How to minimise jet lag with Ayurveda

The major negative effect of traveling? Jet lag. Our bodies were not designed to travel such long distances in such short times. The effects of...

  • Crossing numerous time zones  - disturbing our body clocks (circadian rhythm)
  • Having to sit in a pressurized cabin with less oxygen in low humidity - drying out the skin, mouth and eyes
  • With lack of movement - disturbing elimination
  • And irregular meals and sleep - disturbing digestion and sleep.

It’s no wonder we can arrive at our destination feeling dazed, disorientated and mentally and physically fatigued. The good news is the following tips will greatly minimize if not eliminate jet lag all together. Try to implement as many as possible, but don’t get stressed out if you can’t do it all! We’re wanting less stress, not more. So take it easy, rest up and if the only thing you do on the plane is meditate… you’ll feel much better for it!

WHAT TO DO BEFORE THE FLIGHT

Aim to travel without tiredness – Try to maintain a consistent sleep pattern before your flight. Getting extra sleep before traveling can go a long way toward helping you feel refreshed when you arrive. Ideally get several early nights before the journey; bed before 10 pm.

Plan your travel – Allow plenty of time so nothing is a rush on the day.

Start your day relaxed – rise early, drink some warm lemon, turmeric water, give yourself a warm oil massage (abhyanga) before you bathe/shower, do some gentle yoga asanas and meditate.

Eat lightly – have a light, warm meal before you fly because travel makes the digestion delicate.

Wear loose fitting clothing.

Take ginger tablets to stimulate digestion – take one ginger capsule an hour before your flight takes off, then take another capsule between flights. Ginger capsules are available in most health food stores.

If possible try to arrange your flights so that you land sometime in mid evening. This gives you enough time to unwind, eat a good meal and get to bed by 10pm.

WHAT TO DO DURING THE FLIGHT

Multiple meditations – Meditate as much as is comfortable. As you’ve seen above the physical body is under enormous pressure whilst flying and because of this the general rule of 20 minutes meditation twice a day no longer applies. The instruction is to meditate multiple times during the flight and for prolonged periods too. It’s not necessary to be governed by the clock, simply go by your inner feeling. You could, for example, meditate for the duration of the entire flight or you could meditate a dozen times. Simply meditate ‘as much as is comfortable’. 

Meditating in this way allows the body to bathe in an incredibly deep state of rest, free from disturbing external influences. It also increases melatonin production (brain chemical that governs rest) and brings psycho-physiological adaptability. More importantly, doing extra meditations actually switches off the body’s circadian rhythm, which tells you when to sleep and wake up. The disruption of this internal rhythm is the single biggest cause of jetlag. Follow the program and you’ll be fine.

Adjust your clock – Prepare the mind for its new destination by adjusting your watch to the time of your destination. It’s best not to dwell or refer to the time or place you have just left. This psychological shift will go a long way to support the body in adjusting its circadian rhythm.

Prevent dehydration – Airplane cabins are dry with low humidity, and a lengthy trip can cause dehydration.

Apply sesame oil to the inner ears and inner wall of the nostrils. This pacifies the vata dosha and prevents internal dehydration. This oil is applied by using the tip of the small finger and can be done anytime you feel the nose drying up.

Drink plenty of hot/warm water during the entire trip to prevent dehydration. Drinking one generous glass of water for each hour you spend in the air is ideal. Avoid iced drinks, coffee and tea. Herbal tea is good, especially ginger/chamomile. These aren’t available on flights so you may wish to take your own aboard.

Get a hot moist towel and breath through it. This brings wonderful warm moist air into your lungs and helps rehydrate that part of you as well.

The recycled pressurised air inside a plane also dries the skin, so splash your face with oil, cream or water from time to time.

Food  - Avoid cold foods and drinks on the plane, including salads, soft drinks, ice cream etc. Favor warm easily digestible foods. You may want to bring your own snacks on the flight or avoid eating all together (favoruing warm liquids) to give your digestion a rest.

Avoid Alcohol – Dehydration worsens jet lag and alcohol is one of the most potent dehydrators. So avoid drinking alcohol and fizzy drinks also whilst in the air (in fact you should avoid them in daily life too!)

Yoga and movement – It’s not exactly easy to move around on a plane, but where you can find space enjoy some simple yoga stretches and the opportunity to walk a little and breath deeply – allowing more oxygen to flood into the lungs. Doing this every half an hour or so, with even the most simple stretches or movements will help offset the stagnation from sitting idle. It will bring a refreshed feeling as it increases the flow of prana or energy in the body.

Massage – When seated, give yourself regular massages during the flight paying particular emphasis to the feet and legs.

Aromatherapy - Put a drop or two of lavender on a wet washcloth and wipe your forehead and temples.

WHAT TO DO NOW THAT YOU’VE LANDED

Get outside – Spending sometime outdoors in the sunlight when you arrive at your new destination will help your body clock adjust. Practice some deep yogic breathing to flood the body with fresh oxygen and simply allow the elements of nature to wash over your entire being.

Adjust yourself to your new location – Eat when the locals do, sleep when the locals do.

MEDITATE!

Nourish yourself – Ensure you eat warm, light nourishing food once you arrive to allow your digestion to adjust. It is also recommended that you eat a generous quantity of sweet juicy fruits about an hour after your meal. Take small portions and eat slowly. This will aid your digestion.

Keep the body warm and endeavor to rest – Have a long hot bath as soon as you can. This is very important to pacify Vata. If a bath is not available a shower is next best thing. Rest for the evening without putting too much strain on yourself physically or mentally.

Massage - Give yourself a hot oil massage, or better still have someone else give you one. This will enhance circulation and soothe the mind and emotions.

Stretch the body – Do some gentle yoga, with particular emphasis on the inverted postures.

Stay hydrated – Drink lots of warm water through the day to replenish moisture levels.

Sleep – Have an early night and get some good quality rest. This will give you a fresh start the morning and also help regulate your digestive process.

AND ENJOY – you’re in another state, another country and possibly what may seem like another world. Be inquisitive, allow your senses to explore the new terrain and be open to spontaneous experiences.

TRAVEL, LEARNLaura Poole