Sallie Jo Cunningham wasn’t expecting a good night’s sleep. Waiting for her 12:30 a.m. flight out of San Francisco International Airport to depart, Ms. Cunningham, a business development professional, had resigned herself to a groggy trip back home.
Then she visited the airport’s yoga room, a dimly lit, hardwood-floored oasis of calm.
“I thought it would be a good idea to stop in the yoga room and see what they offered,” she said. The mats, blocks and bolsters were useful, but not so much as just having a quiet place to stretch, practice her flow and unwind.
“I can tell you that I actually did feel quite a bit more relaxed for that flight,” Ms. Cunningham said. “I was really glad I had the opportunity to do yoga.”
San Francisco is one of a growing number of airports that are creating rooms for yoga and meditation. Airports including O’Hare in Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth and Burlington in Vermont all have set aside space for yoga.
A temporary yoga room at Heathrow in London proved so popular last year that it was made permanent, and its operator is looking to open one in Hong Kong.
Even people in the business of relaxation, it appears, are not immune to flight-related anxiety.
“I definitely have found myself going to the bar and having a glass of wine,” said Ritu Riyat, a yoga instructor and life coach who has used airport yoga rooms. “With yoga, I don’t need to have that glass of wine.”
Analysts say the rooms are a reflection of an increasingly tense environment in airports.
“This is a tacit recognition by airports that travel can be stressful and they want to do what they can to help travelers reduce that stress,” said Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst. “Yoga’s probably a lot healthier than trying to quell the stress at an airport bar.”
The rooms have been particularly well received at larger airports where passengers wait for connecting flights.
“It really was just the most pleasant layover I think I’ve ever had,” said Leslie Wei, an ophthalmology fellow from Wisconsin, who happened across the airport yoga room when traveling through Chicago last fall. “It’s like the quietest place in O’Hare. It’s really hard to find a quiet place there.”
O’Hare added its room in November 2013, and Midway Airport followed suit last September.
While a number of airports have, over the last couple of decades, converted existing chapels into interfaith sanctuaries that offer a quiet place, yoga rooms — most of which are free and open to all — straddle the line between secular and spiritual, offering a quiet place for meditation as well as a space to stretch or sweat. Continue reading >>