Tips for long flights

As I’ve recently boarded a few long flights, here I share some tips to maintain good health when travelling by air, following the principles of Ayurveda.

The dosha most affected by air travel is the vata dosha. Why? The characteristics of vata dosha are light, dry, mobile, and cold, and these are all we experience on an airplane. So we can try and balance these out before, during and after the flight, by having a routine that aims to stimulate the opposite qualities – heavy, moist, grounded, and warm. It works pretty well.

Warm oil massage – For a few days before the flight, and particularly right before you head to the airport and once you get in the destination, apply some warm sesame oil to the body. Sesame oil has warm and moist qualities. I have put some sesame oil in a small travel bottle to take with me in my carry-on baggage, so I can also apply the oil to my body when I get to the destination when I travel (and to nose and ears, as below). Don’t forget to take a shower after every time you apply!

Sesame oil in a travel bottle

Drink warm water – Make sure you drink lots of warm water during the flight. It will help keep the body hydrated (moist), and warm. You can ask the cabin crew to mix hot and cold water.

Oil to ears and nose – The air is so dry on an airplane cabin due to very low humidity that our nostrils and ears might feel it. I usually apply a little of sesame oil to my ears and nostrils once I’m onboard. If the flight is too long and the air is too dry, I might need to re-apply towards the end of the flight.

Cold water to eyes – Similar to ears and nose, our eyes may dry during long flights, not only because of the dry air/low humidity, but also because we have a screen right in front of us and we fixate our gaze on it, not blinking as much as we should. So take a break from the screen once in a while and go to the bathroom to rinse your eyes with cold water to keep them moist.

Squat – As we remain seated for a long period when we’re travelling by air, and as vata is aggravated, normal bowel movements can be affected. Squatting helps getting the bowels to move, and widens the anorectal angle. You can go to the rear of the airplane where the toilets are and squat there for a few minutes at a time. I usually take my book and read it while in the squatting position (on one of the flights, a flight attendant didn’t like it much that I was just squatting at the back of the airplane and asked me to go back to my seat. I told her I needed to be in that position for a while, also because I’m very tall and it’s super uncomfortable for me – my hips and legs – to remain seated all the time – as a result, I was upgraded to an extra legroom seat!)

Not on an airplane but you get the idea!

Eat when hungry – When we’re on board of an airplane, we’re offered food at the times scheduled by the airline. But ask yourself when they’re about to serve your meal – Am I really hungry? Remember bowel movements can be affected, so you don’t want to keep stuffing up your body if nothing is coming out of it. Heavy can balance the light in vata, but too heavy (i.e., too much food) might be too much for your digestion. If you decide to skip a meal when it’s served, it’s ok – you can always later ask the crew for a meal or snack. On my last flight, my first meal wasn’t vegetarian as I had requested. So I didn’t eat (wasn’t fully hungry anyway). But later, when I was hungry, I asked a crew member if they had a snack because I hadn’t had my meal – they offered to see if there was any meal left from dinner.

Avoid alcohol & caffeinated drinks – It can be tempted to ask for a glass of wine or a cup of coffee when the cabin crew passes by the aisle offering drinks. But both alcohol and caffeinated drinks (coffee, some tea, cola, etc.) promote dehydration. And all we want is to avoid that while we travel by air. Best is to keep drinking water!

The good thing about some of these tips above is that they keep you moving during the flight (as you stand up to go to the bathroom to apply your oils, or to rinse your eyes, or to find a spot to squat…), improving circulation, which is also good for your health.

Safe travels everyone 🙂 especially my friends who are going on special journeys this month and early January.

Disclaimer: I’m not an Ayurvedic doctor or practitioner, however I’ve been studying Ayurveda for some time now. These tips are not meant to replace medical advice in case you suffer or not from any condition, and I don’t guarantee that they’ll work for everyone – best is to know your body and what it needs, but if you feel that your body is affected by air travel, these tips might help.