Travel is a beautiful mix of exhilarating and exhausting. Our curiosity guides us to faraway places, foreign lands, new relationships, rituals unknown, food we’ve never tasted, novelty experiences…you name it. Amidst the expansive nature of travel, it helps to stay grounded and stable. Ayurveda is an ancient healing wisdom and “science of life” that offers many practices and remedies to keep calm and travel on. Below are ten tips to help you to better navigate your energy and nourish your body, mind, and spirit while traveling.
Let us first understand travel through the lens of Ayurveda. In Ayurveda, there are three mind-body types called the doshas: vata, pitta, and kapha. As a science rooted in the laws of nature, each of these doshas are comprised of elements. Earth and water make up kapha. Fire and water create pitta. Air and ether coalesce into vata.
Vata embodies the idea of movement, and so vata and travel go hand in hand.
As the concept of mobility, vata is the wind that sweeps up leaves on the sidewalk or encourages the swell of the waves. It is the movement of our joints, the force that carries us from one place to another, the movement of our thoughts. It reigns over periods of transition and change, the season of autumn and the end of our life. When we travel, we incorporate the principle of movement into our lives and increase the level of vata. Since it is the subtlest of the doshas, vata is easily thrown out of balance, which means we must take extra care to keep grounded and strong.
In Ayurveda, the simplified approach to harmony is that “opposites balance each other out.” Add fire to water and the heat dissipates. Conversely, add two like matters together and they increase. Toss the hot coal into the campfire and it burns brighter.
We all have innate healing wisdom. The following tips are guidelines to help us align with our intuitive nature, support our immunity in times of change, and find strength and stability while growing through the experience of travel. Read on to learn practical ways to ground vata dosha.
1. Carry your daily routines with you.
The nature of travel is spontaneity. Our curiosity guides us to worlds unknown, foreign places rich with different practices and rituals. We may encounter all sorts of change, from time zones to the dishes we eat. Your body and digestion will thank you if you bring regularity into your travel. Try eating your meals at the same time each day to help your digestive process acclimate to the change. Regulate your bedtime and morning wake up. Our routines stabilize us and support our circadian rhythms.
2. Pack some triphala.
Ever get off a long flight and notice you don’t poop for a day, or two, or three? It is likely because the vata elements of air and ether permeate the airplane: cold, dry, and moving hundreds of miles a minute. It is absolutely normal for this increase of vata to affect your daily bowel movements. The solution? Pack some triphala for your trip. This magic remedy of three traditional Ayurvedic herbs promotes healthy digestion and absorption. You can take it as a tea, tablet, or liquid extract and it will help you get the deed done.
3. Stay hydrated.
To pacify the dry qualities that vata can bring, stay hydrated. Ayurveda recommends drinking, not chugging, warm water throughout your day. Cold water dampens our agni, our digestive fire. Did you know that people can actually become dehydrated in the process of chugging water? If you sip your drinks instead, your body will actually absorb and assimilate the liquids better.
4. Apply oils and abhyanga.
Travel isn’t always easy. What to pack, delayed flights, missed connections, and rushing around can make it stressful. Vata knows anxiety and stress well, especially in instances of great movement. The practice of abhyanga, or self-massage, is great for providing nourishing touch and helping us feel calm. Bring your own oil blend with you. Sweet almond oil is a hydrating base for vata. If you are traveling to hot climates, then try a cooling oil such as coconut. Add some lavender essential oil to your mix, as it is a tridoshic remedy for anxiety. Spend five to twenty minutes of self-care and massage the oil into your joints and in a downward motion for grounding your energy.
5. Conquer jetlag from the get-go.
Sleep is considered one of the three pillars of life according to Ayurveda. When our sleep cycles are disrupted, as they often are with travel, it is important to integrate practices that will help us return to a restful slumber. Resist the temptation to nap—go out and get some sunlight when sleepiness strikes. The energy from the sun will increase sadhaka pitta in the brain and keep you awake. Regulate your bedtime, turn off excess light, and decrease visual or mental stimulation in the hour before sleep. Try a warm, beverage before bed such as ashwagandha tea or nutmeg in warm milk. Both are natural sedatives.
6. Eat foods that are grounding.
Raw foods, salads, dried fruit, and smoothies are all drying foods that will further aggravate vata dosha. Skip the chips and grab a meal that is warm, moist, and perhaps heavier. Root vegetables, soups, fish, chicken, and oatmeal with cooked apples are a few ways to eat grounding foods.
7. Pack digestive teas.
New foods, different preparation methods, and varying spices can all have an effect on our digestion. For some it may be gas and bloating, for others it may be acid reflux and indigestion. Invest in some herbal teas. Ginger, peppermint, licorice, fennel, or Ayurveda’s much loved “CCF–Coriander Cumin & Fennel” tea are all great post-meal options.
8. Practice mindful eating.
Let’s be real…it is likely that culinary indulgence will happen on vacation. Being away from home often means eating out. And we should absolutely enjoy it! Just do so in a way in which our stomachs will thank us. This is the perfect time to practice mindful eating. Avoid eating on-the-go. Sit down to let your food digest. Give thanks for the ingredients, the food, the hands that created the dish in front of you. Taste each bite fully; be present with your plate. This is nourishment. When we are rushed, when we eat quickly or overeat, when our mind has been swept away in wild thoughts…our body’s energy is redirected away from digesting our food. Taking one moment, perhaps three breaths, to allow yourself to arrive to your meal will help your body better assimilate the food.
9. Rest & reflect.
Often in the effort to maximize our vacations, we overlook the need to rest and rejuvenate. With new sights and experiences, our senses are already heightened with stimulation. Find time to withdraw your senses and go inward, a practice the yogis call pratyahara. Try carrying a journal and writing down daily gratitudes or contemplations throughout your travels. Allow yourself to be present with your experience.
10. Seal off the trip with a day of rejuvenation.
Instead of heading straight into the office after a long trip, have one day to reground at home. Let your body rest; drop back into your daily routines. Allow this day to be a ritual of self-love and reconnection.