Air travel can be stressful, and many seasoned travelers co-opt a series of take-care-of-me techniques. Find your happy place and go there – whether it’s at 36,000 feet or on a three hour layover. According to Yoga Journal, fifteen million Americans practice yoga. So it made sense when earlier this year, San Francisco International Airport (SFO) debuted the country’s first airport yoga lounge.
There’s no instructor or scheduled classes, but as soon as travelers pass through the security checkpoint in Terminal 2, they can step right into a calming blue space devoted to do-it-yourself contemplation. Large, felt-constructed rocks, reminiscent of Japanese garden spaces will be installed later this spring. Even if you’re flying out of another terminal building, all you need is your boarding pass to do a low lunge or a Lion Pose.
When what was formerly the international terminal got refurbished in 2011, the space was slated to be a storage closet. Instead, Airport Director John L. Martin was inspired by a passenger to transform it into a space for serenity. In an Inquire Within podcast, Martin talks about how shortly after the building reopened, it seemingly had every amenity geared for comfort – swivel seats, coffee tables and stone countertops for workstations. He goes on to recall how one traveler commented on how SFO had everything in the world, but needed a yoga room. The idea clicked for Martin, who’d been practicing Kripalu yoga for nearly two decades.
When we began to remodel Terminal 2, one of our goals was not just to bring the glamour back to air travel, but to also make the entire experience less stressful and more enjoyable.
(John L. Martin for Inquire Within Podcast)
He went on to say that with the opening of the Yoga Room, “SFO has taken a giant leap forward in providing our travelers the opportunity and space to relax and decompress on their own terms.” Martin says that although the lounge was an afterthought, it turned out to be a great idea. “Almost every time I walk by, I’d say 95% of the time, someone is in there practicing yoga, prayer or meditation,” he says in the interview. Although SFO does have a dedicated Reflection Center that serves as a chapel and place of prayer in the International Terminal, the Yoga Room also offers a loudspeaker-free environment.
Whatever travelers want to do – practice the gentle movements of tai chi or meditate in silence – it’s a quiet place to take off your shoes and relax. Right now, the lounge offers yoga mats and chairs, although Martin hopes to bring a few yoga blocks into the mix.
Next time you find yourself at SFO in need of a “time out,” follow the stylized images of the person in the Lotus position for a respite in the often chaotic world of travel.
San Francisco International Airport
San Francisco, CA