There’s a brand new new yoga room in Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport! I have been delighted to see this trend growing across the country. Airports in San Fransisco, Burlington VT, and even Dallas now have designated spaces for stretching and yoga.
As I have become more immersed in my yoga practice over the last few years, I’ve noticed what an enormous difference yoga makes during travel. The pre-trip moment of strapping my super light travel mat onto my carry-on backpack has become delightful, as I imagine the new places where I’ll practice. But even beyond spurring sheer enjoyment, practicing yoga feels necessary to me during travel–it’s the only method I’ve found to make me feel relatively normal after landing. Despite being stuck in a thin metal tube with hundreds of strangers, sharing the same recycled air, unable to fully stretch my legs for hours at a time, despite all this, if I can roll out my mat somewhere along the way I know I’ll feel pretty good stepping off the plane.
During our recent honeymoon voyage to to Spain, I was very disappointed to be unable to practice in the Frankfurt airport. The floors there were disgustingly dirty, and there was no place to practice–no protective visual barriers, no open space, nothing. They did have free coffee and hot chocolate, but I would have much preferred an area to lay out my mat and reset with yoga postures, breathing, and meditation. This layover was especially brutal–5:45am to 9:05am, after a two hour layover in O’Hare (land of the unhealthy food options) and a four hour flight from Portland. An hour of practice would have been a blessing–and I’m pretty sure I would have felt far less jetlag-crabby on arrival in Madrid.
Go Healthy: Reasons to Practice Yoga during Travel
1. Improved circulation after the flight. Sitting in any one position for long periods causes blood to pool in the veins, potentially leading to DVT (deep vein thrombosis) and other potentially fatal clotting disorders. Offset the dismal circulation caused by sitting in a tiny coach seat: Practice yoga during your layovers!
2. Relaxing Yoga Breathing = Stronger immunity. During air travel, each passenger gets just 7 to 10 cubic feet of air every minute–about half of what is recommended for healthy internal environments, such as office buildings. And once you’re on the ground, waiting for everyone else to deplane, the plane’s circulation system turns off, meaning there’s a much better chance that you’ll catch the same rasping cough as that perpetually hacking lady in seat 19C. Deep, mindful breathing is a core element in yoga. As you practice, you focus on cultivating calming thoughts and a peaceful mind/body. This activates the body’s parasympathetic nervous system (i.e. the “rest and digest system” or the “relaxation response”) which activates the immune system.
3. Offset the Stress of Travel with Yoga. Traveling is inherently stressful. Being in new surroundings, surrounded by other stressball travellers, while away from your normal home routines–these are just a few of the things that make traveling so anxiety-inducing. Yoga is the best stress-buster there is! Roll out your mat to get grounded once you’re back on the ground, and the stress of your travel day will melt away.
On our way back from Spain, my parents were so good as to give us a hotel room for our 9-hour layover in Newark. After several long dehydrating fights, and going through customs, my new hubby and I were snapping at each other. Fortunately, I had my mat! And enough space to roll it out! That yoga practice (and every practice, really) helped me let go of the small stuff, focus on gratitude, and get in touch with the peaceful center inside myself. If you have a chance, I encourage take advantage of one of the yoga & stretching rooms popping up in airports across the country, it will leave you feeling fantastic!