How to stay healthy on a long-haul trip

If you're a seasoned traveller based in Australia, you'll probably have discovered first hand how long journeys can take their toll on our bodies and minds. Long-haul flights, road trips and all-day train rides force us to sit cramped in a small seat for hours at a time. Luckily, Australia's best-known yoga and wellness guru, Charlotte Dodson, is on hand with pre-, in- and post-transit tips to make your next trip a healthier one.

Staying mindful on the move

Staying mindful on the move

Travelling is a great opportunity to engage in mindfulness, a mind-body ‘active meditation’ method. Mindfulness works by bringing your awareness to your thoughts, breath, surroundings and the feelings in your body in a non-judgmental and relaxing way. Here are some simple techniques to try:

  1. Pay attention: while you’re in departures getting ready for your flight, or in transit from one place to the next, allow your thinking to pause. Instead focus on your breathing and soak in everything occurring around you. Notice how you’re reacting to the situation without judgment or over-analysis.
  2. Just breathe: by consciously and slowly breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth, you’re giving your nerves a rest and allowing your physiological systems to take a step back from your mind chatter. A lavender-scented sachet can also help to soothe the senses, and a peppermint lozenge may help to ease any inner tension.
  3. Focus on one thing at a time: having a travel itinerary full of pre-planned activities can leave you feeling overwhelmed by everything on your “to do” list. While it’s fine to have an outline of your day, your current item should always have your full attention and remember to take things at a deliberate and easy-going pace.

Fuel to keep you going

Fuel to keep you going

It can be a tough task to avoid unhealthy foods at the best of times, but when you’re rushing to and from airports, sitting on planes or waiting for connecting flights, making healthy food choices can be a challenge.

Preparing snacks for your carry-on in advance can help. Try fruit and nut combinations in small reusable containers: cashews and cranberries, almonds and raisins, macadamias and mangoes – the combinations are endless. Fresh fruit like bananas, oranges, apples or berries are also helpful energy pick-me-ups. It’s good to balance out fruit snacks with veggie combo packs – simply slice and store carrots, celery sticks and broccoli heads in reusable containers.

Staying mobile on the go

Staying mobile on the go

The demands we put on our mind and body during a long-distance journey can lead to discomfort. If you’re flying long-haul, get up and walk around the plane every two hours to keep your circulation flowing and avoid blood clots. Drink plenty of water on the flight, too – try to have one to two glasses of water (or around 300ml) for every hour in the plane.

One of the most important tools at your disposal is the basic art of stretching. Try this easy schedule of in-transit stretches and relaxation practices on a regular basis to help your circulation and general wellbeing.

Every hour:

  • Drink a glass of water
  • Stretch fingers and toes
  • Bend forward over the legs
  • Rotate head and shoulders
  • Massage hands and fingers with opposite hand
  • Roll shoulders down and back
  • Do a gentle torso twist each side
  • Place palms over eyes
  • Breathe deeply into belly
  • Rub earlobes with fingers

Every two hours:

  • Walk around the cabin
  • Shake out legs and arms
  • Stretch legs straight out
  • Flex the toes and release
  • Tilt head forward gently
  • Shrug shoulders, slowly release
  • Rotate head in circular motion
  • Massage head with fingertips
  • Sit up tall, spine upright
  • Take a few deep exhales
  • Twist the torso to stretch the back
  • Drop chin, yawn widely
  • Relax the facial muscles
  • Clench buttocks a few times
  • Splash water on the face

Continue on arrival

As soon as you arrive at your destination, it’s time to relax, rest and recover. Adjust your body clock to the new time straight away and, if possible, try and get some exercise in fresh air when you land.

After flying, we want to re-lengthen the spine, create more openness in our hips (they can become very tight from sitting in a confined space) and help fight jet lag and general tiredness from travelling. As a passionate advocate for the many benefits of yoga, I think this stage of the journey a great opportunity for travellers to try a series of yoga-based exercises.

Lying twist

This pose helps to detoxify our internal organs and relieve lower back pain. Lie on your back with knees hugged to the chest. Place your arms out to the sides, pressing firmly through the shoulders. As you exhale, lower the knees to the right. Keep your head centred or gaze left. Hold for one to two minutes. Engage the abdominals to bring knees to centre. Repeat on the other side.

Cat-cow stretches

Combine the Cat and Cow poses to gently stretch your neck and spine after a long flight. Balance on all fours on a yoga mat or carpeted floor, if you have access to one. Your knees should be directly under your hips, while your wrists should be directly under your shoulders. Keep your head in a neutral position. On an inhale, lift your bottom and chest toward the ceiling, while letting your belly drop toward the floor – this is the Cow pose (pictured, above left). On an exhale, round your spine up toward the ceiling, while releasing your chest, head and bottom toward the ground ­– this is the Cat pose (pictured, above right). Repeat the sequence five to 10 times.

Legs up the wall

This pose stretches hamstrings, drains fluid build-up from the feet and ankles, and improves circulation. It’s a great pose for reversing the effects of flying. Sit sideways with your hips touching a wall and swing your legs up the wall, lying flat on your back. Hold for five to 10 minutes. If you only have 10 minutes to do yoga, this is the best pose to try.

Setting out to explore the world should never come at the expense of your health or wellbeing. Trying some of these essential FLYWELL-inspired protocols will help make sure your journey is just as good as the destination.

Charlotte Dodson is celebrity yoga instructor and Instagram influencer whose clients range from Hollywood stars to royalty. She created FLYWELL: an interactive and comprehensive wellness inflight programme, which allows business professionals and holiday travellers to stay comfortable during their flight and feel refreshed upon arrival.

Photographs by Chris Prestidge

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