Originally published in LA Yoga on October 3, 2016.
When we’re flying through the air (sometimes literally) one of our greatest challenges is to keep our feet firmly planted on the ground. Fortunately, there are a number of techniques from Ayurveda for travelers.
The teachings of Ayurveda tell us that the fall season is the time of year characterized by the energy of the vata dosha, or the qualities of air and space elements. This time of transition – of leaves falling from trees, of increased wind – can be a time of greater expansiveness and simultaneously greater vulnerability. Travel—even for fun—also increases the energy of the vata dosha. The vata dosha is characterized by being light, airy, or dry. When these qualities are in excess or out of balance, we may experience dehydration, weak digestion, insomnia, and/or restlessness. Practices to stay balanced at home or while we are traveling help us manage this energy and maintain our health and strength.
Here are four of my favorite tips to stay grounded while on the go:
- Drink Hot Cinnamon Water
It’s easy to not drink enough water while traveling. The mini cups the airlines hand out are barely enough to qualify for a sip. While in the airport, before boarding the plane, one of the first things I do is to get a cup (I bring my own mug) of hot water from the nearest coffee shop and add some cinnamon. It’s a free Ayurvedic drink on-the-go! Adding spices speeds up absorption of water by the body. Warm water is more hydrating; this enhances digestion and elimination, two things that suffer during travel (especially during the fall vata season).
Cinnamon has warming, grounding properties, stimulating the digestive fire and counter-balancing the cold, dry energy of vata. All it takes is regular sips of hot cinnamon water to improve hydration on a cellular level.
- Pack your Meals
If you depend on whatever the airport or gas station has available, you may be susceptible to making poor choices based on hunger and desperation. Travel with prepared, simple, nourishing meals such as a Buddha Bowl comprised of quinoa, roasted veggies, lentils, sweet potato, and a tahini/lemon/garlic sauce.
One-bowl recipes with a variety of veggies and a spiced sauce allow you to incorporate the six tastes of Ayurveda (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent) in one meal. This can satisfy, and prevent cravings that might lead down the slippery slope to overdoing the airplane snacks.
- Oil Yourself
According to Ayurveda, sesame is the one of the most warming and grounding of all oils, making it a perfect antidote for cold, dry vata energy. Bring a small (less than four ounces!) container of sesame oil with you wherever you go and massage your hands and feet while on the plane to soothe and calm. (Find a private space and a warm fuzzy pair of socks to put on your feet post-massage.) A quick sesame oil self-massage is especially important while flying because your physical body is moving extremely fast—even though you don’t notice it—which can lead to vata-related imbalances in the days following your flight.
Once you reach your destination, make the time to oil your entire body head-to-toe and allow the oils to settle into your skin overnight. Our skin absorbs whatever we apply, so the sesame oil will soothe your body from within.
- Maintain your Routine
Keeping your home routines and rhythms can be challenging, but routine is important for well-being on the road, especially if you are changing time zones. Maintaining as much of the regular routine as possible cultivates stability allowing you to thrive. When we do things like sleep at a similar hour every night, we naturally become tired at that time. The same goes with eating; when we eat a meal at approximately the same time each day, our bodies prepare with adequate digestive enzymes to break down food at that time of day. When we travel, this home rhythm may go out the window. Try syncing yourself with the rhythm of the sun as soon as you can. Our bodies are always picking up on the Earth’s natural clock through receptors in our eyes. If you find yourself in a new part of the world, try to acclimate to your destination’s circadian rhythm as soon as possible in every way; your body will quickly adjust to the cycle and know when it’s time to eat and sleep, giving you the best quality of both. Using Ayurveda for travelers can help us maintain a healthy and joyous routine on the road or on the go.