Vacation is the best. Until it's over, that is, and everything catches up with you – the yummy but maybe-a-tad-too-rich foods, the day drinking, the hours knotted up in a plane criss-crossing time zones. No wonder we come home feeling worse than when we left!
The good news is that something as simple as a few basic yoga moves can make you feel so much better after your globe-trekking trip.
Just back from a whirlwind, six-time-zone, trans-Atlantic, three-day trip myself, I was thrilled to talk with Canyon Ranch fitness instructor Mona Glasgow (who just so happens to be a former flight attendant) for some tips on how yoga can help us recuperate from some of the biggest pitfalls of vacation.
Post-Vacation Problem #1: Jet lag
Let's start with every traveler's worst enemy: jet lag.
It's easier to ignore on vacation because you're so excited to be there, but wow does it hit once you're home. Your circadian rhythms are messed up, you're dehydrated from the plane, and in general you just feel like you're slogging your way through a fog.
Mona's answer (well, after sleep, of course): Get your circulation going with a super simple pose: legs up on the wall.
Yep, it's as easy as it sounds. Simply getting your blood flowing is invaluable after a long flight or when you're tired. Your limbs and blood are incredibly responsive to gravity, Mona says, so inverting in a pose like this is fantastic for getting going again. The first thing you want to do when you get home (or to your hotel while you're on the trip) is lie down, kick your feet up on the headboard, and just stay there for 10 minutes.
This pose is the "kindest, safest, inversion," Mona says, but for you advanced yogis, go for a headstand or handstand, or do a few sun salutations. It doesn't matter which variation; it's all about getting your blood flowing.
But be careful, Mona adds, when you come out of the inversion. "Don't just pop back up on your feet," she said. The sudden movement changes your blood pressure and you can get light-headed or even pass out. Instead, either rest on your side for a few breaths or just sit comfortably.
Post-Vacation Problem #2: Bloat
Next up, bloat.
Maybe you're like me and have only one diet rule on vacation — never say no — or maybe it's all those pressurization changes on the flight (ever noticed how your water bottle collapses and expands when you land? Think about what that's doing to your insides!) Either way, you just feel bloated and kind of miserable.
Yoga to the rescue!
"There's some charming poses like one we call wind release pose," Mona says. (Others call it happy baby or dead bug — it seems some Sanskrit names don't translate to English as well as others, she explains.)
It's dead simple: Lie flat on your back and pull both your knees into your chest. Hang out there for a few breaths.
To take things up a notch, Mona said, make it a supine twist. Lying on your back and keeping your chest open, gently rotate your lower body. Your right shoulder stays on the floor as the right hip goes up to ceiling, and then switch to your left side. "It's the same idea [as the first pose]," she says, "squeezing gas out." Keep your breath smooth and steady, Mona said, holding each move for five breaths or so, and go once or twice to each side.
Also, to help yourself avoid bloat to begin with, you can skip alcohol and carbonated sodas on the plane.
Post-Vacation Problem #3: Hangover
And now for the dreaded hangover.
It was all fun and games while the sangria was flowing, but now your head is pounding and your stomach is roiling.
Mona couldn't help herself: "As a yogi, our first thing would be no harm to self," she chides. So, of course not overdoing it would be the wisest route. But once the damage is done, she says, you can take a restorative pose with a supported back bend.
For this you'll take a bolster (a couple lengthwise bed pillows will do) and lie down with your back supported. Bring the soles of your feet together and let your knees drop out wide. Now just breathe easy. Opening up your diaphragm and oxygenating your red blood cells this way will help, albeit only slightly. In this particular situation, as with pretty much all maladies, hydration is your best friend.
Mona left me with this: Whether you're in flight, at your destination, or back home, remember to breathe through your nose, not your mouth. The white blood cells are fighters, she explained, so by breathing in and out activating those, you have a better chance of staying healthy for your entire trip.