the market on Saturday, I realized that their sweet, mellow oniony flavor would be a perfect partner for deeply cooked green beans. And are they ever! If you're like me and blanch (that's boil briefly, then plunge in ice water) lots of string beans for freezing and drying, you'll also appreciate knowing that the dish is just as good with caramelized leeks, and blanched and chopped green beans. The juxt a position of crisp beans, and smooth, sweet leeks is one guaranteed to not leave leftovers.

Watermelon and radishes: Lunch just got planned. Slice up a watermelon. Slice up some radishes. Chop the radish greens. Toss all of the above, perhaps with some nuts or goat cheese. YES, you can eat radish greens, and you should! I've seen this combination bandied about, but I get my version from Candice Kumai's Pretty Delicious.

Corn and tomatos: You know when you get home on a hot Summer night, and the idea of cooking makes you think starving might be preferable? No worries. This is a dinner-caliber salad you can throw together in just a few minutes. Shuck your corn, and slice it off the cob. Slice cherry or grape tomatoes in half. Toss together with salt, and optional olive oil, or for a richer flavor, pumpkin seed oil. Nope. No cooking. I know! It feels scandalous to eat corn raw, but damn, if it's wrong, I don't want to be right! It's sweet, crisp, and juicy!
Blueberries and basil: I know. Sounds crazy. Just relax. Throw some blueberries and a splash of water into a saucepan with a few whole basil leaves. Simmer. Crush the berries. Keep simmering. Depending on your level of patience (and the level of pectin in your berries) you'll end up with a thinner blueberry basil sauce, or a thicker blueberry basil jam, and you'll be happy either way. The sweet, refreshing, licorice notes in the basil do such happy things for the sweet/tart, almost medicinal qualities of the blueberries. Nom!
Summer squash and radishes: This one comes straight from The New Green Market Cook Book, where the principle ingredients are sliced on a mandolin and tossed, raw, with an herbaceous and lemony vinaigrette. It makes a big batch, but don't worry: it only gets better as it sits, and it will all get eaten.
Don't forget the big, Summertime combo dishes! Those seasonal dishes designed for this time of plenty: ratatouille, and gazpacho.

What are your favourite Summer time flavor combos? You know, besides mint and lime, or you and the beach? Think you'll give any of these combos a try? Try experimenting with some of your own, too! Just remember: What grows together goes together!


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Snooze-Asana: Yoga Poses So Pleasant You'll Do Them All By Yourself and then Sleep Like a (Happy) Baby

Practicing yoga at home is hard. Even super experienced yoga teachers can struggle with it, myself included! Anyone can be intimidated right out of their practice when the first thing she or he tries is unrollling his or her mat in the morning for an invigorating flow.

Know what else can be hard? Falling asleep! Between electric lighting, and worse yet, electric screens (they mimic sunlight, keeping our brain from releasing melatonin, which is the hormone that eases you into sleep), and our go-go-go lifestyles, getting our minds to shut down and drift off at night is challenging for a lot of us.

So, what do these two issues have in common? The solution: Bed-time Yoga! Ready to give it a shot? Keep reading...

Get comfortable: your favourite pajamas, your significant other's old t-shirt, or nothing at all! It doesn't matter, just wear what makes you feel comfy and cozy. If possible, downshift from intensive physical or mental effort, and get your eyes away from those screens an hour or two before your planned bedtime. Never write a facebook status in the middle of the night about how you can't fall asleep. You're only making things worse for yourself, and you're also driving me crazy. Turn down the lights, and turn off the upbeat music. Something at low volume, and relaxing is fine.

Get in bed: Yay! Bed! Don't love your bed? Replace it! Try different sheets, different blankets, different pillows. Save up for a new mattress and/or bed frame...the husband and I are going to try a Casper mattress once we get back from our last trip of the Summer.

Ok, made it that far? Now, breathe.

I know, you've been doing it all day, but now, you're going to pay attention to the fact that you're doing it. How slow or fast are you breathing? How deeply are you breathing? For most of us, just noticing our breathing pattern is enough to change it for the better, but that's not the only reason to take this step. Taking your attention into your body automatically takes your attention away from the stress of your day, your to do list tomorrow, or whatever other irrelevant thoughts are racing around in your head.

Paying attention to your breath, and perhaps slowing it down or deepening it, is step one of the Breath Control practice known in yoga as Pranayama.

In particular, making your exhales longer than your inhales activates your parasympathetic nervous system. Never heard of it? Well, it's the opposite of your sympathetic nervous system, which sounds very friendly, but is actually responsible for the fight or flight response: that heart-pounding, stomach-clenching, mind-racing state we get in when we're confronted by a stressful situation. The parasympathetic nervous system turns all that off, and puts us in a state of 'rest and digest'. We feel calm, safe, and open to the world around us. Our appetite is better regulated, we're able to be sexually aroused given access to the stimuli we're into, and, we can easily fall asleep. Amazing, huh? Decisions, decisions... ;-)

By now, you may not even need too many yoga poses to ease you off into dreamland, but they'll feel great, and you'll benefit more from them with your parasympathetic nervous system activated.

If your bed isn't next to a wall, you may want to put it there, but if that's not possible, start with this shape on the floor, then move into bed for the rest of them. This is my personal favorite yoga pose for everybody. It's especially good for fatigue, tired or achey legs and/or feet, and headaches: Legs Up the Wall! Yep, it's just what it sounds like. Sit down with your hip pressed against the wall, then lean back and swivel around to get your sit bones pressed against the wall. It's a little tricky to get into, but well worth it. You can max out the inversion benefits of this shape by placing a pillow under your hips to slightly elevate them. Once you get there, just relax. Come back to your breathing. Your hands can come to rest anywhere on your body that needs some extra healing or love, or they can be out to your sides. You can open your legs up to a wide V, or leave them together. Try to stay for five to fifteen minutes. If your legs and feet get too tingly, you can bend your knees and slide your feet down the wall for a break before resuming.
Forward folds of all kinds are another great way to tune inward and leave your day behind. Resist the urge to pull yourself into your deepest stretch, as deep muscular stretches are stimulating for the body, and you may re-activate your sympathetic nervous system right when you want it switched off. Even if you aren't very bendy, just let gravity take you as far as it wants to into the stretch. Try using pillows and yoga blocks (books will do if you don't have blocks) to support the weight of your head.
Try seated forward fold to untie your ham strings after a long day of walking, or star pose, heels touching a couple feet from your pelvis, knees opened out to the side. This variation of the popular hip stretch is an excellent lower back release.
Encourage your psoas, a huge muscle that connects your upper body to your lower body and makes walking possible, to release for the night by laying on your back, and hugging one knee into your chest at a time. Intensify this stretch by elevating the hips slightly on pillows, but remember not to take the stretch past subtle sensation, to maintain the relaxation-inducing benefits.
You can give yourself a happy baby while lying on your back, if this is a pleasant pose for you. Skip it if the sensation in your hips is intense or unpleasant, or if hugging both knees toward your chest makes taking deep breaths difficult.
A gentle reclining twist can help you inhabit and feel your entire body before bed. Bring the right knee toward the chest, then let it fall gently to the left. Extend the right arm out to the side, and keep the right shoulder grounded down. You can support the right knee on a pillow, block, or books to keep the twist light and gentle. Be sure to do the second side!
The best part of bedtime yoga? Bed time Savasana! Let there be a few feet between your heels, and some breathing room between your upper arms and your torso. Make sure you have enough covers to stay warm even as your body temperature drops as you ease into sleep. If your arms keep rolling inward in their sockets, causing your palms to face the mattress, try picking up your upper back, and hugging your shoulders in toward your spine before easing it back down. If that still doesn't work, you may want to consider an alternative hand placement, such as palms down on your hips or your belly. If your lower back feeling tight or painful, place a pillow or rolled up blanket under your knees. Most of us living in modern society can benefit from an eye pillow: a small pillow usually filled with flax seed, and sometimes with dried lavender. The weight on the eyes induces them to close and settle, and by blocking out all light, your pineal gland is finally allowed to release melatonin. The lavender fragrance can be very soothing as well, though if it's not your thing, you can easily find one without.

Come back to an awareness of your breath. Don't worry about changing it in anyway, just let it work itself out. You may be shocked at how infrequently you're inhaling and exhaling after a few moments! Let yourself be soft, and receptive to absorbing the benefits of your practice. There's nothing else you need to do...

...except have sweet dreams. :-)

Live Omily,
~em

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Omily Tarot: Taking a Break Might Break Your Stride...or Lead to a Breakthrough

Oh my, these hot Summer days! Aside from eagerly anticipating the arrival of watermelon in the Farmers' Markets, a great way to cope is take it a little easy...and what better way to take it easy than to take your tarot deck to a shady spot?? Keep clear of high winds and water, of course, but in general, your tarot can travel with you while you take advantage of outdoor-friendly weather. Tarot under the stars on a camping trip? Yes, definitely. Tarot by candlelight in a creaky rental house? Absolutely! Tarot to liven up a hotel room? Thank goodness, something to do besides watch tv!

Tarot can also be a great way to meet new people on your summer travels (see my favourite type of tarot reading: the off the cuff in a bar kind!)

I just spent a whole week on my (second or third) favourite island in the whole world with some of my favourite people in the whole wide world...I thought for sure the tarot cards would be flying, but no luck. Not that I have any complaints! A week of riding bikes to the beach, shopping, and fabulous seafood is my kind of week, even if it was tarot and virtually circus-free! (I did manage to get family into some acro stunts and to spot me in some handstand work...not as much as I should have, but, ah well... :-)

I think there's a lesson in there tarot and otherwise: in spite of your best intentions, you aren't always going to do all the practicing/studying/instert your discipline required activity here, and sometimes that means you need to find a new activity, and sometimes that means you need to find a new method of self discipline...but sometimes it just means you can take a little break and it won't hurt anybody. Simple as that. Sometimes a break is exactly what you need to come back to the activity in mind fresher, stronger, and ready for some serious breakthroughs.

Hope that's the case for me! Wish me luck come Wednesday...
#SeafoodImeanLovewins


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Aerial Omily: Sharing My Wings

On the 29th, I wrapped up my Performance Intensive at the Muse with a playful performance with lots of new friends. I had a great time learning new choreography, and a new spin on familiar choreography, and getting my feet wet with acro balancing and hand standing with Madeline Hoak and Kelsey Strauch. They're both fantastic teachers, and lots of fun to work with!

Getting into July, I've pulled out my most recent aerial piece to polish it up for another performance. I had such lofty ideas about what I wanted to convey last time, but in the video, it wasn't coming across. This time around, I'm taking a cue from Madeline and simplifying what I'm trying to convey a little, and the results are...funny! I mean, not cats stealing dogs' beds funny, but, you know, a little chuckly-worthy. I haven't performed a funny piece before, and it's on my list of things I want to explore, so I'm excited to pursue this and see what comes of it.

And then, today, I got to do something really fun! Megan Hornaday is teaching a series of silks classes at Om Factory, and she had me assist her. I got to work with a beginner silks student on basic climbs, figure-eight foot lock, and inversion conditioning. Megan is a terrific teacher, and her brief explanation of the basic climb, coupled with this student's natural ability, got her climbing up well over my head without me needing to do much at all, so I can't take much credit for that, but I did assist her with proper form during the conditioning moves, and I taught her the figure-eight foot lock. We covered putting it on, and taking it off on the ground, taking it off in the air, and of course finding a fabulous pose in between. She looked fantastic, and I don't know who was more proud: my student or me!

I can't tell you how gratifying it was helping a fledgling find her way into the skies for the first time! I'm looking forward to continuing to assist Megan with her series at Om Factory, so if you've been looking for just the right opportunity to try your wings, trust me, this is it! Megan is an incredible aerialist, and a skilled, supportive teacher, and you'll get to take advantage of my yoga and aerial yoga backgrounds to get skilled and supported hands-on assists, and empathy for the challenges of being new to aerial. It's every Wednesday this month, from 3:30-4:30. Show up early to say hi, and warm up! You can sign up in advance online at www.omfactorynyc.com.

I hope I get to see you waving to me from up high soon!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Eating Omily: It's Official–We Have a Manual

Wow, this year's growing season went from 0 to 60!! One week the market was just hanging in there with root vegetables and baked goods, and the next: BAM!

Fresh greens, asparagus, and, STRAWBERRIES!!! These ruby red beauties are super sweet, and literally melt in your mouth, unlike the rock hard, sour imports that clutter the produce shelves of your grocery store. Get them now while you can, and freeze them for later! Make jam, infuse vodka, or just stuff yourself with them till they're gone.

Which, by the way, they almost are! Cherries are rolling in, and the first of the blueberries are making an appearance, too! Cherries are my absolute favourite fruit, and the dark, sweet bing cherries that grow around here are just to die for.

Summer squash, string beans, and bell peppers are popping up right along side sugar snap peas, and fava beans! It's still early for tomatoes, but don't worry: they're starting to come in off the fields, and there are plenty from green houses if you need to get your fix.

This is all super awesome, of course, but there's something else special at the Farmer's Market these days...something that's never been there before...

Yaaaaaaaay!!! I got mine at the Night Market a few weeks ago, and yes, it is just as incredible and useful as you think it is!

A whole cook book that's not only full of recipes based on the ingredients farmers are bringing to NYC Green Markets every day, but that's divided up SEASONALLY! Flip to the season you're in for unbelievably delicious inspiration: small plates, main courses, desserts, and, COCKTAILS! YEEEEEESSSSS!!!! I'm kind of stupidly excited about this if you couldn't tell.

So far, I've discovered the joy of whipping farm-fresh ricotta cheese with olive oil and salt, and spreading anchovie-herbed butter on sweet baby turnips, and I am beside myself with excitement about wending my way through the Summer section of the book...

Consider this the next addition to my List of Required Reading. You can shelve it right next to Alice Water's The Art of Simple Food, and Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. You can get it at a handful of Farmers' Markets:


Manhattan Markets
Brooklyn Markets
Queens Markets



P.S. My dear friends should hold off on buying this for, oh, a week or so...just in case I bought it for you. ;-)

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Pada Ananda: Foot Love for Happy Feet

On Tuesday I taught a feet-themed yoga class. We spent a lot of time standing, with our eyes closed, while I nattered on trying to help my little chickadees feel their feet. Which is one of those things that sounds really simple, but it's like trying to feel the ring on your finger. Your brain has stopped interpreting that stimulus for you, because your lack of attention has taught your brain that the stimulus is not important.

We also spent some time trying to move our toes independently of each other. From an anatomical standpoint, this is 100% possible. The muscles, bones, and joints are all in place to allow you to do this. BUT, again, years and years of not doing it has taught your brain that those neural connections are a waste of space, and they've been dismantled. My students felt pretty silly making frowny faces at their feet as their toes stubbornly moved as a unit...but they weren't working in vain! They were teaching their brain that those neural connections are WANTED, and if they stick to it, their brain will rebuild them! Amazing, isn't it?

Ok, so being able to feel the floor with your feet can be worthwhile, and moving your toes independently of each other is sort of fun, but, ok, I'll give you something you can use.

Foot stretch! It's fun! It's easy! It's...well, for most of us it's painful. But don't worry; you can handle it. It's very simple.

Kneel on the floor.

Tuck your toes under.

Sit on your heels.

Aaaaaaaand...breathe!
Trust me, the more it hurts, the more you need it! And those of us with a fondness for flip flops really need it, myself included!

Start with just a couple of breaths, a couple times a day. Over time, it may be comfortable to hang out in this position while you read an article or check Facebook. You don't want to torture yourself, but you do want to let your feet open up. As it gets more bearable, try to make a point of staying in this position for a few minutes every day that you wear flip flops.

And that's it! That's all you're getting today! Because I'm crazy busy this month! Ok, fine, one last thing: your feet are awesome. They are so, so important. Love them, honor them, massage them, pamper them. Just pay attention to them! You won't be sorry. They have a lot to teach you.

Live Omily,
~em


Monday, June 23, 2014

The Omily Tarot: Ask Me Another...Nope, That's Enough!

I was listlessly consulting the cards today, and in my ennui, I stumbled upon a tarot spread I've never heard of before! Which is pretty exciting! And don't worry about my ennui; it's worked itself out!

What I like about it, particularly for self-readings, is that it's self-limiting. You can carry on asking questions, and then, quite suddenly, you can't. That's as much as you're going to get.

Here's how it works: you'll want to have the kind of question that leads to lots of other questions. Maybe you aren't quite sure what your ultimate question is...this could be a great spread for working your way down to the heart of the matter. Once you've got your beginning question in mind, you shuffle, and then just lay the deck down in front of you, face down. Cut the deck any old place you like, and lay the part of the deck in your hand face up next to the rest of the deck.
There's your first card. I got Major Arcanum 18, The Moon!

To get more cards, ask another question, and cut the face up part of the deck any old place you like, and set the top section with your first card down on top to the right of the bottom section. The card on top is your second card!

To get the third card, you cut the cards under your second card. You'll have to slide piles featuring cards one and two over to make room for card three, and all subsequent cards, to keep things in order. Eventually, there will only be one card left to look at, and that's it! That's all you get! Of course, the higher up the deck you cut initially, the less additional questions you get to ask, but try not to guess ahead of time how many additional questions you'll need. Just follow your intuition, and let that first cut happen wherever it wants to.

And that's it! Here's what my reading ended up looking like:
I love this deck! That Five of Pentacles really spoke to me.

So, is this a spread you'd like to try? What kinds of questions do you think best suit this format of limited follow-up? Tell me in the comments!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Aerial Omily: Useful When You Fly, Useful When You Don't–Lessons from the Skies

Long, long ago, when I was just getting the hang of the basic climb on silks, and experimenting with different shapes on the static trapeze, I had mind-blowing amounts of muscle soreness. I'd wake up the day after a two-hour aerial session (which isn't as intense as you'd think, since I spent a lot of that time waiting for my turn) unable to move...or at least, unable to move without contorting my face into  some impressive grimaces.

Those days are pretty thoroughly behind me now. If I wake up in pain, it's usually because I pulled something.

But now that I'm in the thick of the Muse Summer Performance Intensive, I'm experiencing a resurgence of these days. I tried complaining about it to the husband, but he was quick to remind me that not only is this exactly what I signed up for, vocally hoped for, but it's what I PAID for! If I want to level up, I have to accept feeling like a beginner again, and all that it entails.

It's a small, subtle reminder that you're never done with the hard part. If you're getting better, the things you learned already will be easier, sure, but there will be plenty of hard things to take their place.

An awesome group of women is doing the intensive with me, and as we get to know each other, the classic aerialist small talk question keeps coming out: "So, how long have you been doing this?" This is not a question I feel like I can answer with a straight number. It's complicated. The first time I ever grasped a trapeze bar, or wrapped my lower leg for a basic climb was four years ago. But I didn't start taking dedicated silks lessons every week for several months, and I didn't start working out on my own for over a year, and I didn't get into a solid training schedule for two years, which is also when I performed for the first time. I didn't take my first private lesson for three and a half years! Plenty of people start with private lessons right off the bat, and accordingly, their technique grows much fast than mind did. On the other hand, there are some things I can't rush.

When I inverted with straight legs, hooked my knee, realized I was setting up the trick on the opposite side I wanted to, the unhooked, inverted, and reverted with straight legs to hook the other knee, that was a result of a four year foundation of strength and endurance.

That's not to say that would take everyone four years or three or two, but it's not the part of the practice that comes overnight.

On the other hand, building new vocabulary onto the foundation of strength, stamina, and security I'ver earned after a few years in the air? That can take as little as minutes. If all I spend on it is minutes, it's never going to look refined enough for performance, nor will I be able to access the versatility necessary to choreograph it. That will take days, weeks, in some cases (I'm looking at you, wheel down!), months.

What I'm getting at is, it's not very useful to know how long another aerialist has been training. There are so many variables in play that in terms of setting a time line for you, that just doesn't tell you much. I have a friend who could fan kick her way into a perfect hip key every time within a few weeks of getting on the silks. Four years later, I still can't do that consistently.

On the other hand, I have a long list of drops I'm comfortable with: big, small, locked and unlocked, that I can pull out of my back pocket to inject a little wow into any piece, and I learned the vast majority of them in my second year of training. I loved the thrill of drops, so I just kept asking for more...and I cost myself a lot of time I could have spent refining my technique, and I've been playing major catch-up on that for moths now.

I had been getting pretty down on myself for my short-sightedness, until my coach pointed out that learning tons of vocabulary, building a strong understanding of the wraps that allow you to move safely on the silks, set me up to have a nearly unlimited range of options for refinement and choreography later on. So maybe the path I followed wasn't such a mistake after all.

Maybe, like in all things, there are many ways to travel from novice to professional aerialist, each with its own pros and cons.

Maybe you're not an aspiring aerialist, or even someone who enjoys playing in the air, odds are there's something you can apply these lessons to in your life:

You're always going to be a beginner at something. Get comfortable with it.

Your story is complicated. Don't short change yourself by making it fit a simpler narrative.

Don't compare yourself to others.

Don't beat yourself up for missteps you've taken in the past.

Like yoga, aerial can teach you things that can revitalize your whole life...unlike yoga, the best moments are probably still the ones spent at the practice...