August 17, 2012

Destressing Planeside at the DFW Yoga Studio

This weekend, instead of heading home, I’m off to northeast Pennsylvania. It’s going to be a great weekend – work tomorrow, some peaceful time up on Lake Chautauqua tomorrow night and Saturday, and then running the Drake Well Marathon on Sunday morning. All week, I’ve been feeling pretty sluggish (probably due to not getting quite enough sleep but still putting in a solid week of workouts), so I’m thrilled at the chance to just relax for most of the weekend and cap it off with something productive like running a marathon. Yippee!

After a major traffic jam had me racing through the terminal last week, I probably got a little overanxious about when I left for the airport today – and that was further exacerbated by the fact that I didn’t realize my flight to Pittsburgh was much later than my usual flight to New York. As a result, I had a lot of extra time at the airport, and only so much work that I could get done in a public lounge. But one thing I could do? Check out the brand new yoga room that’s beeen put in at DFW airport!

There was a lot of press when both San Francisco Airport and Dallas Fort Worth Airport unveiled their new in-terminal yoga rooms. However, the coverage was pretty mixed – some articles discussed how great it was that airports were adding areas where people could be active, while others scoffed at the bare bones nature of these yoga rooms. While I hadn’t yet seen them in action, I was in the former camp that was thrilled at the trend. I’m happy to work out with no equipment at all, so simply having an area designated for such things would be a major step to traveling healthy. (Now, if we could just get airports to stop touting their “healthy food offerings” when all they really have are sugary Jamba Juice outlets, and put in something actually good for you…)

The yoga room at DFW was in the shiny new D terminal… or so I thought. When I got to gate D40 (where the yoga room was supposed to be), I didn’t see anything promising. Spying a cluster of gate agents congregating at an empty podium, I asked them where to locate the yoga room, and they let me know it was actually in the hallway between gate D40 and gate B1. I detected a hint of surprise in their demeanor that I had inquired about the yoga room, and guessed that it was probably a source of novelty and ridicule for most airport workers. But whether I would be the first traveler to actually use the yoga room or not, I didn’t care – I was on a mission.

As I knew from many articles, the “yoga room” turned out to be just an empty nook in the corridor, with folding screens partially shielding it from the view of passersby. However, I thought it was actually a lot nicer than the derisive articles had made it sound – there was special cushioned flooring (in addition to the ample supply of yoga mats), a shelving area where luggage could be stored (you can see mine in the back of the pic), potted plants to make you feel a little bit closer to nature, and some silhouettes of people doing yoga on the walls. There was not a changing area or a water fountain, but while signs directed me down to B6 as the closest bathroom, I knew in coming from terminal E that there were actually restrooms at the juncture in between the two terminals – less than a minute walk away. Pretty convenient!

After changing into yoga pants and my comfy Athleta Energy tank top, I kicked off my shoes (after I got back to the yoga area, that is – I was not about to walk through the terminal barefoot!) and was ready to go. I looked at the ceiling-mounted TV that was playing some form of Iyengar yoga, but decided it wasn’t quite to my liking – in part because the instructor had just announced that we were going to relax into some “light stretching.” I wanted more than that! Instead, since I had the place to myself, I pulled out my laptop and copy of Jillian Michaels’ Yoga Meltdown. Since there was no remote for the TV, I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to hear my own yoga workout over the volume of the airport-provided video, but it ended up working out just fine, as the TV instructor was doing a lot of static stretching with little sound except the soothing background music.

Many of the jeering articles scoffed at how the DFW yoga studio wouldn’t be relaxing at all, with comments like, “who wants to practice yoga in an airport?” Answer: me! And I actually found myself getting surprisingly into it. The floor-to-ceiling windows allowed a ton of natural light in, and since it was close to sunset, I got a lot of neat shadows on the floor from my poses. The background music of the airport-provided video was very peaceful, and I was also pleasantly surprised to find that there weren’t nearly as many announcements as I had expected. (Slow time of day? Announcements just not being made in this area between terminals? I’m not sure of the reason why.) Meanwhile, I love how sweaty I get doing a Jillian Michaels workout – it’s definitely a lot more intense than your usual yoga DVDs, and I really love it.

As far as the downsides? Well, naysayers are right that the screens don’t completely shield the yoga zone from view – there is about a 5 foot gap on each side that serves as an entrance/exit to the yoga area, but also allows passersby to see what’s going on and gawk. However, while I’m usually very conscious of what other people think (sometimes probably too much!), I didn’t care at all about this. After all, this was a yoga area, and I was doing yoga – exactly as it was intended. Nothing to see here, move along!

It was interesting, though, to consider that I really could do the same thing anywhere in the terminal if I were a bit less self-conscious. Since I normally fly out of E terminal, perhaps next week I’ll get up the nerve to just ask the Delta lounge attendant to let me use one of the business conference rooms for a workout behind closed doors! Because honestly, no matter the fact that I was working out in an airport – the yoga really did help me to destress and “get Zen.” After I finished my workout and changed back into my business clothes, I still had this sense of calm that made me sleepy and relaxed – I couldn’t wait to get on the plane and perhaps take a nap! Perhaps DFW may be onto something – bliss the passengers out and you’ll get fewer idiots throwing fits and complaining about trivial things?

Either way, thank you, DFW Airport! Hope to be back to the yoga room again soon.


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