Guest post by Mado
There’s no doubt about it, traveling is stressful! Between sitting in cramped spaces for long periods of time and the uncertainty of being in unfamiliar places, both body and mind are affected.
The longer and farther you travel, the more stressful your trip is likely to be. Time zone changes, new languages, and different customs will all add to the stress load on your body and your mind.
When we experience stress (whether mental or physical), our bodies have less capacity to fight illness and our mental clarity is also threatened.
Taking measures to reduce stress will allow your brain to function better, your body to fight off unfamiliar bacteria, and your heart to more fully enjoy your trip. With that in mind, here are my top tips for reducing the impact of the stresses of travel.
It’s easy to forget to drink water when we are dealing with the many details of our trip or consuming lots of caffeine to compensate for jet-lag. However, your body will function better when you are properly hydrated and jet-lag will affect you less.
When traveling to third world countries, clean water is obviously a consideration. Buying bottled water is definitely worth the cost in order to stay hydrated & healthy.
Another option if you are not sure about the availability of bottled water when you are going is to bring a small filter with you. Investing in a high quality filter is a good idea when you consider how much you could save on bottled water.
Traveling usually involves a lot of ‘hurry up & wait’, so take advantage of the waiting part for a quick movement break. Walking lunges are one of my favorite travel exercises as they work the parts of our body that are the most stagnant when we sit.
If you are physically fit enough to easily kick up into a handstand; that is a great instant energy refresher. Even some simple arm swings and circles will help your circulation and keep your neck & shoulders happier.
Getting enough rest is an often overlooked key to enjoying your travel.
If you sleep easily, then take advantage of that & nap while you travel. If you are a light sleeper, but have a long flight, don’t be afraid to take a sleeping pill even if you usually avoid them.
Keep in mind any time differences when choosing when to sleep.
The best itinerary includes arrival in the early evening so that you can wind down and then get a full night’s sleep. If you arrive in the middle of the night having slept on your trip, you may have a hard time falling asleep.
If this is the case, avoid the sleep during the trip and save the sleeping pill for when you arrive. On the other hand, if you arrive in the morning or afternoon the trick is to stay awake until bed-time.
Do your best to not succumb to the temptation of sleeping ‘just for a bit’ in the afternoon. That will likely make your jet lag take longer to recover from.
If you do decide you need a nap choose either 20 or 90 minutes and stick to it. 20 minutes doesn’t get you into the deeper cycles of sleep so you won’t be groggy afterwards and tempted to sleep longer.
90 minutes is a full sleep cycle, so you will also awake to a more alert state and be capable of better functioning.
Not every trip will include access to a masseuse – and even if it does, that masseuse might not be in the budget. The good news is that you can take charge of your own massage by using a simple device called a therapy ball.
For home use, a variety of sizes and densities will perform different functions, but for traveling a medium size and density will be the most versatile. Tennis balls can be used in a pinch, but I prefer a solid ball such as a pinky hi bounce ball if you can find them (or have the time to order them online.)
I recommend bringing two of the same size therapy balls with you wrapped up in a sock.
Using these therapy balls either together or separately you can improve blood flow and elasticity to your muscles and relieve some of the pain caused by trigger points. Trigger points are places where muscle fibers have gotten stuck in the “on” or tensed up position.
They can remain engaged for years and often end up causing pain both in the area of the trigger point or even in other places (known as referred pain).
The best thing is that you can experience a lot of benefit self-massage with therapy balls without a lot of knowledge or training. Simply experiment on yourself and stick with what feels good.
A great place to start is to lie on the floor and place one ball on either side of your spine up near the top. The gap between the two balls will make space for your spinous processes (the pointy bones in your spine) and you can slowly roll the balls up and down your spine for a delicious massage that will feel like a rejuvenation for your neck & shoulders.
Once you get down below your ribs to your low back, you will probably need to elevate your feet on a low box or lift your hips to get enough pressure.
If the pressure lying on your back feels like too much, you can do the same thing with your back against the wall, though you will probably want to use just one ball at a time.
So there you have my top travel tips – what are yours?
When she’s not teaching stiff people how to bend, Mado loves to grow vegetables, put large amounts of weight over her head, and dance to just about anything with a good beat. She’s looking forward to partnering with Amazon Andes Sky for a Active Yoga Adventure in Ecuador, January 2014. For more of her writing check out http://www.teachingyoga.net and http://www.trueselfyoga.com