Wondering how to stay balanced while you travel? I’ve been on three trips to India, and those are long flights. Usually the trip, door to door, takes 35-40 hours. During my travels, it's incredibly helpful to use Ayurveda to stay balanced, and, more importantly, prevent sickness!
It's helpful to refer to the elements when understanding travel from the Ayurvedic perspective. The five elements are Ether, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. While traveling, the elements of Ether and Air are dominant. Therefore, we want to consider Vata dosha, as it is comprised of Ether and Air elements. Some of the gunas, or qualities, of Vata are mobile, dry, light, cold, rough, and subtle.
According to Ayurveda, we'll use the principle of “like increases like,” meaning when you have a certain quality, adding more of that quality will increase its effect on the body and mind. So, we always treat a dominant quality with its opposite. As an example, if you are feeling very hot, you would apply the opposite and eat cooling foods.
Ok, so knowing the main elements involved, their gunas, and the principle of “like increases like,” it's now easier to intuit what foods and practices might be most helpful for travel.
Here are my top 5:
- Nasya Oil
Since air is dry, particularly air in planes, it's super helpful to keep the nasal passages lubricated. For me, I find this practice not only calming to my mind and my breathing (nasya oil is filled with herbs that clear the nasal passages), but it also creates a protective layer in the nasal passages to protect us from catching a cold from another passenger.
- Sip hot water throughout your flight
Drinking hot water addresses several of the gunas associated with air; dry, cold, and light. Drinking hot water helps to deeply hydrate and nourish the tissues of our body. Drinking water is good, but hot water, in particular, penetrates deeper into the body tissues. Hot water can help keep us hydrated, warm, and grounded to counteract the qualities of dry, cold, and light. Bring a thermos with you, and ask the flight attendant to fill it up and give you a cup so you can keep it with you throughout the flight.
- Oil Massage
I always bring a three-ounce bottle of oil on my flights to rub on my feet and other exposed skin. Much like the nasya oil, putting oil on your body provides a protective layer over the skin and shields one from cold air, sickness, and even others’ energy (I realize this one might be a bit far-out for some of you). Oil massage is deeply grounding because of the oil itself, but also because of the effects of massage and loving touch that we can provide ourselves. Other effects of oil massage include reduced anxiety or fear and hydration for the skin and the body.
- Eat warm, cooked, and well-spiced foods
It's easy for digestion to get disrupted while traveling. Vata dosha, composed of Ether and Air elements, dominates during travel and this can create constipation and variable digestion. Your best defense is to eat easily digestible foods. Foods that are easy to digest are warm, cooked, and well spiced. When I can, I always bring my food—even something simple like a container of rice with ghee and spices. This meal is simple, easy to digest, and, with a healthy amount of ghee, it can help to combat dryness. If cooking my food is not an option, I sometimes bring a churna, or spice mixture, that I can put on food I buy to make it more digestible.
- Stay Grounded with your Habits
I try to keep up as many habits as possible while on long flights. Increased vata dosha in the body responds very well to routine and habits. My routines help to keep me grounded. For example, before they turn out the cabin lights on a long flight I do the nighttime routine I have at home. I'll make sure to brush and floss my teeth, have a cup of hot water with some triphala, and rub some oil on my body. These routines ground my body and signal that it's time to sleep. Keeping a few simple habits with you while you travel can help us get some rest, quickly acclimate to a new time zone, and keep us from getting sick. Each time I take this trip, the travel gets easier and easier. Doing a few small things can make a big difference on how I feel when I arrive. If you’d like to learn more about how to incorporate simple Ayurvedic tips like these into your life, join me in my next Ayurvedic workshop series!