Painted in soft and warming colors with a large dreamcatcher up front, Kula Yoga SoHo provides sanctuary from the bustling commercial streets of Broadway below.
Our instructor, Grace Dubery, a native of Lisbon who taught in Toronto, Canada for many years before locating to NYC (lucky us!), advised us to take three blankets, a strap, and two blocks. We were going to be working on the shoulders and our first pose would be a restorative one.
Grace had us stack two blankets length-wise behind the sacrum and we were to place our shoulders on the blanket, allowing our head to release down onto the mat behind us. Grace wanted us to think about doming the chest and pushing our elbows into the mat by our sides before lifting our hips into a bridge. Keeping the blankets back behind us, we then sat on the blankets for dandasana with our legs straight out in front. Once again, Grace asked us to think of doming our chests as we tucked our chins slightly and went through a couple of rounds of kapalabhati. Grace (graciously) offered each of us a tissue before we began.
After we had cleansed our nostrils, we placed the blankets in front of us, “runway style” as Grace described it, and positioned our torsos upon them to once again dome the chest for a cobra. With the blankets removed, we then went through a series of spinal undulations in cobra.
Moving on from floor work, we moved through a series of sun salutations, paying special attention to the idea of doming the chest in crescent moon, tadasana, and the half way lift in uttanasana. After the second or third round, in tadasana, Grace had us place our hands through a small hole we had made in the strap for prayer position and then lift our arms up into the sky where we focused on creating length in the arms while subtly doming the chest. We would later create this similar movement with the arms and hands in warrior 1 in which Grace suggested we even consider bringing our arms slightly forward.
Allowing us our independence, Grace had us go through four rounds of sun salutations with our own breath. Awaiting everyone’s completion of sun salutations, Grace had us work on reverse prayer while in tadasana.
In parsvottanasana, we were to bring the ball of the foot onto a block with the heel of the foot on the floor. Grace instructed us to bring the back foot in as much as we could. After holding this pose, we would bring the entire foot onto the block and lift the back leg up for standing split. Here, we were offered the option of elevating the leg even higher into a handstand practice, but with the challenge of bringing the foot back down onto the block if we were to tip into handstand.
From here, we flowed from warrior 1 to warrior 3 with our hands interlaced behind our backs, followed by peaceful warrior to triangle. In triangle, we would turn the lifted hand all the way to the back and then try to slip the hand into the crease of the hip for a half bind.
Jumping through to sit, we held navasana, preferably with straight legs, Grace advised. We then held ardha navasana for several seconds before Grace let us relax in a mini savasana.
Having spent a lot of time working on our shoulders and backbends, we were ready for several rounds of bridge pose in which Grace again encouraged us to think of the action of doming the chest.
There was an elaborate setup for shoulderstand. Grace asked a student who was familiar with her class to demonstrate for us. We were to use three stacked blankets and cover those over with the mat. A block would be placed by the sacrum to serve as a kind of launch pad and we would go through plow before lifting the legs into shoulderstand. For the neck, this was one of the most comfortable shoulder stands sleuth has ever held. Grace did not have us practice fish afterwards, but with all the padding we had, it didn’t feel necessary.
For savasana, Grace offered that we could use the strap as an eye pillow. After several minutes, Grace woke us from our sweet savasana, and told us about her upcoming retreat to her native Portugal, a chance to get away and learn from this meticulous and careful alignment teacher.
—Marie Carter for Yoga Sleuth
Drop-in classes are $20 with $2 mat rental. New students can try 3 classes for $30.