Yoga With a View

New exclusive yoga classes in NYC offer influential, affluent women rooftop serenity.
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New exclusive yoga classes in NYC offer influential, affluent women rooftop serenity.

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Photo by J.T. Liss Photography For Social Change

Hot town. Summer in the city. Time to roll out your mat for private rooftop serenity.

For those New Yorkers lucky enough to be invited to Serene City Retreat's rooftop yoga classes, summer means aligning your chakras at exclusive locations high above the bustle of the streets. Forget packing into the parks for outdoor yoga or squeezing into stuffy studios this summer. Ladies, it’s time to elevate your practice, and your networking status at the same time, because these high-end, invite-only classes are exclusively for the sister yogis making moves.

The concept behind these mini rooftop yoga retreats comes from a fashionable place indeed. Milana Snow, yoga enthusiast and model/actress (she won Project Runway Season 8) came up with the idea to connect beautiful city skyscapes with the peaceful practice of yoga when she had the urge to practice poolside. So she called upon her favorite yoga teachers and friends at boutique hotels with amazing rooftops and Serene City Retreat was born.

The official launch kicked off in mid-May, just before the unofficial start to summer. The weekend of private classes would be by invite only and we were one of the fortunate few to partake in the grand setting of lower Manhattan’s James Hotel, or as the locals call it, The Jimmy. Panoramic views set the scene for our steps toward serenity, though the rooftop pool was looking mighty tempting after a few rounds of eastern-facing Sun Salutations.

Our instructor, Brigitte Bourdeau, led us through grounding vinyasas to connect us to our bodies and meditation to remind us we are free to move beyond them. Bourdeau, who also teaches at Tara Stiles’ Strala, has a deep and soothing voice that lent itself to the luxuriousness of the event (a French accent didn’t hurt!).

The small group of women on this bright and sunny Friday morning melted into their mats, letting go of their busy lives, because Milana’s vision for these exclusive classes is to gather together "influential, active, affluent, eco-friendly and health-conscious women" in New York. There is no official advertising about the classes. Just like any posh party in NYC, you have to know someone to be in on the fun. There were no celebrity sightings for the inaugural weekend, but we could easily see the Donna Karans, Katie Courics, or the Sex and the City crew signing up for early morning sessions and some quality girl time.

To add to the allure, future classes will not be held on a regular basis, but sporadically and at different swanky locations dotted around NY, and even LA. (Milana is in talks to expand her idea to the West Coast, as well.)

As yoga studios continue to crop up on every city block and the practice sprawls out into the sticky streets, these private and exclusive classes like the ones provided by Serene City Retreat offer an escape for dynamic, influential women to find their Om away from home, high above the hustle and clamor of our daily lives below.

Serenity seekers are do-gooders as well: 10 percent of the proceeds for all classes will benefit global non-profits.

—Jennilyn Carson