By Valentina Komarova
Ayurvedic health counselor, yoga teacher and Thai bodywork practitioner
As we move into the holiday season, Ayurveda can offer some helpful tips on how to stay balanced during travel.
Travel – exciting as it is – can aggravate Vata dosha: our airy, mobile, volatile side. Unbalanced Vata might lead to insomnia, digestion issues, anxiety and general feeling of being spacey and ungrounded.
Travel also throws us off our daily routines and rituals with new schedule, new foods, new impressions, and a lot of change.
So would Ayurveda recommend us not to travel? Of course not! It is a wonderful way to discover yourself and expand your horizons. But Ayurveda suggests several ways to counterbalance the main issues of traveling.
On the plane
Stay hydrated: bring your own water bottle, and try to avoid stimulating and dehydrating beverages like coffee, alcohol, and soda.
Eat light: have a meal before leaving for the airport, and bring snacks (such as fruits, nuts or date/nut bars) with you. If possible, avoid airplane food - though it might get tricky on a longer flight. Pro travel tip for longer flights: most airlines offer vegetarian or kosher meals, and usually those are a healthier option. You have to contact the airline and order those in advance.
Control the temperature: you might get hot, then cold, then hot again - so dress in layers; bring a shawl and socks.
Curate your playlist: stack up on calming, warm, grounding and soothing music (whatever that means to you) to block out in-flight noises and help you relax.
Meditation and pranayama: since you have all this time to yourself, use it to sit still (if even for 5 minutes), or do several rounds of belly breath or alternate nostril breathing. Travel is filled with movement and often with rush and worry, so take some time to slow down and sit still. These practices will help you stay grounded, and might help prevent flight anxiety.
Do some in-flight yoga:
- Slow head rolls in half circle.
- Slowly turn your head left and right several times.
- Wrap your arms around you, trying to touch your shoulder blades with your fingertips. Then stretch your neck by pressing your ears towards your shoulders both left and right.
- Holding the armrests, gently twist.
- Hug your knees to your chest while sitting.
- Circle your feet and your wrists.
- Try to get up and walk or stand every hour, especially on a longer flight
- Do upward salutes and forward folds while waiting in line for the WC (hi, weird looks!)
Once you arrive
Go out: if you arrive during the day, go for a short brisk walk. Moving and being out in the sun will help your body to adjust to the new time zone.
Do self-massage with oil before going to bed: this practice is very calming and grounding and will help you sleep better.
Settle into a rhythm: see if you can adapt some of your daily practices for travel - a short round of sun salutations? Morning walk? Meditation? Breakfast alone? Whatever works for you to keep you steady and grounded. To help with jet lag, try to wake up and go to bed at the same time on your trip. To help your digestive system with the stress of travel, try to keep the meals regular and at the same time as much as possible.
Key points to keep in mind for Vata, Pitta and Kapha:
Vata: it’s so easy to get inspired by new places, unfamiliar sounds, colors and foods! But don’t get carried away; keep yourself grounded with routines and rituals. Take extra care of your digestion: it’s most vulnerable when you travel.
Pitta: don't overschedule! Allow some space and time for unexpected adventures, don’t try to see everything, take time to enjoy the moment and be in the flow.
Kapha: try to get some alone time: with all the excitement of travel you need to give your mind some time and space to process new impressions and emotions.
• Warm shawl and socks for the plane/car travel;
• Water bottle;
• Triphala (to help with digestion)
• Herbal teas: bring your favorite ones to keep you cozy and help with digestion (peppermint, chamomile, fennel are great for digestion);
• Abhyanga oil;
• Nasya (nose) oil (if your nose gets dry on the plane);
• Essential oils: peppermint to keep you fresh and use for headaches; any blend for immune support (like Four Thieves); lavender to rub on wrists before sleep; any citrus for when you need some energy and uplifting.