Tips For The Timid Tarot Student

Five of Swords

Tips to calm the timid tarot student – 

by: Valerie Smith

Five of Swords

I hear it all the time: “Isn’t that black magic? Not like I believe in magic, but, you know…just in case…”

“I’ve always been interested in that, but I don’t want to do it wrong.”

“I mean, how do you even choose a deck??”

Folx, never fear. Your trusted Spinster teacher is here to ease your worries. This is a classic Five of Swords situation: and it’s time to tell those distracting voices in your head to chill out. If you are interested, then tarot is for you; and you won’t accidentally find out when you are going to die, either. If you are asking the questions—(and especially if you are asking me!)—you are on track to becoming a very capable reader yourself. Here are a few tips to keep in mind for those curious, but nervous or scared.

Tarot Deck

Finding that right deck establishes a healthy relationship with tarot. Curiosity drives this relationship. Shared language and mutual understanding fortify it. When you find a deck that calls to you, you’re more likely to play around with your deck, to get to know it, to draw cards for fun, and to trust it when you have a real question at hand. Through developing this relationship, you can more easily learn to trust yourself in your own interpretations of the cards.

  • Tarot is self-empowering, not dangerous. Tarot is a beautiful tool for personal growth. Without getting too deep into historical patriarchy against women’s wisdom, let’s just say that that tools that connect people to our own inner knowing have been derided either as “fake” and/or “evil” for centuries. Tarot is a method of self-care, self-knowledge, and self-empowerment. Of course endangerous to the status quo! But it has never led me astray. Though I have fought against some of its better advice, with time, I come to understand. Frankly, the rule I (jokingly) follow is: Don’t ask questions you don’t want the answer to. That said, watch your reaction or response to the cards you’re reading—often, this is just as important as the cards themselves. As you learn to trust yourself, to listen to yourself about things you may need to change, you may feel fear. But to explore this interior world is to become more self-attuned. We strengthen and we remedy our world; we see clearly; and we live our dreams.
  • If you are open to a discussion with the cards, there is not right or wrong way to read. The only common mistake is asking the cards to “prove” themselves. A skeptical person pulls a card without a thought, and is then disappointed when I begin to ask deeper questions. “Oh,” he said. “I thought it would just tell me something. I didn’t know I’d have to be involved.” Yep, sure do! Cards deal in intention, energy, and vulnerability. How can I walk up to a stranger and say: “Tell me something deep and meaningful about myself.” Wouldn’t happen! Instead, we introduce ourselves; we ask questions, we open, we share our views; we become vulnerable—and in that space, we grow. Same with tarot. There is no right or wrong way to have an interesting conversation. If you open and expose yourself to truth, so will the cards.

Tarot Reading

  • Follow Your Woah! The first card I pulled from the Ritual Tarot oracle deck said it all—Follow Your Woah. She writes, “Follow the things that light you up…they lead you to more good stuff, more joy, answers, enlightenment, fun.” That spark of curiosity that starts with finding the right deck moves into your life. What are you curious about the cards? Start there. Find all the cards that represent your friends. Create a spread using only cards from the cups suit. Pretend all the court cards are at a party together, and see how they interact. Get creative! Whatever urges you forward, do that.
  • Create your own practice. I’ve heard someone say, “Isn’t it true you should never read when you’re angry?” or “You need to pull a card every day, right?” Well, those aren’t rules I follow, but you can! The point is not to follow somebody else’s rules blindly. Do what feels right to you. Personally, when I’m angry is a great time to pull cards—it helps me to see things a little more clearly. But I certainly do not pull a card every single day—I tend to revolt with too much structure. If those ideas feel right, great; if they don’t, great! The point is to find the many ways that you and your cards work together. I trust you, and you should trust you, too.

#ODDlight Feature, Kids Yoga Teacher – Bianca Cueva

Each month we bring a teacher into the #ODDlight and illuminate their interests, practices, and who they are. There is a real person behind those people you see in class!


Name: Bianca Cueva

Nick Name: Binky, Bonky, Binks, Biancs, B. :))

Hometown: The Philippines


Favorite Place: The beach. And wherever friends and family are. <3 


Favorite color: Blue-Green (the color of the ocean approaching the shore)

What’s your sign? Sagittarius

Most embarrassing moment? I fell…not tripped, more like…ate the floor, at prom.

Most empowering moment?

When my little siblings were born. Being a big sister is the biggest and most empowering responsibility. I have a younger sister and brother who mean the world to me and who I am so proud of.

Fun Fact most wouldn’t know about you?

I used to be really into spinning fire. It’s a flow art known as “poi” spinning. I’m also an actress! Why else would I have moved to Los Angeles? 😉



Share a story or anecdote with us – something magical, changing, funny, or adventurous. Something that you love to tell.

On a trip to Bangkok with some of my closest friends, I was almost stranded at the airport on the way home. Long story short (because it is a LOOONG story), I am dual citizen (Filipino-American) and at the time did not have the right documentation they required to prove that I was a Filipino resident. They thought I was just an American, and asked me how long I planned to stay in the Philippines when I had been living in the Philippines for majority of my life at this point. They wouldn’t believe me because I didn’t have the “right dual citizenship documentation” they needed. I presented my driver’s license, birth certificate, a document proving I was born of two Filipino parents, an authorization letter saying I was allowed to travel, and other major IDs, but nooooo. I had never made so much effort to convince people that I was who I claimed I was. It was crazy, felt a little like identity theft. :))   unnamed-4

When you aren’t at the studio where can you be found (favorite past time)?

I love going to the beach when I can! And I love that California is perfect for that. When I have extra time and money, I also enjoy watching concerts and shows, seeing new places and attractions (like museums, record stores, book stores), or going out of town with friends. When I have good money and even more time on my hands, I love to travel whether that’s back home to the Philippines or to an entirely new place I’ve never been.


How do you define yoga?

Yoga is a relationship, a connection, a FRIENDSHIP (I like to think) that you have with your physical body, your spirit, your breath, your mind…with people, and strangers, and living things, and unforeseeable circumstances, and opportunities, and trying times, and victories, and embarrassing moments (I can go on and on)…that enables you to live joyfully. Yoga happens wherever you are, as you are. Yoga for me today is taking an ancient practice and philosophy and using these beautiful, universal values and practices to see life through the lens of light, compassion, kindness, and joy.

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Why do you teach?

I teach because it makes me happy to share something beautiful with others. I can simply practice yoga on my own and keep the awesomeness all to myself. But there is something about sharing the yoga experience with other people in the room, helping to facilitate movement and breath, guiding students through a flow, meditating in stillness together, sharing stories, laughing and giggling together that makes my heart warm. I mostly teach families and kids, so I have a soft spot in my heart for that type of yoga. Seeing parents, children and their friends or siblings practice together, having a fun time doing it, connecting with each other as a family and sharing that moment with the other students in the room with them reminds me why I do what I do. Family and community, coming together and being open. I’m all about it.

Family Yoga LA

What brought you to become an instructor?

I have always worked with kids and I’m passionate about that. I was a preschool teacher and a performer for kids’ events before I moved to LA. I knew I wanted to teach kids, but never considered teaching Kids’ Yoga. What brought me to being a yoga teacher is simple. I wanted to grow more in my practice and learn all this information, so I joined ODD’s 200-Hour Teacher Training in 2015. I didn’t know if I wanted to be a teacher then, but the training definitely made things clearer as I went through it. I knew then that I wanted to integrate what I learned and use this powerful practice to bring families together and to teach kids the magic of stillness and quiet as well as spontaneity, fluidity, and movement in order to help them become more confident and comfortable in themselves and their dreams. 🙂

LA Yoga Teacher Trainingunnamed-8

What is your favorite song to play in class?

Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles. It was one of my mom’s favorite songs and it immediately reminds me of her.


What is your favorite pose or flow? Why?

Gotta stick to tradition here. I love flowing through Surya A. I’ve done it plenty of times, but it teaches me something about myself every time I practice it. It sheds light on how balance comes to play in yoga: effort and ease, structure and spontaneity, strength and grace. There’s something about flowing through that Vinyasa: starting out lifted, then taking it to the ground, opening the heart, activating the back, inverting in Downdog, and closing out with Urdhva Hastasana—an upward salute to the sun, sky, universe, to life or love, what have you. It’s like my moving metaphor.

Memorable yoga moment?

I was teaching one my kid students in her home and we were practicing Warrior 3. We were pretending to be airplanes, balancing on one leg and with our arms stretched to the side like wings when she says, “This is your captain speaking. Sit back, relax, and enjoy your flight. And those of you in Coach, you don’t get any free food.” :)) I cracked up!!! That’s why I love teaching kids. They are unpredictable and really do say the darndest things. 🙂 Teaching kids teaches me to see fun and silliness in everything.    

Family Yoga Los Angeles

What is your favorite yogi prop or piece to wear or use? (favorite mala etc):

My favorite prop is a yoga block or bolster. There are so many possibilities and cozy modifications you can use them for. And my favorite yoga piece is a mala (I wrap it around my wrist) that I made myself out of a mala-making kit that one of my co-teacher trainees gave us during our last day of training. It reminds me to keep learning as I did in my teacher training, to always be a student of yoga. 

What special causes or non-profits do you hold dear to your heart? (We will want to be more non-profits and would love to do so on your behalf):

My mom, who was my best friend in the whole world, passed away from cancer on November 12, 2013. I would love to support non-profits, organizations, or any cause that supports cancer patients and works towards cancer awareness and research. PS.: October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month!


Are there any links, @names, and #hashtags you would you like us to use in sharing you and your happenings?

#ODDKidsYoga #ODDFamilyYoga

The Language of Tarot

This past Saturday, I attended a friend’s backyard birthday party. It was a familiar scene as we gathered under the trees, drinks in hand, catching up around the fire pit. Then Gel gave me that sly smile: “Did you bring your cards?”


I did—I almost always do. So then and there we sat down on the Earth to ask ourselves some questions, and remind ourselves what we already know. Others came up to pick a card, to engage in their own knowing. And, the inevitable questions arose.

“How do you remember all the meanings?”

“Where did you learn?”

“How long did it take you?”

tarot workshopMy answers, though, may not be what folks expect. I assume that they want to hear about an apprenticeship under a Master Psychic. (Do those exist? Please put me in contact.) Or that it runs in my blood from my great-grandmother’s lineage. Yeah, no. My answers are less exciting, but open all of us up to this beautiful instrument for self-knowledge.

See, the thing is, I taught myself. I’m teaching myself, still. Tarot is an art form that simply makes sense to me. It’s a language we can all speak and interpret. There is no certification required to pick up a deck, and learn with the cards about yourself, about your friends, and about the opportunities on your path. I learned, and I continue learning, by reading for and with others.

In Intuitive Tarot, offered for the first time at One Down Dog, we will collaboratively learn with one another and lots of amazing decks. Certainly there are basics to tarot: what each suit represents, or the form of the Major Arcana, for example. Yet there are far more interesting questions hidden in the cards. Three of Wands asks what you envision for yourself, and the Queen of Cups reflects back your own intuitive advice. In gathering together we will act as mirrors for one another while we gain confidence and deepen our understanding of tarot.


Valerie Smith


A beautiful and short reading you can do for yourself or a friend is by simply pulling four cards from your deck, representing your Mind – Body – Spirit – Heart. There are many questions that can be asked with this foundation, but the importance comes from holistic self-examination.

(For a beautiful story on the importance of connecting with all four of these elements, see Walking the Talk, A Sacred Responsibility.)


The Mind: What stories am I telling myself? What underlying assumption masking itself as a truth? What logical line of thinking should I be considering at this time? Or, for a twist: What teaching and learning can I cultivate during this phase?


The Body: What actions do I need to take? What messages is my body giving me about this situation? How should I nurture my physical form, in order to thrive?


The Spirit: This question depends deeply on the individual, since spirit means so many different things (or nothing at all!) to different people. But some questions include: When and where I encourage inspiration in my life? How is the world calling to me? How can I improve the energetic influence of my spirit in my community?


The Heart: Not always included in similar spreads, I had to add in The Heart, because it is so important to listen to the beats of our very own drums. What practices do I need to help foster a healthy, open heart? What is my heart crying out for?


Intrigued? Join me at One Down Dog (Silverlake) for three Intuitive Tarot workshops!


Thursday, 7:30 – 9:30

9/29: Meet the Cards

10/13: Following the Thread of Intuition

10/27: The Art of Storytelling


$75 for all three classes or $30 drop-in, if available!

#ODDlight Family Feature: Liza Thoms

Each month we bring a teacher into the #ODDlight and illuminate their interests, practices, and who they are. There is a real person behind those people you see in the studio!



Name: Liza Lucia Stratton Thoms

Nick Name: Lulu, Grizz, Luchita

Hometown: Fairfax, CA up in the SF Bay Area

Favorite Place: Swimming in the ocean/floating in a river or lake or in a hug with someone I love

Favorite color: Green!


What’s your sign? Virgo

Most embarrassing moment? Turning my oddlight questions in sooo late (not a good look for a manager!)


Most empowering moment? I don’t know if I have one huge empowering moment but there are a series of little things, telling my first good joke in Spanish, getting off medication for my epilepsy and being seizure free, teaching an english class to 30 adults (public speaking is my nightmare), graduating college, telling my honey I loved him for the first time…

Fun Fact most wouldn’t know about you? I never played any sports but started dance classes when I was 4 years old.

Fun Fact most wouldn’t know about you? My boyfriend taught me to drive in San Francisco and at the ripe age of 26, I got my license.


Fun Fact most wouldn’t know about you? I speak Spanish, it was one of my majors in college and I lived in Queretaro, Mexico for a year.

When you aren’t at the studio where can you be found (favorite past time)? Seeing live music or out on the town with friends.


How do you define yoga? For me, Yoga is about learning to let go and to tune in. It has given me this great tool to examine myself and the world with less judgement.

What brought you to One Down Dog? I had just moved to LA from SF and was looking for some grounding and community in this big city and man oh man did I find what I was looking for!


What is your favorite pose or flow? Why? Warrior 2 because I feel fierce and confident and strong and I love the dance-like transition in and out of this pose. Just typing that made me get up and do one. Yup, my favorite!

Memorable yoga moment? My first tears in savasana. They were tears of gratitude for this heart opening practice.

What is your favorite yogi prop or piece to wear or use? (favorite mala etc) Blocks and Beyond Yoga high waisted pants are my shit!

What special causes or non-profits do you hold dear to your heart? My mom is a mental health specialist at the Homeless Prenatal Program in SF and so it is a place I hold near and dear. Their mission is about empowering people to recognize their strengths and trust in their own capacity to transform their lives in addition to offering various methods of support. I think this is such important messaging.

Are there any links, @names, and #hashtags you would you like us to use in promoting you and your happenings? You know I am not up on the times with this! @_luchitas is trying to keep up on instagram though! Follow me and keep me relevant.


Anything else? (feel free to add literally anything!)  I have always been blessed with strong community and grew up surrounded by an enormous family (both immediate and extended) along with lots of people I called “aunts”, “uncles” and “cousins” and great friendships. I am full of gratitude for this. Having a workplace with such a sense of community is my dream come true. Finding this studio made me feel at home in LA, I love this place and all the amazing people that make it what it is! Thank you ODD fam.

#FeelBetterInYourBody – A National Yoga Month Instagram Challenge

CHALLENGE TIME!! September is national yoga month, and we’re doing a 30 day #yoga #instachallenge!

#feelbetterinyourbody all month long with us and our sponsors and win prizes!! Want to join the fun?

1️⃣ follow @onedowndog @beyondyoga@hanna.lahandmade @cucciosomatology@ybicoalition @lovemoremovement

2️⃣share this post on your page and tag 3 friends

3️⃣post each day’s challenge, tag all the sponsors and #feelbetterinyourbody in the post (pro tip: save it all in your notes so you can just copy and paste)

4️⃣get on your mat and move your body!

Prizes: $100 to @beyondyoga, jewelry from@hanna.lahandmade, @ybicoalition yoga and body image book,@lovemoremovement t-shirt,@cucciosomatology goodies and more!

Instagram Challenge - Insta

Yoga is more than asana (the poses) and One Down Dog is all about finding YOUR flow and making the pose match the person rather than the person match the pose. So this challenge includes some off the mat yoga fun. Here’s the breakdown of what each day means so you can plan ahead!


Late to the challenge? Just catch up! You can join in as late as 10 days in to win and join in ANY day just to play. Find your variation of each challenge.

1. #FeelBetterInYourBody ­ “This is how I show up.” #Tadasana (hands to side or heart…all good).

2.  #ODDselfie – Capture that self image! Whether it’s first take or your favorite picture.

3. BIG STEP ­ – How do you lunge? Knee down? Knee bent? Arms high? Arms bent? Show us how YOU lunge.

4. FOOD FOR THE SOUL ­ – There is NO guilt involved with this pleasure.

5. SQUATTY PARTY – #Malasana/#yogisquat… it looks and feels different for everyone. Our hips are shaped different, our knees feel differently.

6. TAKE A SEAT! ­ #Utkatasana / Chair pose. – So how do you take a seat? With a block between the thighs? Hands where? Twist? How low do you go?

7. ROOT TO RISE – #Vrksasana – Tree pose variations.

8. FOOD FOR THE BODY – The thing you’re eating because you know you need it.

9. #MakeAwesomeHappen – Let’s see one or some of your favorite awesome things you do and have done. Big or small, it’s awesome!

10. ONE DOWN DOG – #AdhoMukhaSvanasana – Downward Facing Dog – clearly our favorite. One day at a time, one down dog at a time.  We always show up with something different. From heels to hands, this pose will always look different.

11. #PLANKING – Uttihita Chaturanga Dandasana – Want to drop to elbows or feel like knees are the right plank for you? Let’s see any plank!

12. THIS IS RIDICULOUS – #Chaturanga – We do this one a lot in vinyasa classes and it’s TOUGH. Drop those knees, use those blocks, modify!

13. OPEN HEARTS, STEADY BACKS, CANT LOSE. – Cobra (bhujangasana), Upward Facing Dog, Sphinx. Give us any of those strong open hearts!

14. YOGI’S CHOICE – What’s YOUR yoga? A favorite pose to modify, your best healthy habit, or the thing that makes you feel most like you are down with that yoga life.

15. I AM A WARRIOR – Any warrior variation that makes you feel strong and open. Warrior One, Reverse Warrior, or that steady Warrior Two.

16. I DONT NEED IT…BUT I WANT IT – What is life without those extra things that just bring us joy?

17. I PAUSE FOR SELF-CARE – You are important. Make time for self-care. What is your go-to for caring for that body of yours that makes you feel good on the inside too?

18. MY SIDE IS THE STRONG SIDE – #Vasisthasana – Side Plank Variations! Drop a knee, an elbow, tripod that top leg, or send it high!

19. IS THIS RIGHT? Can we just help each other out on this one? Post a photo of the pose, the habit, or the food somebody swears is good for you but you just aren’t sure about. Surf the #FeelBetterInYourBody hashtag to help each other out with that tricky stuff.

20. THE BIG BEND – #PrasaritaPadottanasana – Wide Legged Fold has SO many arm variations and place you can play in. 

21. ALL TIED UP – #garudasana – Eagle – For some of us this pose is that balance of strength and stretch. For some of us we just feel like a tilting pretzel. Either way it’s fun to play!

22.  ITS A BIG DEAL – Share a photo of something that is important to you.

23. I’M A GREAT DANCER – #Natarajasana – Dancer pose variations, don’t be scared to use those straps!

24. TAKE UP SPACE! – #UtthitaHastaPadangusthasana – Extended Hand to Big Toe. Take it to the side, to the front, and use that strap!

25. #IWokeUpLikeThis – The rules are simple, just take a photo of that killer bed head. You’re beautiful. Feelin it?

26. MOON ME – #ardhachandrasana – half-moon. It’s one of those poses that makes a lot more sense with some props or a wall to help us find and build strength for this doozy. Modify, prop it up, or just enjoy the tumble and sway and soar!

27. LIFT AND LET GO – #SetuBandhaSarvangasana – Bridge Pose! Supported, legs lifted, or any backbend you love to do! Wheel?

28. FEELIN’ UP! – #Sarvangasana – Shoulder stand variations or any inversion. Legs up the wall or give us that handstand and anything in between.

29. I’M FEELIN MYSELF – What does feeling better look like? Let yourself enjoy YOU. Feel it. Share it.

30. YOU’RE DONE! – #Savasana  – Corpse Pose, bring on the knee props and the blankets! Well earned rest after some really awesome work realizing how your yoga makes you feel better in your body.


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