Whether your trip is a couple of days, a couple of weeks, or a couple of months, travel does a number on both your energy and your body. It often takes your mind and body longer to “arrive” at your destination, which leads to jet lag. Your energy shifts, your rhythm is off, and your body's fatigued.
Yoga can help. You don’t have to dive in full force but there are a few easy poses you can do almost anywhere to help ease some common symptoms of jet lag and help you to feel fresh, healthy, and ready to explore your destination. You can do these poses in a hotel room, during a long layover at the airport, or even at a local park. No mat required.
Sukhasana (Comfortable Seated Pose)
Why Sukhasana? Give yourself a break. Sukhasana is a gentle pose that allows you to take a moment of silence to get acquainted with your new environment. When traveling, you accumulate air and movement in the body and mind. This pose helps you to feel rooted and grounded, so you can help acclimate your body to its new surroundings. This pose helps to calm the mind, strengthen your back, and gently open your hips, which often feel tight after a long day of travel.
How to do it: Sit comfortably with both sit bones rooted into the ground. Cross your legs at your shins. Root your sit bones into the earth and draw the crown of your head to the sky to maintain a straight spine. Relax your shoulder blades down your back. Gently place your hands on your thighs either palms up to open and receive energy or palms down to ground and center inward. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
Variation: If your hips feel tight and your knees are higher than your waist, sit on a folded blanket or towel. You can also do this pose sitting against a wall for back support.
Supine Thread-the-Needle Pose
Why Supine Thread-the-Needle pose? After sitting on a plane, in a train, or in a car for a long period of time, your hips will most likely feel tight and stiff. This pose helps you to open your hips and release the tension that often builds up in that area after a long day of travel.
How to do it: Lie on your back with both of your legs extended straight. Take a deep breath and bend your right knee, placing your foot flat on the ground with your heel about six inches away from your sit bone. Take the left knee and draw it into your chest. Open the left knee and place your left ankle on the thigh of your right leg. Be sure to keep your left foot flexed so that your toes extend toward your left knee. Thread your left arm through your legs and take your right arm to the outside of your right thigh. Interlace your hands behind your right thigh and gently draw your right knee in toward your chest. You will feel a gentle opening stretch in your left hip. After a few moments of deep breathing in this pose, release your grip and extend both legs. Notice if you feel a difference between your two hips. Switch sides and repeat the steps for opening the right hip.
Variation: The seated version can be done just about anywhere. Try this variation halfway through your plane, train, or car ride, or even in that long rental car line or the baggage claim area while waiting for your luggage. Your hips will thank you and your first day of exploring your destination will be more enjoyable.
Find a comfortable seat in a chair with both feet firmly planted on the ground. Draw your left knee into your chest. Gently place your left ankle on top of your right thigh. Keep your left toes flexed so that your toes extend toward your left knee. For a more intense stretch, gently place one hand on your ankle and the other hand on your lower thigh and begin to extend your chest forward. After a few moments of deep breathing in this pose, release your left foot to the ground. Notice if you feel a difference between your two hips. Switch sides and repeat the steps for opening the right hip.
Supta Matsyendrasana (Supine Spinal Twist)
Why Supta Matsyendrasana? Twists are cleansing for the body and help foster the natural detoxification process. Twists help improve digestion and act as a natural remedy for digestive issues which are commonly caused by jet lag. When you twist, you stimulate your digestive system and allow fresh blood, oxygen, and nutrients to flow back into your organs. Maintaining a healthy and functional digestive system during travel is essential for keeping your body feeling fresh and rejuvenated. Twists can also relieve lower back pain, which is a common symptom of sitting for extended periods of time during long travel days.
How to do it: Lie down on your back with your legs extended straight. Open your arms perpendicular to your body so your body makes an uppercase “T.” Draw your right knee into your chest; then gently draw your right knee over your body and release it down on the left side of your body. Gently turn your head to the right. Ensure both shoulders still root into the ground. Hold for a few deep breaths. Repeat on the left side.
Variation: If your shoulders feel tight and it’s difficult to rest the bent knee comfortably on the ground, place a pillow or a blanket under your bent knee.
Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall)
Why Viparita Karani? This gentle inversion is rejuvenating for the entire body and for the mind. Legs Up the Wall lets the body fully relax while calming the nervous system and improving circulation. This pose will also help relieve both physical and mental stress, and can help alleviate headaches, boost energy, relieve lower-back pain, and allow your body to naturally drain stagnant fluid that may build up after sitting for long periods of time.
How to do it: Sit upright against a wall with one hip touching the wall. Slowly roll down onto your back and let your legs rotate up and rest against the wall. You may need to scoot your body closer or further away from the wall in order to find a comfortable position. Rest your arms out to the sides of your body or gently place one palm on your belly and one on your heart. Once you’re comfortable, close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and completely surrender your body by releasing all tension you may be holding onto from the tips of your toes to the crown of your head.
Variation: Place a blanket or a pillow underneath the pelvis and/or a pillow underneath your head for additional support.
Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation)
Why Surya Namaskar? After sitting for an extended period of time, your body will crave movement. This series of movements will help increase circulation throughout the entire body and will help lengthen and strengthen the front, back, and sides of the body. Sun Salutations are also a great way to wake up the body, especially if your internal clock is off after traveling to a different time zone. Most importantly, Sun Salutations help you to fully connect your mind, body, and spirit.
How to do it:
Variation: You can also practice Sun Salutations in a chair.
The best part about yoga is you can bring your practice with you wherever you go. Before you dive into your new environment, take a few minutes to ease the effects of jet lag and energize your mind and body. No matter how far or how long you travel, be sure to feel your best during every step of the journey.