Airport Yoga Takes Off

airport yoga
Photo by WorkShakePlay

What comes to mind when you think about air travel? Anxiety? Boredom? Fear? Yucky food? How about…yoga? As airports look for ways to stand out by upgrading their amenities, quiet rooms for yoga and meditation are becoming an increasingly popular travel perk.

This trend first landed in 2012 when—thanks to a traveler’s suggestion—San Francisco International added a yoga room to their snazzy new Terminal 2. The good karma (or, let’s be real, the positive publicity) generated by this move inspired four more US airports to follow suit. Now airport yoga is winging its way around the world. Last year, Heathrow and Helsinki experimented with pop-up yoga classes, and yoga rooms are currently in the works for Dubai, Hong Kong and Sydney.

Yoga teacher and flight attendant Kat Larsen has rolled out a mat for yoga in San Francisco and Dallas airports. She’s a big fan, saying airport yoga rooms “promote health, reduce travel stress, and provide a fun way to meet fellow yogis across the globe.” Furthermore, Larsen adds, yoga rooms encourage stretching before boarding, making it easier for travelers to respect the workspace of flight crews during a flight.

Typically, airport yoga rooms have loaner mats with quiet music or nature sounds playing in the background, as well as posted reminders to take off your shoes and turn off your cell phone. You’ll find these peaceful oases to practice in:

But what if you’re stuck in an airport that isn’t so enlightened? If you’d prefer not to draw an audience or face a well-trafficked carpet in Downward-Facing Dog, you can seek out a quiet corner for some chair yoga or meditation. In some airports, you’ll find reading lounges, walking paths, gardens—even spas and nap pods. But odds are, the safest bet for a chill moment is the airport’s nearest nondenominational chapel.

Surprised? While yoga rooms are only starting to take off, more than half of the busiest airports in the US already have chapels, prayer rooms, or meditation areas. The “reflection room” in San Diego International’s Terminal 2 is a gorgeous sand-and-sea inspired space…here’s hoping it will inspire other airports to get on board the wellness trend.

Once your flight is called, you don’t have to leave your practice on the ground. Instructions for in-flight asana are popping up in seat pockets, audio channels and video monitors on several airlines, including Delta, Air France and Qantas. Though economy class seats are notoriously stingy on space, you can still squeeze in some neck and shoulder rolls, seated twists, hip stretches, foot circles and other joint-opening moves—just be mindful of your seatmates and respectful of the cabin crew. Bonus points for dedicated yogis who use airtime for meditation, pranayama and silent mantra repetition.

Drown out engine noise and other distractions with a phone app, or plug into a peaceful channel on your plane’s in-flight radio. Virgin Atlantic’s Meditainment channel includes an assortment of guided meditations to help travelers relax, ease flight phobias or fall asleep on long flights. British Airways has a relaxation video for fearful flyers (as well as kitty videos, if that’s your ticket to de-stress).

Yoga rooms and meditation guides may not make flying blissful, but they’re a definite upgrade to the usual layover choices of blaring news programs and boozy lounges. What do you think? Have you practiced yoga in an airport or on a plane? Share your experiences with us in the comment section below.

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