Yoga room opens in San Francisco airport

In this Friday, Jan. 27, 2012 photo, travelers Maria Poole, right, and Lindsey Shepard, practice yoga at San Francisco International Airport's new Yoga Room, in San Francisco.
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(CBS/AP) Find flying stressful? Travelers in Northern California can now find their inner calm in the Yoga Room at San Francisco International Airport.

Open to all ticketed passengers, the room contains a few chairs and yoga mats but no instructors or televisions. No shoes, food, drinks or cell phones are allowed. "Silence is appreciated," says a sign spelling out "Yoga Room Etiquette." A prominent blue-and-white sign with a Buddha-like pictogram beckons visitors: "Come check out our Yoga Room."

The studio officially opened last week in a former storage room just past the security checkpoint at SFO's Terminal 2. Airport officials believe the 150-square-foot (14-square-meter) room with mirrored walls is the world's first airport yoga studio, said spokesman Mike McCarron.

Frequent flyer Maria Poole accepted the invitation, practicing a downward dog asana and other yoga poses before boarding her flight.

"It's perfect," said Poole, 47, of Lafayette. "I think it should be in every airport, especially the terminals that I fly through. This would be such a great way for me to get my exercise in, get a little peace and quiet - a little Zen moment."

Maria Poole heads to the new Yoga Room just past the security terminal at SFO.
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The Yoga Room is just the latest example of how airports are trying to improve the passenger experience and showcase their regional culture, noting the ancient practice's popularity in the San Francisco Bay area, said Debby McElroy, executive vice president of Airports Council International-North America.

"I expect other airports will be looking at whether a yoga room at their airport makes sense," McElroy said.

Yoga is considered a complementary and alternative medicine practice that trains both mind and body. Its potential health benefits may include stress reduction, increased fitness, management of chronic health conditions, and weight loss, according to the Mayo Clinic.

SFO officials say the idea came from a passenger who checked out the newly remodeled terminal last year and told Airport Director John Martin it was lacking one thing: a yoga room.

Martin, a long-time yoga practitioner, agreed. Airport managers spent $15,000 to $20,000 to turn the storage space into the yoga studio.

SFO officials had to design the Yoga icon after they couldn't find one in the international guide of airport pictograms that direct travelers to taxis, restrooms and baggage claim carousels.

"Flying can be stressful," traveler Lindsay Shepard, of Fremont, said. "It's nice to have something to do at the airport besides sit around and eat bad food and read magazines."

The Yoga Room may not be for everyone.

"If I got into yoga, I might lose track of time and miss my flight," said Robert Diaz, 52, of Seal Beach, who was visiting San Francisco with his wife. "I'd be so relaxed."