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Staying Healthy on Flights

Travelling across continents is no doubt a privilege that we can pride ourselves about in this day and time. Crossing hemispheres in just a couple of days, experiencing contrasting cultures, geographies and cuisines are exciting. But the thought of a long haul flight or even a short flight, crammed spaces, flight food, restricted movement and the uncomfortable after-effects of crossing time zones can be challenging. Besides drinking fluids, rotating your ankles and not drinking alcohol too much, knowing how to live a healthy lifestyle during a flight can be very useful, especially if you are a health conscious traveller. Travellers are often of two types, those who are indulgent and those who are avoidant. Some eat all that is served on the tray, watch as many movies, drink as much alcohol and others who fast and sleep and when awake say ‘no thanks’ to all that is offered. Knowing your ayurvedic traveller type can greatly help in making flights not only pleasurable but healthy.

Vata traveller; sensitive to food and can’t sit still person

If you are generally prone to food intolerances noticed as bloating after meals, constipation or tiredness following eating, it is perhaps an indication of a sensitive Vata type digestion. You may digest food perfectly well on the first flight and if a similar food on the next flight disturbs your energy levels and digestion, you certainly qualify to be a vata traveller. Alternately, if you feel peckish all the time on a flight, can’t wait to get as much snacks as you could politely ask for, this also indicates the cravings in a vata traveller. On top of this, if you feel anxious during take off and landing or worry about your luggage not arriving at the carousel and imagine everything that can go wrong, you are without a doubt ‘ a vata traveller’. Vata travellers often find it hard to sleep on a flight, get bored too quickly, change the channels too often, get excited or anxious before the trip and overly excited on arrival and totally exhausted days following the trip. If you share some of these characteristics while travelling, it is helpful to consider the following choices on a flight.

Vata needs to digest, rest and reset

To balance vata traveller’s nervous energy and exhaustion, arrive at the airport early, travel light, carry with you favourite music on your ipod. If you practice meditation or chant a mantra silently, do it every often. Eat all meals provided but leave out bread, croissant or other gluten containing food. If having bread, eliminate desserts or the other way round. This will ensure better digestion and will not stress a Vata digestive system. For every hour of the flight drink a glass of water. Keep the amount of fruit juices to a minimum, as sugars in them will hype vata’s nervous energy besides causing bloating. Avoid coffee if possible, try and carry a natural sweetener such as stevia or xylitol to reduce sugar spikes. Prefer red wine to white so as to reduce unwanted carbohydrates and to benefit from the antioxidants in red wine. Drink alcohol not more than a glass on a 12-hour flight. Eat, watch, listen or read, one at a time and do not try and do three things at once. Stretch frequently, breath deeply and wear an eye mask when trying to sleep on the flight. Try and add few drops of lavender essential oil or other calming pleasant aromas to a scarf and cover it around your neck and avoid direct exposure to air from the fans. Before wanting a snack count up to twenty and re-consider your decision, as you may not be hungry but just bored. When you arrive at your destination or on your stopover, have a warm shower or a massage. Do not sleep until it is night after landing, as it will worsen your jet lag. Drink plenty of warm water to keep the bowels regulated after you have reached your destination. A Vata traveller will benefit from a good sleep between two flights.

Pitta traveller; loves food but picky and ‘the impatient’ person

Do you prefer an isle seat so you can move when you wish and reach to the over-head locker without needing to bother others sitting next to you? If yes, you are perhaps a Pitta traveller. If you plan carefully what to take in your carry on luggage, quickly make a decision on the movies you are going to watch, plan your activities at stopovers before hand, eat carefully, drink water regularly, stretch and walk at calculated intervals, be productive on your lap top, you are definitely a pitta traveller. Although, it sounds like you are the perfect traveller, you tend to be readily affected by things around you. At times, you may suffer from acidity due to flight food, feel stressed or mostly irritated when there is delay in departures, get impatient if the person sitting next to you is frequently wanting to go to the rest room. A pitta traveller will quietly appreciate good service and openly criticise bad service. A pitta traveller occasionally can be overindulgent, especially when is upgraded. In such an instance a Pitta traveller finds it difficult to say ‘no’ to the lovely wines and the tempting desserts served in style. A pitta traveller loves being served and likes to be important and productive. In summary, a pitta traveller can come in all different shades; calculative pitta, greedy pitta, complaining pitta, criticising pitta, productive pitta or a perfectionist pitta.

Pitta needs to detox, work and play

If you happen to be a Pitta traveller, you need to carry spirulina tablets or chlorella tablets and take two tablets twice or thrice on a 12 hour flight to reduce any systemic acidity due to flight food. Pitta needs to keep the liver happy and therefore drink alcohol cautiously and replace two glasses of water each time you choose to drink a glass of wine. Limit alcohol intake to two glasses. Do not switch alcoholic drinks and stay with one type. If possible, carry a travel water filter that can alkalinise water. Eliminate dairy, use a natural sweetener for warm drinks and prefer menus with greens. Alternate working on your laptop with that of watching movies, as you need to work and play in order to stay balanced. Try and get a nap on the flight as you may get carried away when focussed on work or watching movies. Stretch regularly or even better, do some squats to fire up those muscles and to take your attention to your body from your intensely focussed mind. Do not hesitate to smile and talk to the person sitting next to you as it will cheer you up and relaxes the person next to you. When at a stopover, avoid any electronic usage and if possible go for a walk or receive a relaxing massage. Surrender to the environment and avoid comparisons and criticism when irritated. Meditate, if you like. Avoid drinking beer to quench your thirst or to relax during transits as they disturb your digestion, make you acidic. Instead, drink apple juice or pure water. When you arrive at your destination allow a day before jumping straight into work, meetings or other tasks. Pitta travellers must use the transit for enjoyment and not to cram more work on their computers.

Kapha traveller ; eats and/or sleeps, ‘fasts or feasts’ person

When on a plane, Kapha traveller likes the corner. If you feel comfortable in the widow seat and prefer to sit still as you don’t like getting up when a co-passenger wants to move around, this indicates a strong Kapha quality. If you don't mind missing meals and take the opportunity to sleep as long as the flight lasts, that can be an indication of a Kapha traveller in you. Alternately, if you love eating every meal on the flight and don’t complain and really appreciate the comfort of being taken care of, it indicates another type of a Kapha traveller. A kapha traveller enjoys watching the business around them, others moving about, the flight moving, but they themselves love the luxury of non-movement. If you don’t panic but trust that check-in, security check, departures, transfers, arrivals and baggage collection will all happen smoothly you might be a Kapha traveller (at least your state of mind).

Kapha needs to refrain, move and be motivated.

When you decide to sleep the entire flight, consider the possible fluid retention and lymphatic congestion that may have worse effects than the benefits of long rest on a flight. Move around, perform stretches and even do a few squats if you are a Kapha traveller. Carry green tea or ginger lemon tea bags and drink plenty of water and herbal teas to keep the digestion active, circulation going and lymph moving. Skip bread, pasta or other refined carbohydrates in one of your two meals and avoid the dessert at least once. You are better off minimising the amount of fruit juices as they contain too much sugar and are far too dampening on your digestive system. Try and choose an isle seat so you will have opportunities to move when co-passengers need to get to the rest room. When you visit the rest room, try and dry massage your legs and arms to keep the lymph active. Combine watching movies with some creative task such as journaling, planning your trip or budgeting. This will ensure a balance between intellectual engagement and mental relaxation. Try and allow for longer transit times so you can go for long walks within the airport or if you happen to have a stop over, do not crash into the bed or watch television. Instead perform some outdoor activity. Avoid snacking during the flight or on transits, as it will dampen your digestion and upset your sugar levels leaving you feeling dull and lethargic. When you arrive at your destination try and attend to tasks without leaving too many days of rest in between. If you are a fasting type Kapha person, make sure you eat at least one large meal during the flight and do not be fearful of eating because of concerns of weight gain. Eat wisely but more importantly plan physical activity before and straight after your travels.

On the whole, irrespective of your body type, avoid sugars, reduce alcohol and fruit juices, increase water intake, plan physical activity prior and post travels, take spirulina or cholorella tablets, drink ginger or green teas, perform self massage and most importantly reset your body clock through healthy eating and exercising. Travelling by flights is an art. It does not have to be taxing on the body and mind when you know how to support your body type.

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