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Airbnb-Style Fitness Site Lets New Yorkers Book Private Classes on Own Time

UPPER EAST SIDE — It's Airbnb for the Bikram set.

A new online platform that allows users to form small groups and connect with fitness instructors is helping New Yorkers with strict schedules organize private workouts.

BoSoul is the brainchild of Nishta Giallorenzo, 35, who came up with the idea after looking into meditation classes after the birth of her second child. However, no group classes matched her schedule, and private lessons were too expensive.

“Because of the price, I realized that I would only be able to do one or two classes and then never again,” the Upper East Sider said. “I started thinking, ‘There must be a few other people around here who want to do the same thing and share the cost.”

However, finding those people in the same neighborhood and hiring an instructor are not always easy tasks, Giallorenzo said. She started BoSoul to help streamline that process.

Members join groups of up to 10 people who are interested in doing a similar activity in the same area, and then choose an instructor with a profile on the site to arrange a class. Classes can be further limited to just a few people on a first-come, first-served basis.

Each customer pays for the class through the site before the sessions begins, and money is held in escrow until 24 hours after the class in case there are any issues.

The site worked well for Emily D’Agostino — a Ph.D. student, professor and mother of three kids between the ages of 8 months and 6 years — who had difficulty finding time to go to the yoga classes she loves.

“I've tried Pure Yoga and Yoga Works and other studios in the neighborhood,” said D’Agostino, 39, of the Upper East Side. “But that only works if all the stars align with their schedule and my schedule, if I can get a sitter and so forth.”

D’Agostino and two other local mothers used BoSoul to form a group for Vinyasa yoga on the Upper East Side. They now meet with an instructor in Central Park once a week at a time of their choosing. At $35 per class, the intimate sessions cost only a few dollars more than at a studio, but come with more perks, she said.

“In a regular class, if you have more experience you don’t get a lot of attention because the teacher is focused on correcting people that are really out of alignment,” D’Agostino explained. “With this I get a lot more personal attention and help with alignment, which can take you to that next level.”

There are currently 32 instructors using the site, which launched at the end of April. Each instructor goes through a strict vetting process, including meeting with the BoSoul management team to ensure that the teacher is properly licensed and insured, and teaching a sample class to BoSoul employees.

The site’s offerings include yoga, meditation, dance, strength training, pilates, holistic nutrition, corrective fitness, sports performance and weight-loss training, as well as drama, dance and yoga classes for kids. Instructors charge from $60 to $150 per hour depending on their popularity and expertise, with the company taking 15 percent of the instructor’s fee per class.

Right now, most of BoSoul’s customers are concentrated on the Upper East Side.

To introduce more people to the concept, the company is holding a series of free classes in Central Park this summer. Sessions are open to the public, but limited to 10 people each. Those who are interested can RSVP with BoSoul.

Giallorenzo envisions BoSoul changing the landscape of the fitness industry the way Airbnb has changed the process of booking a hotel.

“Instead of classes being organized around gyms, studios and buildings," she said, "they will be organized around individual preferences, locations and skill levels, matched with the ideal instructor."