When a body is immobile and confined for an extended period of time, chances are we may arrive at our destination feeling groggy, experience back tenseness, tight shoulders, stiff joints, perhaps have a stuffy nose or an all-out cold, or we may have an upset stomach or headache. It would be better if after such a long flight we could feel energized, refreshed and ready to jump feet-first into the vacation or business adventure that awaits us. For short flights or multiple long excursions, these tips can help travel more comfortably and stay healthy while doing it.
Because we have to be at the airport sometimes hours before a flight, don’t spend that time sitting, move around . Don’t rush to board, that just means sitting longer. When we make reservations, make sure to be within five rows of an exit. In case of emergency, this is the safest place to sit.
Buy a big bottle of spring water to take on the plane after passing through security. Start drinking before boarding and keep drinking throughout the flight.
A recent study by the Flight Safety Foundation found that blood clotting during long flights to be a medical problem that can strike even the young and physically fit due to cramped conditions. The circulation of the body tends to slow down when it is immobile, so it is important to wear clothes that stretch so we don’t inadvertently cut off the circulation to any part of the body. Also consider wearing layers that can be taken off or put on, depending on the temperature of the cabin.
Once we are settled in the seat, loosen shoe laces a little to keep your feet moving. Tall people might consider an exit row or the bulkhead.
Use nasya oil to hydrate and safeguard the nostrils. Airplane air is full of everyone’s germs. This oil not only hydrates, but places a coating to keep toxins from penetrating the sinus membrane.
Put headphones on after takeoff. It is usually pretty loud inside the cabin, sometimes with crying babies, loud talkers or the sound of the engines.
Nadi shodhanam, or alternate nostril breathing, is a great way to relax. If we get tense on takeoff, we can do it as soon as we are seated. Sit with a straight spine and relax. Using the thumb and ring finger of the right hand, close the right nostril with the thumb, exhale and then inhale though the left nostril. Close the left nostril with the ring finger and exhale and inhale though the right nostril. Continue breathing deeply though alternate nostrils for three to five minutes.
Stretch the entire body after the first 30 minutes of sitting and then every 60 minutes or so throughout the flight, beginning with the spine. While seated, gently ground the sitting bones and take a gentle twist to the right, using arm rests for leverage. Make sure to twist from the lumbar spine (low back) up through the neck. Even if there are people close by, this is doable. Then twist to the other side. Next, do some gentle neck circles, first around one direction (like drawing a circle on an imaginary wall with the nose), and then back the other way. Then stand in the aisle and reach up onto the overhead luggage compartments, one hand on each, and gently press into the hands. This stretches the shoulders and sides of the body.
While still standing, start with toe lifts, lifting the heals off the floor, holding for a few breaths, and then lowering. Next try the “dancer” pose, taking a hand behind the back to grasp the right ankle. Gently pull that foot towards the buttocks. This will stretch the quadriceps and knee. Hold for five to 10 breaths. Change sides and then, if possible, take a stroll up and down the aisle before sitting back down.
After sitting down, do “eagle” arms. In front of the body, place a bent right elbow (45 degrees) on top of a bent left elbow, and then wrap the hands around each other. Gently relax the back and move the elbows away from each other. This leverage gently opens the shoulder blades and releases the neck. Take five to 10 breaths here, change sides and release.
Close the eyes and gently relax the entire body. Imagine breathing into every cell in the body all at once. If sleeping, make sure to be warm and make sure the seat belt is showing from the outside of a blanket so the flight attendant won’t wake us up. We can even use an eye mask if we need total blackout.
When we arrive at our destination, grab another bottle of water. Whatever time it is, stay up until our regular bed time; this will help you reset our internal clock.
Peggy Breeze is yogi and ayurvedic practitioner and extensive world traveler (economy class). For more information, call 972-658- 1600 or visit TheBalancedYogi.com.