Flying is one of the most demanding experiences for the body. You’re in a pressurised tin can at 37,000 feet, travelling through different time zones, becoming dehydrated and breathing stale air. It takes a toll on your body. So you arrive at your destination, feeling somewhere between jaded and exhausted. Your body’s natural circadian rhythms are thrown off and your digestion is pulled out of balance. We were not designed to function at altitude ‑ no wonder you’re jet lagged!
When I learned to meditate, I was flying long haul a lot – usually from Australia to the States or Europe. They were long trips and I would land, race to the hotel, shower and then an hour later turn up to a meeting or presentation. Then I'd fly home and do the same thing – arrive on the red eye, race home to drop my bags, shower and head into the office to catch up on everything that had happened while I was away. After a couple of years of this, I was drained. I was regularly coming down with colds and I was propping myself up with caffeine and sugar. I looked and felt ten years older than I was - not good!
Thankfully, meditation changed all that. I was able to meditate throughout the flight and so, at last, I could get good rest while I was travelling.
With meditation, I find that I feel virtually no effects of jet lag and have no need for depressants or stimulants
Sienna Miller, one of our students at the London Meditation Centre said recently how Vedic Meditation, which she learned with us, transformed her experience of jet lag. “This is going to sound a little hokey, I know,” she said “But I once did a Vedic meditation course at the London Meditation Centre where they advised meditating during take-off and landing. People roll their eyes when I tell them but it works, I promise.”
Another of our students, a senior corporate lawyer, wrote to us recently to share the life-changing effect of meditation on jet lag. She’s someone who flies long-haul every week, as her recent Facebook status confirms: “gearing up for a bit of a travel sprint (NYC today, Amsterdam Tuesday, London Wednesday, back to NYC on Thursday)” and she’s expected to be on form when she arrives. Here’s what she had to say:
“As someone who lives abroad with a travel-intensive job, I find myself doing a lot of long-haul travel. In order to regulate my sleep during and after trips, I was very reliant on sleeping pills and caffeine.
“With meditation, I find that I feel virtually no effects of jet lag and have no need for depressants or stimulants. As a result, I find myself with more energy than I can remember both during and after travel.”
Flying creates extreme fatigue in the system. The deep rest of meditation is a powerful antidote. Rather than gain tiredness, when you meditate on the flight you gain rest and arrive more refreshed. This is why, when flying, we tell our students they can meditate more than the usual programme of 20 minutes twice-a-day. With a long-haul flight, we recommend meditating on take-off and landing, as well as once or twice more during the trip.
Vedic Meditation involves sitting easily with the eyes closed for 20 minutes morning and evening. With this as your regular daily practice, you’ll recover and adjust to the new time zone very quickly. Your immune system will be stronger and your hormones more balanced by not having stress and exhaustion build up in your body. That way you get the most out of your precious holiday time or deal with work demands more easily and successfully.
If you don’t have a daily meditation practice, then try this simple breathing exercise to restore inner calm (because as we know, the whole process of travel creates stress. Long queues and security checks are enough to get you worked up before you even get on the plane).
Sit comfortably, close the eyes and breathe in deeply through the nose. Let the slow, steady rhythm of your breath set the pace (we tend to breathe through our mouth when we are stressed). Five minutes of gentle breathing in and out through the nose will settle you down, leaving you more relaxed. Just like meditation, this can be done throughout the flight – especially on take-off and landing and any time you feel tired or fidgety.
Here are my tips on how to stay balanced and healthy inflight
1. Rest as much as you can - ideally, meditate.
Flying in a plane is extremely tiring as the body tries to deal with lack of sleep, different time zones and pressurized air in the cabins. Often people find it difficult to sleep on planes because the environment is not comfortable. For most of us, getting horizontal is not an option, however, Vedic Meditation delivers deep rest – much deeper than normal sleep. As I mentioned above, 20 minutes meditation after takeoff and again before landing is ideal with one or two sessions during the journey if it's long-haul. And you can do it easily while sitting up in a chair. See here for my tips on how to meditate anywhere . If you don't have a meditation practice try the breathing exercise above.
2. Drink water - preferably warm
Stay hydrated - and by hydration, I mean water! The best way is to drink hot water. Avoid icy drinks and instead, ask the flight attendant for plain hot water. It’s the fastest way to flush the body of toxins and rehydrate. Warm water is absorbed far more quickly by the body than cold drinks.
One of my favourite Ayurvedic tips is to add some slices of fresh ginger to your empty water flask. Then take it through security without having added water. A coffee shop will fill it with hot water. Sipping on this throughout the flight keeps the digestion strong and flushes out toxins more deeply.
3. Move every hour or two.
A gentle walk up and down the aisle every hour helps to keep the circulation fresh. This helps in removing toxicity and avoids stagnation in the circulatory system. You’ll feel fresher and less bloated.
4. Eat lightly… even better, don’t eat at all
Humans were not designed to digest at 37,000 feet. When you don’t digest well, toxins and impurities build up in the system, and you feel sluggish and heavy. When you can, avoid eating much on the flight. Instead, eat before when you have your feet on the ground. This way the body doesn’t strain to digest over-processed airline food.
Jillian Lavender is a Vedic Wellness Expert and co-Founder www.LondonMeditationCentre.com