Friday, 21 August 2015

Yoga for jet lag

In the last of the series on travel, I am looking at some breathing techniques and asanas that can help you deal with jet lag.  

What is jet lag? 

Your body has its own 24 hour cycle (circadian rhythm) which is controlled by melatonin which is secreted by the pineal gland. When we travel across time zones, our bodies can take a while to adjust which can lead to disturbed sleep, fatigue, digestive problems and concentration issues.  

How can yoga help?

Yoga can help your body cope with the stress of the change in routines by calming the nervous system. It gets rid of any tension in the muscles caused by sitting for long periods. Yoga breathing techniques helps re-oxygenate the blood. This is important because while you are in the plane, the air pressure is lowered and this can lead to a significant lowering of blood oxygen levels. Lowered oxygen levels add to the stress on your body, which in turn can make you feel stressed in your mind. Lowered oxygen levels also make you feel tired.

Try this sequence to help you adjust after a flight.  The sequence will stretch out your muscles, increase the oxygen levels in your blood, improve digestion and calm your mind.

Lion Breath (helps get rid of any stale air in the lungs which can then be replaced by fresh, oxygenated air). Please see

Cat/Cow (ease your back, shoulders and neck) – come onto all 4s. Inhale lift your head and chest, exhale arch your back.

Pigeon Pose – from all 4s bring the right knee forward towards your wrist and slide your left leg back.  Press into your hands and lift your chest.  To modify place blocks under your right buttock and left thigh.  Come back to all 4s and repeat on the other side.  Take a Child Pose.

Cobra (open up your chest, re-oxygenate your blood) – come to lying on your tummy bring your hands to your armpit/chest level with your elbows tucked into your sides. Breathe in and lift, opening your chest. Breathe out to return to your start position. Repeat twice more then take a Child Pose.

Downward Facing Dog (stretch out your back and hamstrings and calm your mind) – from Child Pose stretch your arms forward so that your hands are shoulder width. Breathe in come to all 4s, tuck your toes, breathe out lift your hips.  Hold for 5 breaths if that feels right for you then walk your feet forward and slowly come to standing.

Tree pose (connect with the present moment and improve concentration) – stand with your feet hip distance apart and take your weight into your left foot.  Find a drishti (gaze point) and taking your weight into your left foot either cup your left ankle with your right foot, take your right foot to your left shin or take your right foot to your left thigh (not against your left knee). Breathe in and raise your arms. Hold for several breaths (if you fall out, try again) and release then repeat on the second side.

Triangle Pose (opens your chest and hips, stimulates digestion)– step your feet a leg length apart.  Turn your right foot to the right, and the toes of your left foot in 45 degrees. Breathe in stretch your arms out to shoulder height, breathe out fold over your right leg bringing your right hand to your right leg, left arm up to the ceiling.  Gaze is straight ahead or up at the left thumb. To come out of the pose, circle the arms back up to shoulder height, turn to face forward. Repeat second side.

Reclined twist (opens up your chest, relieves lower back tension and helps digestion and detoxification).  Lie on the floor with the knees bent and arms out to shoulder height. Breathe in and as you breathe out let your knees fall to the right.  If you have no neck problems, turn your head to the left.  Hold for several breaths then inhale, bring your knees back to centre. Repeat second side. Hug your knees in.

Legs up the wall (restorative, calming for the mind)– sit by the wall with your knees bent and swivel so that your legs come up the wall.  Your arms may be by your sides or overhead, wherever is comfortable for you.  Stay in the pose for 5. 10 or 15 minutes.  To come out of the pose turn onto your right side, stay there for a moment then come up to seated.  

Dirga (3 part breath – encourages deep breathing, connects with present moment, calms the mind)– sit or lie with your hands on your tummy, middle fingers touching at the navel.  Breathe into the area under your hands without forcing the breath and maybe you notice the middle fingers parting as you breathe in, the middle fingers coming together as you breathe out. Continue for several breaths, 
Next move your hands to your ribcage so that the middle fingers touch where the ribs separate.  Breathe into the area under your hands and notice that as you breathe in your ribs move up and out, as you breathe out your ribs move down and in. Continue for several breaths.  
Now move your hands to your chest so that your fingers rest on your collar bones.  Breathe into your ribcage as before and notice any movement under your hands as you start to breathe more deeply.  You may notice that as you breathe in your chest expands, as you breathe out your chest releases. Continue for several breaths.
Finally place one hand on your tummy, one hand on your ribcage. Breathe in and notice your abdomen rise, your ribs move up and out, your chest expand.  Breathe out and notice your abdomen move back toward your spine, your ribs move in and down, your chest release. Continue for several breaths.

What else can help?

Spend some time outdoors.  This will help your body adjust by resetting your circadian rhythm

Eat and sleep to fit in with your new time zone

Other blog posts in this series
'Yoga for your hotel room'
'Yoga on a plane/coach'

Happy travelling!

Janet x

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