Rooftop yoga: A fresh angle on a new city

Story highlights

  • Pop-up yoga provides unusual new venues
  • Practitioners "greet the sun" with city views of London and Manhattan

(CNN)From L.A. to Paris, there's no shortage of rooftop yoga classes. But some are more spectacular than others.

How about atop The Shard -- London's 87-story glass encased tower offering panoramic views of the city?
In London, residents and travelers can enjoy pop-up yoga classes in the coolest of locations.
    It's a chance for non-yogis to keep up with their fitness regime and experience the city simultaneously, says Fat Buddha Yoga founder Jessica Skye.
    The brand operates by running regular weekly classes at different places, like Shoreditch hipster haunt Queen of Hoxton, and at Google Campus -- tucked away behind the high-rise towers of Old Street's technology district.
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    Newcomers to London need look no further than the Shangri-La Hotel inside The Shard -- the UK's tallest building at 309 meters (1,016 feet).
    "I wanted to get away from the lotus flower, hippy dippy vibes of yoga," says 28-year-old Skye. "I just wanted something that was a little bit more tongue in cheek."
    Skye, herself a "non-yogi," developed a passion for it after a moped accident on the first day of a two-month trip to Bali left her confined to beach deckchairs.
    "I've always been someone that needs to move around," explains Skye, "And someone that needs to work out so I found a yoga class and on a whim just tried it."
    The flexible way to keep up with your exercise regime.

    Gap in the market

    There is a gap in the market for people who aren't die-hard yoga fans but also want to see some "cool venues" says Skye, who launched her pop-up classes after quitting a job in sports media.
    Landing Forty Two, as the name suggests, sits on the 42nd floor of skyscraper The Leadenhall Building. It's one of the brand's most popular pop-up locations, "selling out within minutes," especially among locals wanting unique access to its scenic views.
    "A lot of people have never been to Landing Forty Two. It's not like an open public building," declares Skye.
    "Even places like the Hoxton Hotel [A stripped-back urban chic hotel in east London], a lot of people had walked past it several times but had never been inside."
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    Rising some 225 meters (737 feet) above ground, Leadenhall, sits at the heart of the capital's hyper commercial district offering views looking south and west towards the River Thames and beyond the city's most recognizable landmarks.
    Skye says the scenery here is simply "an amazing experience especially at sunset."
    "You feel removed from the city in a sense", she adds. "You can still hear the hum of London but it's such a nicer experience."
    Initially, when launched back in 2013, its appeal was mostly confined to young urbanites, but as the classes began to be more daring and unusual, uptake widened to a much more diverse demographic.
    Venues like The Shard and Leadenhall also provide warmth and cover against London's unforgiving weather.
    The pop-up nature of the classes appeals to young corporates who "just want to [forget] about work for an hour," explains Skye.
    But ultimately it's a great way of seeing the city.

    Guru with a view

    Skye isn't the only practitioner offering yoga cityscape experiences.
    For an outdoor option in summer, at east London's rooftop restaurant Madison you can overlook St Paul's Cathedral in full lotus position.
    Beyond its vantage point, yoga instructor Sophie Dear, who runs the summertime classes at the Madison, says, "people really enjoy how dynamic the classes are -- the funky music and energetic flows."
    She adds: "I think people obviously loved doing yoga in such a special location but also being outside in the fresh air early in the morning."
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    The James Hotel in New York is host to Serene Social's rooftop yoga in the warmer months.
    The five-star hotel's upscale bar becomes decked with mats offering panoramic views of lower Manhattan, while IRIS: Your Escape holds Hong Kong's largest annual yoga festival offering the city's urban skyline as its backdrop.
    Rooftop yoga classes can also be snapped up in Dubai at the luxurious Jumeirah Emirates Towers, where cold weather is never a problem.

    Lotus with a soundtrack

    A yoga class at London's Ministry of Sound.
    Fat Buddha Yoga is not just about rooftop views though; gargantuan dance warehouses can be equally impressive.
    Take London's Ministry of Sound.
    The chance to downward dog with 60 other people immersed in strobe lighting at the legendary mega nightclub is a regular hit.
    Skye who doubles as a DJ, wanted to incorporate this extracurricular pursuit into her classes.
    "The yoga is straight up" she says, "no chanting or humming... but I try to keep it fresh so I'll play house music."
    For a business model, "you have less overheads as a pop-up as opposed to if you were to open up a studio," notes Skye. "So in that sense it's more comfortable, easier and sustainable."
    New pop-up locations for Fat Buddha Yoga will see it broaden out of the UK to the south of France, starting in spring 2017.