Yuliana Kim-Grant knows her stuffasana, with 917 teaching hours under her belt, including 500 hours of training at Pure and 200 at Ishta. So Yoga Sleuth was happy to join her many regulars at the cheery Upper West Side studio of NY Loves Yoga for a vigorous classic flow.
Seeing I was new, Yuliana visited with me and I told her about the big boo-boo on the palm of my left hand that was affecting the way I pressed into the mat. “It’s funny because we talk about being able to lift the pads in our hands in all poses, so you can use your fingertips, but most people press down.” So we agreed that in a way this was a fortuitous injury!
Speaking of looking at the bright side of things: “Spring is in the air, it’s vatta season, and we’re going to start standing today,” announced Yuliana, indicating that this sunny Sunday morning class was to, fittingly, be an active one.
“Place some weight into the big toe mound, spread it to the little toe mound, spread the toes apart, and energetically lift your inner arches," said Yuliana. "It’s an important time to ground ourselves."
Yuliana asked us to place our attention at the third-eye chakra. “The chakra of insights and intuition,” she noted. “Allow that to take center stage.” We stepped back to plank. “Stay strong in the legs as you move the shoulders forward,” said Yuliana. We then began to flow in earnest, with optional jumpbacks to chaturanga.
We progressed to eagle, extended side angle, and all the warriors, with Yuliana moving through the room and giving tips, such as a shorter stance in triangle and a reminder to square the hips as we yearned forward in warrior three.
After a long spell of standing postures, we lowered down to practice bakasana. “You can use a block to find that lift from your feet,” suggested Yuliana. “Think about placing your knees as close to your armpits as possible, and play with shifting the weight forward.”
Yuliana saw it was a good time for a chaturanga beta-test, which was to be followed by a complete set of pushups. “You’re gonna hate that word!” she laughed, but we were game! We placed blocks on either side of our arms to keep them close to our sides as we slowly came down. Then we tried a set without the training wheels, pulsing from high to low plank.
Cooling down a bit we popped up to a seat for staff pose, then janu sirsasana, with the option to reach one hand to the outside of the opposite leg, before a full fold into paschimottanasana.
“Any traditional practice will have an element of backbending as well as going upside down,” noted Yuliana.
And so we took a bridge pose with a block placed between our thighs to squeeze, then a full wheel. We repurposed the block to give a seat to our sacrums as we raised our legs for a supported inversion. “Just stay here, maybe playing with your legs, making different shapes.” After happy baby we let everything go in savasana. Yuliana suggested placing a blanket over our hips “for grounding, in this season of vatta.”
We rolled up to a seat and opened our eyes to a smiling Yuliana. “Today you’ve gotten to practice the way I like to practice, myself,” she said. “I’m jealous!” And we were energized and grateful.
—Jim Catapano for Yoga Sleuth
Drop-in classes are $20 with a $2 mat rental. New students can try two weeks unlimited for $39.