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June 2020
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Winter Warm-Up with Giulia Pline
House Of Jai
1456 First Ave
New York, NY 10021

Tue, 6:15 PM To 7:30 PM

The downstairs studio at House of Jai was already mat to mat, but my fellow practitioners parted like the Red Sea to miraculously make room for Yoga Sleuth.

”Good to see we’ve all survived the hashtag Snowmageddon!” Giulia Pline quipped. “Any requests this evening?” Seated in Dandasana, I raised my hand and slumped my torso over my legs. “Forward Folds!” Giulia smiled. “Our first posture is going to be one!”

Giulia had us roll up a blanket and place it high above our hipbones at the low belly, and we stood at the front of the mat with feet hip-width apart. “Lift your navel up and start to hinge,” said Giulia. “Use blocks under your hands if your fingertips don’t reach the ground. Allow the blanket roll to create some space in the lower stomach and allow you to begin to fold the chest a little further down the thighs. Allow the head and neck to hang.” We breathed slowly into the delicious modified Uttanasana.

Giulia, who studied with Schuyler Grant in Kula’s advanced Teacher Training Program and has a BFA in Dance from the Boston Conservatory, then had us come into a squat with eyes closed. “Let your breath glide across the collarbones and chest, and keep lifting through the crown of the head,” she said. “Set an intention for your practice this evening, and perhaps for the week ahead.”

We returned to a forward fold, this time wide-legged with feet mat’s-width apart, then stepped back for a lunge as the music began to pick up to match our pace. We stretched into Warrior 2 and Reverse Warrior, then toggled between Plank and Down Dog, building welcomed heat in the thick of winter. We undulated several times in Cobra, then returned to Down Dog to raise the legs and open the hips. We came into a Down Dog Split, brought the knee to the nose and each tricep, then surrendered into a fallen Triangle.

“Breath some space into the ribcage and intercostals,” Giulia encouraged. We lowered to Forearm Plank. “Hug your inner elbows towards one another, arms out like train tracks in front of you.” We brought our legs in for Dolphin Pose and held it for several breaths. We brought the knee to the wrist for an early Pigeon Pose, rolling up and rippling forward and down several times. “See if you can get your breath nice and deep in the right hip.”

We progressed into Tree Pose, Giulia offering us the use of the walls and pillars for balance. We entered into the Sun Salutation A series, with the option of stepping back to Plank or jumping into Chaturanga. We moved briskly from Extended Side Angle to Half Moon and standing split, further challenging our balance. We took a lunge twist with palms in prayer, then returned to our forward fold practice with Pyramid Pose. “Begin to bend into right knee and snuggle your shoulder behind it for a humble Warrior variation.”

Next was a peak pose that was a cool variation of Half Moon that I’d never tried before. We reached the right arm into a half bind, pressed the left fingers down in front of us, hopped the left foot in, then took flight, rolling the chest open towards the right wall with the option of bending the back knee and catching it with the hand. “If you’re super-confused,” grinned Giulia, “come around look!” She proceeded to demo the tricky pose step-by-step, laughing as her sweater ended up bunched up over her face!

We had a choice of any inversion we liked, from head to forearm to Shoulderstand to Legs Up the Wall - if we could find the wall space! “Anything that comes to you or calls to you,” said Giulia. “Choose for yourself based on your energy level today or just what you feel like working on. Two minutes just for you.” I took a Shoulderstand with my legs in the Lotus position while my fellow students played in the pose of their fancy.

We followed it up with the back bending sequence, which Giulia noted would be great after all the side body work we’d done. Bridge for five breaths gave way to Full Wheel, or if we were ready to relax, Supported Bridge. We Eagle-wrapped the legs and opened our feet wide, reaching for our ankles and pulling our shinbones parallel for a supine Gomukhasana that felt delicious, and exhaled a content sigh through the mouth before melting into spinal twists. Giulia invited us to finish as we began with a forward fold (this time Paschimottanasana), and then we yielded to Savasana, sliding our blanket rolls underneath our knees. Giulia gave us very gentle head and shoulder adjustments as we breathed in the cooling air.

We rose to a seat in the darkened room and placed her hands in prayer once more. “Allow your thumbs to lift the sternum so you create a platform for your heart to rest upon,” said Giulia. “Now is when the work begins, as you bring your practice off the mat and into the crazy streets of Manhattan!”

Drop-in classes at House of Jai are $25 with mat and towel included.

-Jim Catapano for Yoga Sleuth

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