Summer is the best season for travel and with places opening up again, there will be increased opportunity to satisfy that travel bug we have all been feeling the last year and a half. We are coming out of a very unique routine having just been in a quarantine/social distancing culture so before you travel there are some things to think about. With travel also comes the stress of having to journey long distances by car or plane. Travel is tons of fun, but it can also be a hassle of flights, changing time zones, poor food choices and sitting in one spot for a long time. So how does Ayurveda recommend navigating this lack of routine? Well, it starts with balancing the vata, the dosha of movement, coldness, dryness, and instability.
Vata is composed of air and ether elements. It governs all movement and mobility in the world. So when we are in go-mode during travel, it is going to increase the vata in our bodies. In the body, vata is located in the colon. When vata is imbalanced this is the first place we see problems. Being on the move and disrupting our usual routine may bring constipation, bloating, and gas along with other issues such as anxiety, fatigue, insomnia, and low mood. Luckily, there are a few things you can do when you’re traveling that will help regulate vata and keep you balanced.
The first is to stay hydrated. The oxygen used in planes is not optimal and can be extremely dehydrating on the body. This causes constipation, dry skin, and fatigue. In order to avoid these problems, it is essential to be well hydrated before and during the flight, so make sure to bring a water bottle and drink plenty of water! You can also avoid dehydration by steering clear from the complementary tea, coffee, and alcohol served on the plane. The caffeine and alcohol will only aggravate vata and cause more problems! Try drinking some warm water with lemon or bring your own herbal teas instead.
Tip number two is to keep your blood circulating by moving your body every hour or so. Sitting in the same position for hours on end can be straining for the body, so it’s important to keep moving. Try walking whenever you can or do some gentle stretching. This will keep blood flowing and your joints lubricated. If you want to take this lubrication a step further, we recommend filling up a little 2oz bottle with oil and giving yourself a nasal and ear massage. The oil will help decrease vata by promoting heavy, oily qualities and reduce dry and rough. If you are driving for long periods, it is okay to take breaks to get out and stretch your legs. Although most people don't like stopping often, road trips and car rides longer than 3 hours warrant a stop to stretch and get your circulation moving again.
It is easy to get caught up in splurging on food while you are vacationing, however it is also important to remain in some form of balance and be mindful of the food you are putting into your body. Be careful of what airplane food you eat. Many of these meals include processed foods that lack vitality and essential nutrients, which will only put further stress on an already weakened digestive system. During times of stress and irregular movement, the gut won’t be able to fully absorb and assimilate the food. This can lead to a buildup of the sticky, foul toxins called Ama. Try to eat a large meal 1-2 hours before leaving and pack something nutritious and easy to digest (such as fruit) with you on your travels and be selective on what foods you do eat on a plane. Steer clear of anything cold, drying and rough such as bread, crackers, pretzels or ice cream. Instead, opt for food that is warm, soft, and heavy in qualities. If you want to go the extra mile, you can bring a little container of Ghee with you to put in your food. Ghee is clarified butter that is frequently used in Ayurveda, and will help the digestion of airplane food. We also recommend taking the herbal supplement Triphala to avoid constipation from the increased vata. Triphala aids by gently toning the colon and helping bowel movements, plus it’s loaded with vitamin C that will help boost the immune system.
Lastly, the most important thing in avoiding vata imbalance during travel is routine. By sticking with a routine, it will help you adjust to the new time zone and supports the circadian rhythm, alleviating jet lag. You can do this by following the same morning routine as the one you follow at home. If you are in a different time zone, you body may take a day or two to get used to the time change, but stick to eating at the same times of day, wake up at the same time, and continue self-care habits too. Starting your morning as close to how you would at home will set your day straight and prevent additional stress on the body while you are trying to relax. It is never fun coming home and feeling like you need a vacation after your vacation. By taking care of your body and staying hydrated, being mindful of what you eat, stretching, and sticking to a regular routine, the easier travel will be on your body. We hope this helps you on your journeys, stay safe and happy travels!