On a hot Wednesday, Yoga Sleuth stepped off the G train to sample Kate Lieberman's noon Open Flow class at Dou Yoga in Brooklyn.
Minutes from the subway, the charming Greene Avenue brownstone represented the soul of Clinton Hill, with a hip grocery store on the ground level and a stroller in the stairwell. When Sleuth walked into the breezy second-floor studio, she fell in love with the shiny wood floors and bay window lined with houseplants. The front desk, staffed by a work/study student, displayed Jade-brand rental mats stacked against an ornate marble fireplace.
As students checked in, Kate greeted them. The narrow room comfortably accommodated 13 participants, some neighbors and regulars. Kate wore her dark hair in a side bun framed by shoulder-length leather earrings. Her manner was calm and humorous, suggestive of her background in theater, music, and dance.
"Please be louder," she called to the construction crew outside the window. We students laughed and each grabbed two blocks and one blanket from the front closet. Light-headed in the June humidity, Sleuth felt thankful for the opening pose: lying on the back with bent knees and hands interlaced across the heart. As we lay gazing at the pressed tin ceiling, Kate asked us to acknowledge our inner wisdom, our "self knowing."
"We all have what we need within us," she said. "It's all there." To my pleasure, we held the posture long enough to be meaningful.
The next moves included hugging legs to the chest and straightening them several times toward the sky. When we rolled up to sit, she invited students to ‘Om’ or just listen, a thoughtful cue for newer yogis who may be intimidated by mantra.
By the time we came to standing poses, my tight hips felt ready for low and high lunges, held several breaths and accompanied by wordless music by Ali Farka Touré, Erykah Badu, and cellist Zoe Keating. The view -- rose bushes and passing buses -- made the sustained postures more endurable.
"That's right," Kate joked with a yogi in Chair Pose. "You better smile."
Meanwhile, my quads were burning, impressive considering that Kate did not rely on Sun Salutes or the typical menagerie of animal poses.
Rather, she sequenced each exercise in a way that let them unfold. She made full use of a few movements, a challenge for advanced beginners and intermediates that still met the definition of vinyasa flow.
In Three-Legged Dog, Kate used minimal touch to encourage my turned-out leg to be parallel, with toes facing the ground. When the class switched sides, she made similar assists to make sure I was even. In Side Plank, Kate encouraged students to reach the top ankle for Dancer Pose. When we didn't understand, she quickly demonstrated in the middle of the room; she wanted us to lengthen the quads by kicking the thigh back in a runner's stretch. Final exercises incorporated this same shape, in Half Moon and in Bow on our stomachs.
"Our hips are sisters and not twins," Kate said after Half Moon. "If one side is more open than the other, that's just the way it is, and it's no big deal."
In preparation for Shoulderstand, the only inversion, Kate asked that we first lift the sacrum, a detail new to me. Instead of using momentum by throwing the legs from Plow to vertical, this hesitation forced us to use our core to avoid sinking onto the delicate bones of the neck. After a deep but true New York City Savasana -- backed by noises from the grocery below -- we completed the hour and 15 minutes with interlaced hands over our hearts, returning to the idea of self-knowing and trust.
Kate Lieberman, who lives near Dou, attended teacher training at Hosh Yoga two years ago. "I like the idea of making yoga accessible," she said, which she did with grace. I would recommend Kate's class to Manhattan practitioners seeking a mature, non-rat race approach to a thoughtful but challenging workout.
-Ann Vatow for Yoga Sleuth
Drop-in classes are $17, with $2 mat rental.
New Student special is $35 for a 3 class pack or 1 week unlimited and $75 for 1 month of unlimited classes.