How to survive long haul flights and short haul flights

by Kseniia

Let’s admit it – nothing excites us more than an upcoming trip to a dream destination (well, unless it’s a day of free unlimited ice-cream at Giapo). Though the further this dream destination is, the more difficult it might be to survive what comes before – a very long, most probably overnight flight. You need to somehow make yourself comfortable on a seat that in a few hours time reminds more of a torture machine than a comfy bed, stay hydrated, stretch your legs, jump your way through sleeping neighbours to the toilets and keep yourself entertained even after you’ve watched all the movies available on board. Who else has all the tips and tricks for surviving nightmare also known as a long haul flight, if not the avid yogis who manage to maintain perfect harmony and balance in their bodies no matter what? So, I’ve asked Justine Hamill and Jase Te Patu, owners of Awhi Yoga and Wellbeing studio in Wellington, for their personal advice on how to improve your next long haul and short haul flights.

How to survive long haul flights (by Justine Hamill)

Mother-of-three Justine knows a thing or two about long haul flights – she explored South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, Pacific islands and Scandinavia. Not to mention her former position in Air New Zealand! Justine teaches yoga for more than eight years now. She also has Diploma in Psychology and Diploma in Nutrition. Obviously, this is a person who’s advice you don’t want to miss!

1. Avoid salty & processed foods, alcohol and anything dehydrating 1-2 days prior the flight, so that your body is in an optimum state to travel.  Eat more easily digestible whole foods such as fruits, veggies, nuts & essential fats (like avocado). After all, it’s not only what we do on the flight itself but how we prepare and treat the body over a longer time frame that pays off!

2.  PRE-hydrating is key. I always drink at least 2 litres of water before and then top up regularly during the flight. By hydrating your body you keep the lymphatic system moving while having limited mobility in the cabin.

3. Hold the alcohol! Many people like to kick off their time on a plane with a drink but consider that our bodies prefer 40-70% humidity in the air and in cabin it drops to 20%! This means our bodies literally dry out, eyes get dry (remove contacts!), throat gets dry and we are more prone to infections. Alcohol dehydrates, forms the acid in the body and depletes nutrients. It also disrupts our sleep cycles and brain patterns, making it harder for that mid flight nap to be a quality one and ease up the transition to a new time zone.

4. Travelling with children.  I have 3 kids and have been travelling with them long & short haul since the youngest twins were 1. Our first trip was to Argentina – a very old Pan Am aircraft with NO inflight technology or entertainment! Make sure the kids are well slept and fed/hydrated the entire week leading up to travel. Talk to them about what is going to happen – at the airport, on the flight, what the toilets are like, how long it will take etc. Kids love to know what is coming up next as it makes them feel secure and safe, so when it comes to an actual flight, the anxiety levels will be more managable and things will flow smoothly. Take books, paper & pencils for drawing and overall be organised: calm & grounded mum = calm & grounded children.

5. If you’re afraid to fly. One of my twin boys is very fearful of flying (he must have got that from me) but we don’t let that stop us! Leading up to our travel, we always discuss how we are feeling about the flight, any fears or preconceptions about whether or not it’s going to be bumpy and what techniques we are going to use to calm our nerves if turbulence and anxiety arise. We talk through how planes work and the practicalities of how safe flying actually is. If you’re a nervous flyer though, you know that practical knowledge doesn’t always help! So the number one technique we use together on take off especially is a Yogic Breathing technique called Nadi Shodhana – Nadi meaning “flow” and Shodhana meaning “purification”. In laymans terms we call this “Alternative Nostril Breathing”.  

How to perform Alternative Nostril Breathing:

  1. Simply place fore finger & middle finger at brow centre  
  2. Close right nostril with thumb & breath in through left nostril slowly
  3. Release thumb & close left nostril with ring finger – breath out right nostril
  4. Breath in through right nostril – switch fingers – breath out left nostril
  5. Repeat steps 1-4 for 9 rounds or longer

How to survive short haul flights (by Jase Te Patu)

While this one might seem easier, there are still some challenges you might face even on a short flight. One of them being those million things you most probably have to do immediately after landing, because short haul flights are often made for business purposes. To land ready for a long day, the most important thing according to Jase Te Patu is ‘to keep energy, or ‘chi’, flowing. And he is happy to explain how to do that!

1. Make sure you stay hydrated. High altitude travelling dehydrates the body, so drinking alcohol or coffee will exacerbate that. Select water or low sugar juice as the attendant comes around.

2. Get up and walk around the cabin to get the blood flowing through your body and to lubricate the joints.

3. Stretching the arms above the head on an inhale and bowing forward over your legs with knees bent will increase mobility through the spine. Nice bonus – it will also create blood flow to the brain, so you’ll arrive energised and ready to nail that important meeting you flew to another city for.

4. Before landing, give yourself at least five minutes of mindful breath. Count to 5 as you inhale and to 5 as you breathe out. Mini meditation if you will 🙂 This will leave you clear in your mind but also relaxed and calm to get things done efficiently for your day!


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