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Refreshed, New York-style

Rooftop yoga, Central Park's hidden treasures rejuvenate

Posted: 04/12/2014 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

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A view of the Statue of Liberty from a Circle Line Cruises boat.

POSTMEDIA Enlarge Image

A view of the Statue of Liberty from a Circle Line Cruises boat.

She stretches her arms out as if to grab the sun, all the while encouraging us to keep our spines fluid and our brains heavy.

"Feel the tapestry of your lungs," says Brigitte Bourdeau, a New York yoga instructor as she leans over our twisted bodies and coaxes them further into positions we never thought possible.

With the Hudson River as our backdrop and the rooftop of the James Hotel as our studio, we are experiencing New York City in a way that redefines the word "rejuvenation."

While hustle and bustle often describe a trip to this biggest and busiest of American cities, native New Yorkers have carved out spaces within touristy Manhattan that are all their own. If travellers are looking for something that will leave them replenished after a trip to the Big Apple, it's best to follow in the footsteps of the average New Yorker.

It all started for us with a glass of "eye-opener juice" created out of beet, orange, ginger and carrot juice. With this early-morning beverage providing a pleasant jolt to the taste buds, we continued down the David Burke Kitchen breakfast menu and nourished our bodies with Kitchen Benedict made of Italian sausage, polenta, spinach and tomato hollandaise -- a healthy twist on a traditionally heavy classic.

A session of yoga, 17 floors above the David Burke Kitchen in the trendy hotel, was an intoxicating elixir that soothed our souls and readied our bodies for a holiday filled with jogging, biking, sightseeing and more kinds of smoothies and fresh juices than one could imagine.

The rooftop yoga session was provided by Serene Social, a wellness and networking community for women that focuses on living holistic and balanced lives. With New York-based yoga and meditation sessions, events, conferences and retreats on their agenda, the $150 one-time fee provides access to a unique set of New York activities aimed at wellness.

One of our favourite places to go in New York is Battery Park, a place that is rarely mentioned in the travel brochures. With its 10-kilometre running route, this unique park traces the Hudson River and provides glimpses of the Statue of Liberty, the World Trade Center memorial and Nelson A. Rockefeller Park. With many riverside green spaces and children's play parks, this is a rejuvenating place to go and experience what average New Yorkers do when they get home from work and school.

"Go to Central Park," every New Yorker urged when we asked about rejuvenating things to do in the city. With a full day to explore, we took on the park by foot for starters. We laced up our runners and followed the main route through the park.

The jogging path is marked and we were eager to run along a portion of the New York Marathon route. But as the jogging lane became busier and busier, we used our peace-seeking discretion to wander off the beaten paths. Along these small pathways, we'd find a local New Yorker taking photos or painting a picture or playing jazz on their saxophone or sitting high atop one of the park's rocks with a book in hand.

These rejuvenating scenes inspired us, so we took time to stop and enjoy the floating ducks in the ponds, the breathtaking fall foliage and the comforting click-clack of hoofs as horses pulled tourists through the park.

We decided to forgo a carriage ride ourselves, deeming it far too touristy and tacky for our adventurous spirits. But after Day Five in New York, many residents told us the horses are one of their favourite things about Central Park. So we succumbed and eventually climbed onto the velvet-covered carriage seat in order to take in the splendour that is the most visited park in the United States. We learned the 340-hectare park, which sits on a rock bed that protrudes out at will, is decorated with 24,000 trees, all of which were planted.

New Yorkers told us their favourite spots included the hidden carousel, which few tourists see unless they venture to the southern part of the park, just off Center Drive. Other private spots we discovered were the Arthur Ross Pinetum and Conservatory Garden. We also biked the park, which was a wonderful way to get to every corner. Still, walking and running are by far the best ways to experience all the nooks and crannies since bikes aren't allowed on many pathways.

With Central Park being the "pièce de résistance" of any rejuvenating trip to New York City, we chose to stay at the nearby Affinia Gardens Hotel for part of our trip. Just four blocks from Central Park, this quaint hotel provided free bikes to take to the park, as well as ice water and tea to quench our parched throats when we returned.

Shopping is a ritual in New York, and if you do it in a well-thought-out way, it can be as rejuvenating as a rooftop yoga session. We started off the evening event with a trip to Macy's makeup counter. A free makeover with two New York gals left us ready to conquer the rest of the six-floor store -- and provided us plenty of touring advice for the rest of our six-day excursion.

While the streets of New York are teeming with stores, retailers and sidewalk sellers, we found the quiet setting of this flagship store to be the perfect place to unwind, grab a Starbuck's refresher and spend four hours in absolute bliss.

Our final restful experience came aboard a Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises boat, which took us on a harbour tour of the night lights of New York. It was a blissful two hours of witnessing classic landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty aglow in the light from the setting sun and the Brooklyn Bridge lit up in full splendour.

If we choose to return to New York to rejuvenate again, yoga on the rooftop will be on the top of our list, as will Central Park and Battery Park, whether by foot, bicycle or hoof.

-- Postmedia Network Inc. 2014

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 12, 2014 E3

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