Picture this- You are an avid traveler and racking up the frequent flyer miles. You are supposed to rush to a business critical meeting right after you land. After having spent hours inside a crammed aircraft, here you are, required to be fully awake, alert and bring your A game. How will you kick your jetlag? Here comes Ayurveda to save your day!!
According to principles of Ayurveda, the most ancient and non-invasive school of medicine, jet lag is caused due to the imbalance in the Vata dosha or air element in the body. It is a given that when your biological clock is disturbed, your appetite and sleep goes out of whack, you have a vitiated Vata in your system. For some, this results in restlessness, drowsiness, and tiredness-symptoms that can last for days. Anything that can be done to balance the Vata by way of food, yoga, meditation or massages before or after traveling can help you avoid jetla
What’s a Dosha? Vata (air or space), Pitta (heat or fire) and Kapha (earth) are the three bio-elements in the body. Each individual has a particular constitution and a balance of these three in the body. Any imbalance in them over a prolonged period of time can lead to uneasiness, weaknesses or disease.
Here is your Ayurvedic cheat sheet to avoid the scare of jetlag that comes with dizziness, tiredness and a sense of total disorientation:
A) Avoid spicy food during the flight at all costs. This could increase the Pitta or heat element in the body.
B) Grounding food- You can have milk, Ghee or clarified butter in small quantities, fruits, boiled vegetables or any other food that is sweet to taste during the flight.
C) Avoid heavy non vegetarian fare in-flight. It could cause indigestion.
D) Best juices to have mid-flight- grapes, pomegranate, lemon, orange or mango- should be sweet.
E) During flight, eat food rich in Vitamin A, E and C.
F) Avoid alcohol on the flights, since it increases dehydration in the body. As is, humidity is generally lower inside the aircraft.
Keep it light and sweet during flights, so you don’t land with a troubled digestion, which is more probable after long flights.
2) Things to Do
A) Pranayama or breathing exercises
There is nothing like 5 minutes of Nadi Shodhan Pranayama or alternate nostril breathing to prepare you for life-after-landing. Nadi translates to subtle energy channels and Shodhan is understood as clearing. This breathing exercise clears your subtle nerve channels, balances the movement of life force through them leaving you feeling calm and energized.
- Sit comfortably, spine erect and shoulders relaxed. Place your left hand on the left knee, palms open to the sky.
- Take the index finger and middle finger of your right hand and place it in between your eyebrows
- The ring finger and little finger will be on the left nostril, and the thumb on the right nostril.
- Press the right thumb down on the right nostril and gently breathe out gently from the left nostril.
- Next, breathe in from the left nostril and then press down the left nostril gently with the ring finger and little finger. Remove the right thumb and breathe out from the right.
- Again, breathe in from the right and breathe out from the left nostril. These steps make one round of alternate nostril breathing. Repeat the cycle for at least nine times. Keep your eyes closed all the time.
B) The Yoga Nidra is known to give deep rest equivalent to four hours of sleep. Though we do not suggest, you skip your beauty sleep. Yoga Nidra helps to quickly get your body accustomed to the new time zone. Listen to this soothing guided Yoga Nidra and catch up on some good quality rest.
C) Yogic Mudras; Ayurveda suggests Shunya Mudra or Vayu Mudra for frequent travelers to keep the Vata in balance.
How to do Shunya Mudra
- Sit comfortably and close your eyes
- Curl up the middle finger and press down the thumb on it
- While holding this Mudra, take a few deep breaths by lightly constricting the throat.
- Repeat the cycle a few times and then relax your breath. Keep your eyes closed for a few minutes and observe the sensations.
You can also do Vayu Mudra, which helps reduce the Vata in the body. For doing Vayu mudra, the practice remains the same except that instead of curling up the middle finger as shown in step 2, curl up the index finger to touch the base of thumb. These will help you drive away nausea that you experience during the take-off or landing.
D) Light Airplane Yoga
When you are on longer flights, some light Yogic postures can do you a world of good and help you loosen up
Seated Spinal Twist or Ardha Matsyendra Asana
- Sit straight with spine erect and feet touching the floor
- Place your right hand on the left knee and left hand beside yourself behind the left hip
- Inhale, lift up the spine and chest gently and twist gradually to your left and look over your left shoulder.
- Hold the posture and breathe deeply into it. Relax the posture.
- Repeat it with your left hand on your right knee.
2) Shoulder Shrug
- Come up to the edge of your seat and sit with spine straight
- Place your hands on your knees and straighten your hands
- Slowly raise your shoulders towards your ears with arms rested and gently take a deep breath in.
- Once you have peaked, start lowering your shoulders and ease your shoulder blades. Exhale. Make sure your shoulders come a full circle in this posture.
- These postures are best done mindfully while observing the breath and other sensations in the body.
3) Massage your temple gently in a circular motion
4) Cup your cheeks and rotate them lightly while taking deep breaths. This will relax your facial muscles.
5) Pull your earlobes and cycle them up and down. This brings alert relaxation in your body and mind.
Other helpful tips:
- You can also take Ayurvedic supplements like Brahmi and Medhyarasayan to maintain the Vata balance in the body. This will reduce the restlessness in the body.
- Drink a glass of water for every hour on the flight.
- Try to shower during stop overs.
- Ayurveda experts also recommend sun baths before the flight, that is get some good sunlight in your system before you take off.
- Oil baths before a week of travel and immediately after landing, is strongly recommended by Ayurveda doctors. Oil massages for the crown of your head, foot, naval region and ears can help you avoid the symptoms of jetlag.
(Inputs from Dr. Lakshmi, a Senior Ayurvedic expert at Sri Sri College of Ayurvedic Science and Research Center, Bangalore, India)