New York is the fast track to the latest wellbeing trends, from quick facials to meditation sessions and the activewear labels to sport. Here, our correspondent reports on the creeds to follow now
The past decade is shaping up to be New York's healthiest ever. Yes, you can still order a burger at 3am, or duck into one of the 2,000-plus bars, but the speed-centric culture of the city that never sleeps has melded with the increasingly health-minded sensibility of the people who live there. The result? One of the best places in the world to improve your mind and body.
Among the game-changing wellness concepts that New York has been churning out are mega brands such as BluePrint Juice, the brainchild of ex-Manhattan bartender Zoe Sakoutis and today worth around $20 million; ClassPass, a $99-a-month fitness membership now available worldwide; and spinning wunderkind SoulCycle, which has 85 studios across the States. The latest success story is the new wave of on-demand meditation centres, places where you can tune out and calm your mind in the same amount of time it takes to get a blowout.
'I wanted to meditate in a space that wasn't religious and didn't involve a weekend-long commitment,' says Ellie Burrows, co-founder of Mndfl, a meditation studio for the time-harried Downtowner. 'I loved the feeling of group meditations, but I also liked the format of boutique fitness studios reserving a spot online or dropping in to join a class so it made sense to combine the two.'
New York has embraced the outdoors for wellbeing, with classes happening everywhere from sun decks to the High Line
At her Greenwich Village base, guests are asked to 'book your cushion' online for a 30- or 45-minute session given by one of the roster's 30 experts, all pros in meditation practices, from Sound Therapy to Zen and Theravada Buddhism. The calming interiors (living green walls, whitewashed bricks and skylights) and targeted classes (like mindful eating and better sleep) are a winning combination, and it's not uncommon to see a Hollywood actor or well-known fashion mogul in one of the 12-person groups. This is meditation at its most stylish.
Shashi Batra, founder of Credo Beauty, which recently opened an 85-square-metre, loft-style store on Prince Street, describes New York as the perfect petri dish for cutting-edge trends. 'Here, residents and visitors are conscientious and exceptionally well informed. Quality, style and substance play an important part in the decisions they make and experiences they seek,' he says. 'For example, long before natural food stores like Whole Foods established themselves across the US, New Yorkers were doing their daily shopping at local natural food markets, such as Grace's Marketplace, Vinegar Factory and Agata.'
Credo Beauty is the place to shop for brands with a wellness philosophy. The 90-plus on offer harbour an eco-friendly, natural, non-toxic product credo, with big names such as Tata Harper and African Botanics mixing with hard-to-find labels, including Lazy Perfection by Jenny Patinkin (her Japanese make-up brushes are a must-have) and Fig and Yarrow.
Heyday, which recently opened in the Flatiron District and has a new outlet in Tribeca, also falls in with this new breed. Founder Adam Ross is on a mission to make facials as everyday (and as essential) as brushing our teeth. 'It's not just about beauty, it's part of an overall health and wellness plan,' he says. So the treatments are ridiculously straightforward, with only three options on the menu: a 30-minute facial at $60, 50 minutes for $95, and 75 minutes for $135. Add-ons, such as microdermabrasion or phototherapy, are available for $35, and you can book your slot in one of the slick urban treatment rooms from Monday to Sunday. The products used continue the theme and feature natural but effective brands, including One Love Organics and Naturopathica. 'Some of our products are 100 per cent organic, others 100 per cent natural, and a few are less than 100 per cent natural, given they contain more active peptides for better results,' says Ross.
In the same vein, hip eco-nail bar Tenoverten has proved wildly popular. Pioneering vegan, non-toxic and cruelty-free polishes, it has expanded from its original Tribeca outpost to two new locations in Manhattan and one in the Financial District.
And just as we don't mind hauling ourselves to niche neighbourhoods to eat at a buzzed-about new restaurant, the same now goes for fitness haunts. Some of the coolest classes in town are to be had at Brooklyn Yoga Club, a unique social-club-meets-yoga-venue spread over four floors of a spruced-up town house; the catch is that it's a 30-minute cab ride from Midtown in off-the-radar Clinton Hill. But this creation of Gwyneth Paltrow's go-to yoga guru Eddie Stern featuring a meditation room, library, sun deck and kitchen (where you can take cookery classes) is worth the journey. Over in Williamsburg, the swish Brooklyn Athletic Club training centre has become the new-destination gym, thanks to treadmill-style current pools, a childcare centre and saunas.
The Relaxation Room at The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, New York
Back on home turf, Mandarin Oriental's Spa and fitness centre wows with a lap pool overlooking the Hudson River, luxurious treatment rooms (some with soaking tubs) and an ever-changing menu of innovative therapies. Try the Digital Detox, a blissful 80 minutes of alleviating 'technology' pressure points (such as the head, neck and shoulders), in which guests swap their phones for activities like writing and meditation.
Going hand-in-hand with the new focus on fitness is the explosion in designer activewear (think labels Michi, Dion Lee and Copi Active). You're as likely to see someone rocking head-to-toe workout gear for lunch at ABC Kitchen as you are at a Barry's Bootcamp class. It's estimated this booming market will be worth $83 billion by 2020. If you're stocking up your wardrobe, head to Bandier's stunning 5th Avenue store. There are more than 50 fashion-minded fitness labels to browse through, from Adidas by Stella McCartney to Koral, and an upstairs space hosts fitness classes. Nearby is newly opened Tory Sport, the sporty spin-off of Tory Burch, for a more preppy aesthetic. But true aficionados should swing by the Lululemon Lab on Bond Street, a cutting-edge incubator of the brand, focusing on pieces that are as much workout as ready-to-wear and limited to 50 editions. You'll find the most supremely cut $120 leggings you've ever worn.
The city is also discovering new ways to embrace its outdoor areas, harnessing the power of social media to turn around pop-up events and one-off classes. Times Square now gets taken over once a year during the summer solstice, with thousands of yoga fans pouring in with their mats for eight hours of free lessons. City parks have become popular spaces for one-off fitness collaborations and regular classes (Lululemon's free classes at Pier 25, on the West Side of the city, are always oversubscribed). Take part in meditation and tai chi on the High Line and kayaking from Hudson River Park.
The key thing about New York is that nothing stands still for long. Something newer, better, cooler and more effective is always around the corner. A perfect example is the latest reincarnation of the SoulCycle trend. Called ImaxShift and taking place in Brooklyn's Dumbo neighbourhood, it features 50 spin bikes, sitting stadium-style beneath a wall-to-wall screen, which plays movies designed to get you to push your workout harder imagine flying over tropical islands or zooming through space. 'We're combining Imax technology with a high-calibre indoor cycling experience,' says Caralyn Duke, one of the team at ImaxShift. 'Each session offers adrenaline-pumping visuals, including artist performances, music videos, nature experiences and data-reactive elements, such as audio content, that fit the user's style. The result is a unique journey, guaranteed to push you to a better best.'
So visit as many of these newcomers as you can, because, chances are, next year there'll be a new crowd in town.