Yoga postures to help you recover from jet lag
You’re exhausted but you can’t sleep, your mind flits between vacant zombie mode and racing thoughts, you flush hot and cold, feel uncomfortable in your own skin, moody and irritable.
No, it’s not teen hormones or a hangover, we’re talking about jet lag. That weird temporary malaise that strikes nearly all of us when we’re lucky enough to fly long haul, particularly when skipping through time zones in an west to east direction.
The problems are caused by the disruption to the circadian rhythm that controls the hormones that regulate our body temperature, sleepiness, metabolism, energy, arousal and more. There is a direct link between daylight striking your retina and the pituitary gland in your brain that controls the release of all these clever chemicals. So it’s no wonder that sudden changes in those patterns throws your whole body into temporary turmoil until it readjusts.
There are lots of things you can try to minimise the effects, like adjusting your sleep patterns before you leave, drinking plenty of water and electrolytes, and even light therapy but what makes the biggest difference is what you do physically and behaviourally to re-adjust to a new rhythm more quickly. This is where yoga, once again, may come to your rescue.
Writer, broadcaster and yoga teacher Sarah Tucker, author of The A to Zen of Yoga and The Book of Brilliant Breathing shares her 5 best yoga poses to help travel weary bodies and brains re-centre and restore – not to be attempted mid flight, but once you’re safely on terra firma.
5 TO REVIVE: YOGA MOVES TO SOOTHE YOUR JET LAG
This is a gentle way to get accustomed to your current atmosphere and improve posture.
Stand with feet approximately hip-width distance apart, with spine tall and shoulders relaxed away from ears. Feel feet on the Earth as you press them firmly into the ground balancing your weight evenly.
Align center of skull over center of pelvis and release arms on either side of torso with palms facing forward.
Relax facial muscles, throat and tongue as you begin to focus on inhaling and exhaling.
On the inhale, breathe down into diaphragm and fill to top of lungs. On exhale, release breath from top of the lungs to the bottom, releasing your diaphragm last. This is called diaphragmatic breathing.
Repeat 12 to 15 times until you feel grounded and connected to the present moment , taking in the environment around you, feelings, sounds, etc.
Improves focus and sense of balance. Supports a feeling of connection with the Earth and current environment.
Starting in mountain pose (above) begin to shift weight into left foot bending right knee to bring your right foot and ankle to your calf or inner thigh of left leg.
Gently focus eyes on the Earth three to five feet in front of you. If you have a hard time balancing, rest one or both hands against a wall. Encourage both hips to be in a neutral position, parallel to floor.
Bring palms to touch at your heart’s center interlacing middle, ring and pinkie fingers leaving index fingers and thumbs extended. Press left foot firmly into the ground.
Inhale and extend arms overhead lengthening up. Hold for eight to 10 diaphragmatic breaths (see mountain pose), then on an exhale return to mountain pose and repeat on opposite side.
This pose encourages a sense of adaptability to new locations and energizes the body.
From a standing position, step feet out about three-and-a-half to four feet apart, coming into a wide-leg stance with feet parallel.
Firmly press both feet down as you lift kneecaps up firming thighs.
Inhale, reach arms overhead, and then exhale releasing arms to a “T” shape parallel to the Earth.
Gently draw bellybutton up and back toward spine activating your core and helping to keep bottom rib cage from bowing forward.
Hold for eight to 10 diaphragmatic breaths, and then release arms and heel-toe feet together coming back into a comfortable standing position. (Heel-toe means to inch your heel in, then your toe, then your heel, and so on until your feet meet again, rather than harshly stepping out of the pose)
WIDE-LEGGED FORWARD BEND
This pose is restorative for fatigue, headache, anxiety and mild depression. It also helps to soothe the nervous system because it elongates the spine and re-balances the pressure of the meningeal system around the spinal cord and brain.
From star pose (see above for how to reenter into star pose), pivot toes slightly inward, firmly press the inside edges of feet down as you lift kneecaps up firming thighs.
Place hands on hip creases.
Inhale, lengthen spine and slightly lift chest, and then exhale and fold forward bringing hands to the Earth in line with toes. Lift sit bones up and lengthen spine down.
Relax neck and jaw, releasing head toward the Earth. Hold for five to eight diaphragmatic breaths.
To come out of the pose, draw hands to hips, press feet down and draw torso upright. Once upright, release hands and heel-toe feet together coming back into a comfortable standing position.
Triangle pose supports digestion and is therapeutic for stress and anxiety.
From star pose, pivot your right foot forward to face the front, short end of the mat.
While grounding down firmly through the outside edge of your back foot, begin to firm both thighs lifting kneecaps up. Reach arms to a “T” shape parallel to the floor, gazing over the right middle finger.
Inhale and reach right arm forward, lengthening torso over right leg. Exhale and release right hand to the Earth, ankle, shin or yoga block.
Draw the left shoulder down and back while extending left hand up parallel with the right. Right hand stretches down while left hand stretches up spreading chest, heart and lungs.
Focus on rotating the torso and belly organs toward the sky twisting from the solar plexus. Keep both thighs engaged and kneecaps lifted.
Hold for five to eight diaphragmatic breaths, and then on an inhale, press down with right foot and lift up as if the left hand is pulling you up.
Come back to star pose and repeat on opposite side.