Yoga Sleuth clocked out of work and walked the block and a half to Kula Yoga Project’s Tribeca location at a brisk pace. Jillian Turecki’s Honey Flow class is a treat that I look forward to all day on Fridays. I can’t always make it, but when I do, it starts my weekend off in the best possible way.
I’ve been sporadically taking class at Kula for the past eight years, and I find it to be a solid and very consistent studio. I always have a great class there, and I usually learn something new about yoga and/or my body. Jillian Turecki is a wealth of knowledge about asana and anatomy. Her classes are precise and exacting; every pose is taught for the greater good of another pose, or to release and open a certain part of the body.
It has taken me several years of practice to truly appreciate this type of teaching, but now I see how deeply interesting and helpful it is. Finding new ways to look at poses that we’ve been practicing for years can be the secret to unlocking seemingly locked parts of the body. Or at least beginning to wiggle the key around a bit.
Another great aspect of this particular class is that it can be taken as a 65 minute long class with a lot of asana and a brief Savasana, or as a Honey Flow (stay an extra 30 minutes for deep forward bending and relaxation following the asana). In this busy city, it’s great to have the option for either. This Friday, I was all in and looking forward to some Honey.
As the large and airy studio filled up before class, students meditated or began warming up. Jillian breezed in and everyone perked up. She tends to start us right off in a pose without discussion or meditation, getting right to the business of asana. On this particular evening, she told us all to get a strap and two blocks.
We began in an extended Child’s Pose, and from there expanded to a Downward Dog with the legs as wide as the mat. In Downward Dog, Jillian told us first to lift the toes off of the floor, and then to lift the heels. Then, she had us place our legs and feet close together and do the same thing. From here, Jillian told us to lift the leg “from the thigh,” as opposed to kicking up using the foot. This was extremely tricky, and helped to build heat fast.
This was the start of a flow that was designed to strengthen and stretch the hamstrings, essentially lengthening the legs. For me, this is never a favorite goal due to my chronic tightness in that area, which means it is all the more useful.
We continued with this same pattern of lifting the toes and the heels as the precursor to standing poses, and it became a little less difficult each time. The practice of lifting the leg from the thigh was brought into standing poses when in Urdhva Hastasana, Jillian had us lift one leg straight up simply by “sucking the leg up into the thigh.” From here, we leaned forward and reached the leg back into Warrior 3. This made for a stronger, more balanced Warrior.
The strap was also used as a tool for leg lengthening. Stepping the balls of both feet onto the strap and holding the strap with both hands, we lengthened into a flat back. This simple modification of a simple pose was a great reminder to keep the weight from sinking back into the heels, which is definitely a default for many of us in Uttanasana and Ardha Uttanasana.
We also used the strap around the ball of one foot to move into Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana. Holding the strap on the inside of the leg with the knee bent at first, we had the option of staying there or stretching out the leg with the strap.
No hamstring-focused class would be complete without the mother of all challenging hamstring poses, Hanumanasana. Jillian had us begin in a Crescent Lunge with blocks under our hands. From there, she told us to walk the back leg as far back as it would comfortably go, which gave a little quad stretch. She then had us walk the front leg forward and straighten it. “Yes, we’re going into Hanumanasana,” she said, “don’t panic.”
I was once in a class where a woman sobbed loudly as we all held this pose (I was right there with her, just sobbing on the inside). I liked Jillian’s non-dramatic way of getting us to the pose, and her reminder to breathe slowly and deeply to convince the body not to panic was also very helpful. We had been building to this for the whole class, and it did actually seem a bit easier than usual.
After the hour, people took their Savasana, during which we Honey Flows sat in a brief meditation, which I needed after the attempted split. We continued with a long Pigeon Pose, twists, and deep forward bends. We held each restorative pose for several breaths, in Yin style.
Stepping onto the street after class, my legs really did feel longer. I resolved to steal some of Jillian’s leg lengthening poses for my home practice this week, and was already looking forward to next Friday night’s Honey Flow treat.
—Abby Payne for Yoga Sleuth
Drop-in classes are $20. New students can purchase 3 classes for $30. Mats and towels are available to rent for $2 each.