By Andrea Romano
October 05, 2019
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Ask any world weary traveler and they’ll tell you: Jet lag is probably the worst part of taking a long haul flight.

And if you’re the type of traveler who loves to globetrot, you’ve probably taken several long-haul flights in your lifetime and had countless experiences feeling exhausted, sore, and cranky afterwards. Not only can jet lag be a big downer for your mood, it can also be a big time suck when you finally land in your destination.

Lots of people try to find different ways to cure their jet lag, from ingesting lots of caffeine, to trying to “trick” their body by sleeping on the plane or taking a variety of vitamins or supplements to try to boost their energy. Don’t get us wrong, some methods work, but some methods are pretty much modern snake oil.

One very good method for self-care and fighting jet lag is actually yoga. Getting exercise can soothe the muscles and boost your energy naturally (without extra chemicals), which is why most travelers are hitting the mats after flights, and many airports are offering space for yoga practitioners to get their downward dog on either before or after boarding.

It probably comes as no surprise that one traveler who is on that yoga bandwagon is the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle. Earlier in September, Markle came to New York City for the U.S. Open. As soon as she arrived in the States, according to People, Markle opted to join a hot yoga class at Modo Yoga.

“She has been going to Modo Yoga for many years and tries to do so whenever she is in New York,” a source told People. “It was the perfect remedy for jet lag.” According to the magazine, Markle is well-known for using hot yoga as a travel fatigue remedy.

Jessica Fuller, owner of The Hot Yoga Spot, which has locations in northern New York including Albany, Saratoga, and Clifton Park, agrees that hot yoga is perfect for any tired traveler. Travel + Leisure spoke to Fuller about how to use this practice for your travel self-care routine.

What is hot yoga?

If you’re a yoga newbie or just unsure what the difference between your everyday vinyasa flow and hot yoga is, the answer is all in the name. The only difference between yoga and hot yoga is the temperature of the room. According to Fuller, the room is generally heated between 90 and 108 degrees Fahrenheit.

What are the benefits of hot yoga?

Because of the warmer temperature, your muscles are getting a better workout and stretch, which can be invaluable after an international trip. “The heat helps to increase elasticity and flexibility in your body which allows you to stretch more deeply and see faster improvements in mobility with regular practice,” said Fuller.

For every degree the room is set over 70, your heart also beats one extra beat per minute, Fuller added. So, at a minimum, your heart would beat an extra 20 beats per minute in a room set at 90 degrees versus one set at 70 degrees. Fuller says that this can help burn calories as well as provide a satisfying workout for people who prefer to work up a sweat.

But beyond the work out aspect, hot yoga offers an excellent mind-body experience that is both relaxing as it is stimulating. “Many people enjoy the heat and love being outside on a warm day while relaxing in the sun,” Fuller said. “Hot yoga mimics this feeling.”

How does hot yoga help a traveler?

When you’re a busy traveler, this mind-and-body rejuvenation can be a lifesaver when you don’t have time to truly recover with sleep after a long flight. “Long flights sitting in one position for a long time and being confined to a small space are a physical and mental strain for many,” said Fuller. “This is difficult on the body and leads to pain, stiffness and discomfort. Hot yoga helps to stretch and lengthen muscles again. Often just one class can realign and reset to pre-flight mobility.”

In addition, practicing hot yoga can help relieve stress and anxiety, which can be heightened during travel days. “A good hot yoga class should shift mental, emotional and physical wellness, so taking a class after flying will result in an all-around reset,” Fuller said.

How to practice hot yoga on the go

If you’re constantly on the move, spending a little time to re-balance yourself and let go of your stress can be essential. Fuller suggests trying to find yoga studios in your destination city or even at your airport either before or after your flight. 

Hotels generally offer gyms or fitness rooms where you can enjoy a yoga session, or you can even opt to try doing a practice in your room or in a local park or outdoor space. You might even be able to find an outdoor class near you.

“Consider downloading a favorite video or looking up a few sequences that fit your level of experience ahead of traveling,” Fuller said. “Check in with your body for a few moments to see where you are carrying stress and which areas of the body require more attention. Then you can start to move and create space which will help to alleviate tension and promote a feeling of wellness.”

Doing yoga in-flight is a bit more tricky, and we do not recommend starting your flow in the middle of the aisles. However, there are some small things you can do to keep your yoga practice up while you’re in the air too.

The easiest option, of course, is to try meditation. “The beauty of meditation is that it can be done absolutely anywhere — a hotel room, airport lounge, train, cab,” said Fuller. “A mantra and touchstone, breathing exercises, listening to a guided meditation or journaling are simple ways to find calm and reduce stress.” There are even apps out there like Headspace and Calm that can help you out if you’re not sure where to begin.

And if you are prone to aches and pains during a long haul flight, there are a few little yoga poses you can try while sitting in your seat, according to Fuller. Though, she stresses that you should keep your seatbelt on.

“Certain chair yoga poses would be perfect to enjoy during a flight and can be done safely without impacting the other people on board,” said Fuller. “These usually include gentle stretches for the upper body as well as the hips, hamstrings and lower body. Gentle neck and shoulder rolls, wrist and ankle stretches and seated cat/cow are simple movements to increase comfortability while flying.”

Getting up and walking the length of the plane once or twice every few hours (when permitted) is also perfectly fine, and recommended by many health professionals to help combat pain and even serious problems like deep vein thrombosis.

Fuller herself says that she stays comfortable on a long flight thanks to the help of a good book and being active before her flight. “The plane ride itself is very sedentary so I try to get as much activity as I can before and after so I feel great at the end of the day,” she said.

Next time you’re looking to combat jet lag, take these tips to heart so you can feel refreshed and ready to enjoy your trip to the fullest.

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