I love my job, but sometimes it can be hard to combat the physical and mental stresses flying can cause. I’ve practiced yoga for a few years now and during this time I have learnt to take key elements of my classes away with me to help alleviate some of the stresses cause by flying for long periods of time. Here are some of the best ways to use yoga after a flight, or just in general if you’re stressed, want to relieve aches and pains or improve your circulation and mental wellbeing.
Sleep aid for insomnia Travelling through time zones, working long days with little sleep or early starts can leave your body confused and often I find, overtired. Even after being awake travelling for 24 hours I can sometimes find myself collapsing into bed exhausted yet struggling to fall asleep. Yoga helps focus your attention to your breathing, allowing you to clear your mind, thinking about nothing else other than inhaling and exhaling. The more you bring your focus to your breathing, the more you feel all of your muscles start to relax, starting from your toes all the way up to your forehead. If I find myself tossing and turning unable to sleep, I will lie in Savasana or ‘Corpse Pose’, a restorative pose where you lie flat on your back, feet relaxed and turned outwards with your palms facing up. This pose helps take uneven pressure off the spine and neck and also helps relax the diaphragm so you can breathe more freely.
Easing lower back pain Another benefit to lying in Savasana is, when done properly, it helps to relax the muscles in your back, which often become tense and tired after sitting for long periods of time. I find it is the best way to ease lower back pain, brought on either from sitting still on a flight or from working as crew, where during a long shift it is easy to forget your manual handling techniques and not lift things correctly. This is especially common I find when closing some awkward overhead lockers which are over-full. It takes a lot of strength if you can’t get someone else to assist you! Also lifting heavy objects, such as canisters and trolley tops, in awkward spaces such as small galleys can leave you with a tight lower back too. Obviously it’s better to first try to lift correctly, but if you do find yourself with some tightness, I find that lying on my back and hugging my knees into my chest – a common stretch used in yoga to massage out the sacroiliac – can really help and almost eradicate the problem immediately. Try rolling from side to side and in small circles to relieve pain and pressure points, then lie back into Savasana to relax and allow any tension to leave the body.
Reboost your blood flow A common problem I encounter with long flights are complaints about swollen feet and ankles. When you’re working on a flight this isn’t such a problem as you tend to be on your feet moving, but sitting for hours on end can lead to this. It’s uncomfortable and sometimes it can be painful, you are also highly at risk if you suffer from DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis), which if left untreated can lead to blot clots. Yoga is especially good at moving the blood around your hands and feet, which will help ease the swelling to these areas. Spending just a few minutes in an inversion (where your heart is higher than your head) like a headstand or shoulder stand will increase the rate of blood flow to your heart, which in turn gets pumped back to your lungs to be re-oxygenated.
Decease Bloat I hate that bloated feeling you get after a flight, so I find doing some gentle movements can really help get your body and your digestive system back on track. Manipulating your internal organs by using twisting motions will help move blood and fluid around your body, try a twisted seating pose or a bind. I personally also find that simply sitting in Child’s Pose can really help, as your knees put gentle pressure on your internal organs to help release any trapped gas and toxins.
Mental Wellbeing Frequent flyer or not, operating as crew or travelling as a passenger, sipping Moet in first or slumming it in economy – travelling is stressful. I could list the number of influencing factors that bring so much stress to travelling but I would be here forever. Taking 5 minutes to yourself after a long journey or flight can really help clear your mind and refocus, remind yourself of why you are where you are, why you are doing the job and what benefits you can now gain from this trip. Forget Mr. Andrews sat in 11A and his screaming brat of a child who kept kicking your seat, and forget about how frustrating it is (again) trying to get two grown adults to talk reasonably to each other about weather a seat is to be reclined and not reclined *smacks palm to face*
Find somewhere comfortable and quiet, in any seated position you can happily stay still in for longer than 5 minutes. Close your eyes, breath deeply, inhale and exhale those negative thoughts. Think about nothing other than your breathing, go to your “happy place” if you know where that is… I am yet to find mine so don’t worry if that’s not there for you. I’m not saying you have to chant three “Ohms” or anything; it’s just good to center yourself for a moment or two. This generally helps me make better decisions when I am down route, as I am normally short on time due to our layovers becoming increasingly shorter and shorter. I worry that I spend a lot of time deciding what to do with my precious time, which in turn wastes that time! I find these fives minutes spent in a medative state help me focus on the priorities and what I really want to get out of a trip. The overall goal here for me is to calm my thoughts and make better choices about what I do with my time, what I say and what I consume. Of all of the benefits I have touched on, this to me is by far the most useful tool I have when recovering from a long day of travel.
If you’re looking to start yoga or attend a practice somewhere else other than your normal class or comfort zone, here are a few of my personal recommendations from the places I have visited.
San Diego – Yoga One
Washington – Tysons Bikram Yoga
Seattle – Sweat Box (Bikram)
Canguu – The Practice
Canguu – Serenity Eco House Yoga
Capetown – Hotdog Yoga
Johannesburg – Planet Fitness Yoga/Hot Yoga
The Pilates Station