Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Road Notes: Long-Haul Flights

We're coming up on the holiday season, and for many of us, that means: more travel, trips, and take-off!

I jotted these suggestions down during my last long-haul flight from Frankfurt to SFO, with you in mind - those readers who hit the road more than most, especially those who roam coast to coast or opt for foreign climes.

Here are a few helpful tips to bolster happiness levels during long-haul flights. Enjoy!

1. Get the Support You Need
Yesterday, I was chatting via Skype with a friend who is about to take off for a month's stay in Vienna (yes, I know - drool with envy). This is a good 14-hr+ intercontinental haul across the friendly skies - one I'm well familiar with. And so, looking out for her well-being, I instant messaged her:

"Got your support hose?"

To which she replied:

"What? Am I that old?"

I had to laugh. It had nothing to do with age - this suggestion of donning super-powered panty-hose pre-takeoff. For any flight over four hours (e.g. from west to east coasts, from England to India, from the U.S. to Europe, etc.), I suggest wearing support hose (men, you can call them 'manny hose,' or just opt for the special "flight sock" knee-highs.

The trip from California to New Delhi has me in the air for well over 24 hours. By the time I reach India, I have elephant legs - and it's downright scary. My swollen feet actually stretched out a pair of brand new sandals to the point that they never fit well again. Even after elevating my legs up the wall for an hour, my ankles were still bloated to the extreme, for over three days.

It's a vanity thing, yes, but it's also a safety issue - there is a syndrome called 'deep vein thrombosis' that one is made susceptible to. This is where flight attendants have learned: wear those support ("compression") hose.

I found a fabulous pair of black hose actually made by Lufthansa in a mall in Frankfurt. I'm sure there are several options at local drugstores or department stores. If you can't find the 'flight hose,' then just opt for a top-end pair of L'eggs support hose. Be sure they are snug enough to hold you in, but not too snug as it could get downright uncomfortable on that long haul trip to have an elastic band cutting into your waist.

After years of having freaky swollen feet and ankles on intercontinental flights, I've now found a solution. Much, much better.

2. Drink Up, Buttercup
Pre-hydrating is a trick I learned when I used to train for marathons: start chugging the water 24-48 hours BEFORE takeoff. For distance runners, this is important as one doesn't want to be faced with a full bladder and making pitstops mid-race, but you need all that hydration in your system - so you gotta get your drinkin' in the days before the event.

For long-distance flyers, downing several extra liters of agua the days before your flight can make a whole world of difference. Nowadays, anyway, you can't bring your own bottles of water on-board - so I'm constantly hitting up the stewards in the galley for more, more, more. The amount that they come around to offer in the little Dixie cups is not enough to sufficiently hydrate on a 9 hr+ haul. And there is nothing that helps more than proper hydration to get through jetlag, and prevent you from getting sick. (Bonus Tip: Drink a few Emergen-C packets or plunk a couple Airborne in water before and during the flight.)

3. Give Yourself a Hand
Be sure to take a small-sized tube (carry-on regulation size) of ultra-rich hand creme on-board with you. Every time you wash your hands on flight, use the creme. Might be helpful to moisturize your face more often, too.

4. Got Legs? Know How to Use Them
I'm only 5'9", but I need to stretch, and today's Economy Class cabins are "knees-to-chin" cattle-call, with the meal tray basically thwacking you in the face if the person in front of you decides to recline his or her chair all the way back. So, I take whatever measures I can to ensure I get more leg room.

First, I take an aisle seat - knees and tootsies have more play room. Aisle seats are also good because I'm constantly up and down to the loo (drinking all that water!) and don't want to climb over my neighbor. Getting up all the time isn't so bad, since it gives me more mobility and a chance to stretch my legs as I wander up and down the cabin. It's always interesting anyway - to see how everyone else is snoring and drooling away as we're over the northern Atlantic.

Second, try to get to the airport a bit early, and ask the folks at the check-in counter if the Exit Row is available. So long as you are over 18, speak English well, and are willing to help out in case of disaster, you qualify for at least another foot or two of leg room! Much better for sprawling out for a long doze.

A note of caution though: Be sure to ask the check-in folks if the Exit Row is directly in line with the TOILETS (they often are). Eek. Fourteen hours - that's a lot of toilet activity. The last time this happened, I had to contend with the smell of urine wafting by whenever a door opened a few feet away. Not only that, my oodles of beautiful dance-floor-large leg space in front of me ended up doubling as a queuing area for those waiting for the toilets. Ick.

5. It's Entertainment, Enjoy the Ride
I'm not one of those people who are strict with myself about any aspect of a long-haul flight experience. Sure, I try to get some sleep, but if the movies on offer are good, I watch 'em all. I don't care. I don't watch many movies or television at all in my daily life, so a 14-24 hr flight is a great time to get my fill! Gee, when else might I view a B-grade Queen Latifah or J. Lo flick, or opt for Horton Hears a Who!, right? And, heck, the latter was actually pretty darn sweet.

I also eat almost everything that's served up. So much of it is junk, I know (except for some great airlines like Air France where it would be beneath their very cultural etiquette to serve anything less than tres excellent pain et vin). But how often do I actually eat a Mars Bar (United Airlines) or indulge in a mini-flask of red? I'm paying for it, after all - and a whole heck of a lot - and I'm enjoying it.

I pretend I'm 'fine dining' even in coach - I'm a captive audience, I'm certainly not going anywhere anytime soon - so I get into 'being served,' knowing I'll make up for it later by eating uber-healthy and organic. But today, I drink the coffee, slurp the wine, and eat the strange confection on the side that they call carrot cake. Yes, I know all that's counter to my 'hydrate and support' suggestions. I never proclaimed perfection. And besides, I'm on holiday.

It's all part of the adventure. Remember the first air trips you took? Back when it was fun and they didn't strip search you before you boarded? Try to recapture a bit of that spirit. Treat yourself like someone special who's on vacation (because you are, remember?).

Have a good time. And while you're at it, see if you can actually make a United flight attendant laugh. These days, they could use it.

Like the 'Travel and Soul' online magazine? Consider leaving a tip in the writer's Tip Jar.
Your support ensures the articles, clips, news and Road Notes keep on coming!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Yoga, Travel, and Soul

Check out my Yoga page on the Travel and Soul magsite here, where you can also find articles and information about private teaching sessions.

I’m being guided to offer small group yoga and meditation retreats. Our retreat will focus on helping you establish a very simple practice that you can maintain in the comfort of your own home. Perfect for meditators, stay-at-home parents, beginners, or ‘restarts.’ The asana is based on hatha flow and yin yoga – a passive practice which opens up the energetic nadi (rivers) channels of the body-mind while physically lubricating the joints. The meditation is based on vipassana insight – sitting and observing – as well as inquiry. The underlying awareness is advaita (non-duality) which cannot be expressed in words – it is a knowing that arises in the heart and can be transmitted. If you already have a steady asana practice, this retreat will help you still the mind and go deeper within.

Interested? Let me know how many individuals would be participating. Also, I need to know what works best for your schedule: a three-day weekend, a two-day intensive, or a one-day retreat. Please inform me of the general dates you have available and if you have a location in mind. Thank you.


Your fearless explorer is – for a limited time! – back in the U.S.A.

It’s beautiful here in California. I’m so grateful for the sunshine, the fresh produce, the fresh air. I miss India – of course – but She is in my heart, always… It’s good to be a gypsy: one gets to fully employ the adage, “Wherever you go, there you are.”

Housesitter Available: I am available for long-term housesit, pet-sit, garden-sits. Please feel free to let others in your community know.


I’ve been translated! Sprechen Sie Deutsch? My recent interview “Revealing the Soul’s Intelligence,” with soul-psychotherapist Ursula Kirti Grimm, has been translated into German! For a fascinating discussion of non-dual therapy and healing, check out the article in German here: Entfaltung der seelischen Intelligenz

Click here to download the English PDF.
If you are in Europe, you may reach Kirti directly to discuss her individual work as well as her ongoing Soul Groups.

Om Shanti,

Please feel free to forward to interested parties.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Earth Yoga

When our energetic roots go deep enough, we can fly even higher.

As a chill-susceptible woman accustomed to tropical climes, I am thanking the gods and goddesses for a warmer-than-average Indian Summer on the west coast of California.

Bring the heat, I say. Dose me, sweet Sun, with vitamin D and stoke the inner fires now in preparation for the coming cold.

It’s time for Earth Yoga.

With Surya’s golden rays still dappling the grass, penetrating the bones deeply, it is time to set the asana mat aside while we can and get down and dirty - body direct on the ground - with our yoga. Find a patch of sunlight on a lawn – mid-morning or mid-afternoon is best – and send your energetic roots down deep into the earth for some real healing.

I’ve always preferred to practice asana in Nature, especially on the beach. A few days ago, I was touched again at the brilliance of outdoor yoga. This particular day, I needed to get grounded, and quick. I’d been staying in San Francisco – lovely, to be sure – but I’d forgotten one of the main reasons I’d left the City four years ago: electromagnetic frequencies.

When you’re in a city, the sheer congestion of people, electricity, computers, radio and wireless, microwave, satellites, and other waves penetrate our system – especially if we’re in a location where we’re surrounded by antennas and there are lots of hills or structures bouncing waves right back into your brain. If you’re a highly-sensitive person, like me, it’s enough to make you super-scrambled. It can be quite disorienting, even painfully so.

One morning, after I’d been in the city for a week, I felt my third eye – the brain’s frontal lobe – totally clog up. It was like my forehead was filled with zip-zap substance, which translated into confusion and electrical fog. I couldn’t think clearly, for one. Then, the thoughts that started to come into my awareness were not my own. God knows, really, whose thoughts they were, with so much maya-mind stuff cluttering up the airwaves.

Finally, I realized, I was NOT GROUNDED. Even with breath awareness and regular exercise, I was like a live wire again. Oh, I remember THIS feeling! Psychic clutter alert! Get me into NATURE - now!

I marched myself over to the nearest urban park – a beautiful patch of green at the top of a sweet knoll on the city’s sunnier side – and sat my rear right down, right on the ground. Deep breath. The smell of freshly-cut grass. A whiff of soil. The feel of the sun – quite strong that day – piercing my skin. The soul soaking it all in.

AHHHHHHH….I closed my eyes, and started to “run energy,” up and down the spine, until I could finally get a clear column flowing, like a conduit, from the earth and out through the crown, and back down again, through the spinal column, down through the root chakra, the tailbone – deep, deep into the earth.

After about ten minutes, I felt a release of congestion from the head as the energy flowed like a river again. I was a big ol’, psychic beacon at the top of the hill – transmitting, receiving; receiving, transmitting – no longer ‘gunked up,’ stuck in the head. Going down, going down...

Much better, I determined, as I sauntered over to the playground and watched some daycare kids having a field day whooping it up with their sweet selves. Good. More grounding. Kids are really grounded.

Next, I hiked further up the hill and came upon a long-haired guy playing fetch with two adorable golden retrievers. The sunlight-colored dogs were half-brothers, frolicking with abandon. I gave both pups a good belly scratch and they smile-panted and lost themselves in ecstasy rolling around on the grass. Good. Animals are also grounding.

Last, I found a baseball field that was spiffy-manicured, no dogs allowed and hence no surprising ‘presents’ to step on, with the perfect balance of sun and shade.

Aha! I’d found it – my earth yoga oasis! My outdoor studio du jour. Didn’t even think twice about not having a mat – I was goin’ for the green grass itself. I bounded over the pitcher’s mound to the outfield lawn, tore off the tennies and dug the tootsies into center field. Oh, yeah…that’s what I’m talkin’ about! Out through the tiny chakras that lie on each sole, the feet poured electrical excess into the earth, and my soul purred as I plunged into a simple self-practice.

Starting out with a few yin passive poses, I soared through a short series of Surya Namaskar. From plank position – board-flat back – I chataranga’d down to the ground. Then, I deliberately let my forehead ever-so-slightly graze the earth – Bhooma Devi, Mother Earth. As my nose burrowed into the sweet grass, I took a deep inhale in through the nose, filling my lungs with healing prana, prana, prana.

Swooshing to push myself into upward dog, smiling face to the sky. In the delicious downward dog, all four appendages – two hands, two feet – sunk into the dirt, sucking it up – like little prana suction cups.

Post sun salutation, picking leaves of grass from my knees, inspired by the redwood grove canopy, I lingered long in tree poses. I mimicked the wind as I balanced and swayed my way into Natarajasana – Shiva’s graceful dancer’s pose. I finished with a few minutes of meditation and a very loud Oooooooommmmmmm that got even the ravens squawking in harmony. Complete, I could have meditated right there in center field all day.

Now, the body was supple, sultry and sweaty; grass-stained, good and gritty.

Now, the grounded mind could be – unfettered and free, calm and crystalline.

Smiling from the inside out, I opened my eyes and gazed with gratitude at this amazing yoga center – no-frills and free – founded right there, on the spot called “Earth.”

Om Shanti

I am considering offering a five-day yoga and meditation intensive for beginners or 'starting agains' (approx. three hours per day, non-residential) between Christmas and New Year's, December 27-31, in Marin. Seems like a fantastic way to prepare the 'ground' for the New Year, a New Beginning. Very small, six students. Might you be interested? Please reply so I know there's 'buzz.' Thanks, and namaste.

Like what you read?
Let us know.
Click the Tip Jar to share a little bit o' green love!