Boeing 747s, security lines and seat belt signs are all things I associate with stress. Considering air travel in my family has long consisted of frantic checks to make sure bags are properly packed and three-ounce containers are tightly sealed, the stress has certainly been justified.
Well, apparently I’m not alone in my anxiety. Enough travelers share my concerns that a recent article in Time magazine announced the addition of a yoga room to the San Francisco International Airport to promote relaxation during travel.
Quite frankly, this is a lovely idea — props to San Francisco. But if airport travel causes enough stress to justify a room dedicated to relaxation, then college campuses certainly do too. In fact, with the winning mix of midterms, papers and job applications, I can’t think of a place better fit for — or more in need of — such a calming space.
Many students would agree that life on campus, though rewarding in its challenges, is at least as chaotic as an airport, and certainly deserves a space dedicated to relaxation. Thus, the University should follow in the footsteps of the innovative California airport, which converted a 150 square-foot storage room into an open space with chairs and yoga mats, and create public spaces for students to take study breaks and escape from the stresses of life on campus.
To promote relaxation, the yoga room in San Francisco requests that visitors remove their shoes and refrain from bringing food, drinks or cell phones into the silent area. These requirements, referred to by the airport as “Yoga Room Etiquette,” create an environment of tranquility in an otherwise chaotic arena.
In the same way a traveler could use the yoga room to de-stress after dealing with a particularly irritating Travel Security Administration official, students could use relaxation centers to relax during exams, after a long study session or even between classes.
Sound mental health is vital for students’ success here on campus. Having a convenient place to de-stress during the day, perhaps in the UGLi or Duderstadt, would benefit students immensely.
Not only would students have the leisure of popping in for a quick mental break between classes, but they’d also have the benefit of a place where dissociation from their fast-paced lives is both possible and encouraged. And while the University does already offer classes in meditation and yoga, students have to work these into their schedules — not on an as-needed basis. Keeping in mind that most students already lead very busy lives, the convenience of drop-in relaxation centers on campus would likely encourage students to take advantage of this resource more readily than if they had to schedule time into their days.
Ann Arbor certainly has its fair share of yoga studios. I’d assume from the number of people I see double-fisting backpacks and yoga mats that they’re popular, but these classes come at a price. All students should have access to places where they can center themselves free of charge, and the creation of relaxation centers would quite easily allow for this.
As the Time article mentioned, the yoga room in the airport doesn’t include instructors or any additional amenities, and merely serves as an environment in which people are free of noise, commotion and other external stressors. And while the term “yoga room” might conjure up images of people in the downward dog position, a campus relaxation center would not be limited to yoga practices and could be used merely as a place to sit in silent meditation. Thus, creation of such spaces would require little effort on the University’s part, yet would benefit students in big ways.
Not to mention, the benefits of relaxation practices, while already widely appreciated, are only recently becoming better known, and dare I even say, trendy. With celebrities like Oprah, Ellen DeGeneres and Russell Brand promoting Transcendental Meditation, the popularity of such practices is no longer limited to the hippie, alternative type and will undoubtedly continue to grow.
So, while airports are certainly stressful, college campuses without a doubt rival them as places in need of some good old R&R. While some students may find it easy to relax either at home or in front of the television, many students would take comfort in having a convenient place here on campus to escape their everyday stress. The San Francisco International Airport is onto something, and the University should follow in its footsteps.