In the beginning, my yoga practice was all about me: every time I walked into the studio, I focused like a laser on setting up my mat and I left right after class.
That started to change five years ago, when I took a teacher training at Tranquil Space. I started running into familiar faces regularly. Over time, I felt I had found a refuge where I dropped my work life at the door and could get energy by connecting with people who shared my passion for yoga.
In 1989, sociologist Ray Oldenburg coined the term “third place,” to describe public spaces — cafes, bars, bookshops, museums, and hair salons — outside of the home (1st place) and the workplace (2nd place) that are defined by the regulars who frequent them. They are often neighborhood-based small businesses where people enjoy one another’s company.
According Oldenburg in The Great Good Place:
“Third places that render the best and fullest service are those to which one may go alone at almost any time of the day or evening with assurances that acquaintances will be there.”
There are many benefits to having a (few) third place(s) in your life, Oldenburg says in this recent video. For example:
- If you have a third place, you make friends with groups of people, increasing your social connections.
- The third place is an “intellectual forum” where you’re likely to learn new things by interacting with people from different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives.
- You might even find yourself laughing more in your third place. According to Oldenburg, the average person in the U.S. laughs between 17 to 20 times each day. His researchers counted the number of times people laughed in their third place and found that in the third place groups they studied, laughter rates were upwards of 107 times per hour.
On a macro-level, communities benefit from third places as well. For example:
- Third places generate social capital, a community’s collective sense of interpersonal connections and feelings of belonging, trust and reciprocity. Research shows communities with high marks for social capital are healthier than those with low marks.
- The third place can be a staging area in times of disaster. Oldenburg cited Hurricane Andrew, where many people went to third places to give and get help before government services were in place.
- Third places make for vibrant, energetic public domains. He cites the sidewalk café as an example of a trend that has helped transform public spaces across the country.
Twelve years after I took my first yoga class, I have come to realize that the most transformative aspects of my practice have not come from twisting into a pretzel or breathing deeply. Instead, my life changed because without looking for it, I found my very own “third place” in Tranquil Space.
Any other great third places out there we should know about?