Are you gearing up for a travel adventure? If so, make sure you read on to maximize your fun and minimize unwanted side effects.
I realize that I have always been sensitive to the effects of travel, but didn’t know why or what to do about it. As a young girl, I remember getting sick and having constipation on family vacations. As a young woman, I traveled through South America, Central America, Mexico and India without a clue how to care for myself and wrecked havoc on my digestive and nervous system for a time. Now, as an adult, I am even more sensitive to the effects of travel. But, true to my Vata nature, I have a love of travel and being on the go. Luckily, I now know a few things about staying in balance, which I want to share with you.
I have had the idea to create an Ayurvedic Travel Kit for a long time. Traveling is a time when Vata (the air constitution) is particularly prone to go out of balance, causing symptoms such as: constipation, gas, bloating, anxiety, poor circulation, dry skin, and insomnia.
Why is this the case? Let’s come back to the self-healing principle of Ayurveda; like increase like and the opposite balances. First looking at the qualities of Vata, which is comprised of the air and space elements, and has the mobile, light, cold, dry and rough qualities, like the fall wind.
Traveling shares these qualities. Traveling entails mobility, which can increase the mobile mind, resulting in overwhelm, anxiety, and insomnia. When flying because of being high in the sky and in an environment with forced air, the dry and light qualities are increased, resulting in dehydration, dry skin, dry sinuses and effecting the seat of vata, the colon, creating gas and constipation. Digestive complaints, namely constipation, is probably the #1 complaint I here people express around travel. Simply change alone can increase vata, put out your digestive fire, and cause sleep and digestive disturbances.
If you naturally have these air qualities and love to travel it is important to know how to care for yourself on the go. Here are key tips to stay in balance when traveling and what to put in your travel kit:
Ginger is Queen! The main cause of gas, bloating and discomfort is having low digestive fire. Traveling blows out your fire (digestive strength). Then, you land in your favorite spot and eat your favorite local meal (for me it was cheese enchiladas, beans, chips, potatoes- yikes), resulting in a digestive travesty that can take days to sort out. This is really, not how we want to start our vacation! Here’s what you can do to keep your fire strong:
- Drink ginger tea, ginger capsules or take ginger tincture in hot water on the day you travel and when you arrive. I pack my own tea bags and ask for hot water in the airport or on the plane. Ginger is also known to help jetlag.
- Keep your meals light on the first day you arrive. Soups and cooked foods are easiest to digest. Avoid heavy meats, cheese and excess bread.
- Avoid those crunchy munchy snacks on the plane which increase gas and discomfort. Keep meals warm, cooked, light and simple.
Essential oils and massage oils are a must in your travel kit! The light, mobile qualities of travel can leave us feeling ungrounded, resulting in worry and insomnia. Here are a few suggestions to stay grounded:
- Give yourself a self-massage the night before travel, followed by a warm bath or shower to lubricate the skin, calm the mind and insure a good night’s sleep. I recommend sesame oil, which is warming, and essential oils such as clary sage, vetiver, geranium and jatamamsi. A massage the morning of travel is also helpful. I also give myself a daily massage during vacation. You can purchase high quality herbal massage oils here. Add 25-50 drops of essential oils to a 4 oz bottle of massage oil for therapeutic results.
- Top 4 essential oils to have with you on the plane (remember to carry in no larger than a 15 ml. bottle in a quart size ziplock bag):
- Vetiver (or grounding blend) – Add a drop to ½ tsp sesame oil (or other base oil) and apply to soles of the feet and sacrum. This can be done in the morning before getting on the plane.
- Lavender (or calming blend) – You can add 10 drops to a small 4 oz spritzer bottle with water. The mama in front of us with crying children was grateful when I offered her my lavender spray. Her children instantly calmed down.
- Coriander (or digestive blend) – Apply a couple drops directly in the belly button to instantly ease gas and bloating. If you have trusted source of pure oils, you can add a drop to 4 oz of water and drink.
- Frankincense (or immune blend) -This is my favorite oil for so many reasons! It supports the immune system, expands and heals the lungs, increases prana (life force), oxygenates the brain when applied on the brain stem and is one of the highest vibrational spiritual oils. I like to apply frankincense on the brain stem, third eye, crown of head and marma lung points on the chest. The marma points are located along the sternum in the 2nd intercostal space. You can also just add a drop to your hands, rub together and take deep breaths. Frankincense oil can also be added to your spritzer bottle with lavender and a little orange for added joy 😊.
Take a small little compact of ghee. Yes we love ghee in Ayurveda! The nostrils and sinuses can get really dry in airplanes. By applying a small amount of ghee in circular motions with your pinky in each nostril, you lubricate the sinuses, increase prana (breath) and create a barrier against germs. Another option is to purchase Nasaya oil (herbal oil) and apply 5 drops in each nostril. Order my favorite Nasaya here.
Bring a water bottle or thermos and stay hydrated. The second worse thing we can do after eating the crunchy snacks on the plane is drinking alcohol, coffee or iced soda. Due to the dry quality of travel and flying, we are likely to get dehydrated if not diligent in our water intake. There is no substitute for water. Alcohol and coffee are diuretics, which cause more fluid loss in the body. The carbonation from soda creates gas and bloating in the stomach, while the ice puts out your digestive fire and slows circulation. Instead, get a can of water on the plane and fill up your water bottle and keep drinking throughout the flight. I don’t know about you, but whenever I land I am so thirsty, so it is nice to have your water bottle filled. If you have a thermos with a cup on top, fill it up with hot water in the airport or the airplane and sip throughout the flight. This will keep you warm, relaxed, hydrated and support elimination the next morning.
Don’t leave home without Triphala! I just went on a girlfriend trip and we all could have used this miracle herb and I forgot it. Triphala is a restorative herb for the GI Tract and keeps things moving. You can get it in powder or capsule. If powder, steep 1 tsp in ½ cup hot water before bed. If you are prone to dryness, you can add a tsp of ghee. I have to be honest, this is not the best tasting stuff (and that’s being nice.) For fast results, this is how I prefer to take it. If you are sensitive to tastes and for ease while traveling, you can take in tablet form. Take 2 tablets mid-day and 2 before bed. Bring extra and your friends and family will love you for it. Triphala is gentle, unlike other purgatives, which can be addictive, and can be taken on a regular basis to heal the GI tract.
Your breath is always with you. Don’t underestimate the power of your breath for bringing you back into balance. Breath is connected to your prana (life force.) Often, during travel, our prana can get vitiated, leaving us feeling tired and anxious. Most of us have experienced the way the breath can affect our body and our mind. Through Pranayama (Yogic Breath Practices) we can calm the nervous system, which also activates proper function of elimination. Join me in being one of the strange people alternately blocking their nasal passages and breathing fully during takeoff.
Here are a couple breath practices to balance Vata:
- Put your hands on your lower abdomen and take deep belly breaths with long complete exhalations. Pause at the end of the exhale before the next breath naturally wants to come in. Repeat 10-20 times or throughout the flight. This pulls Vata down, creating a grounding calm and healthy elimination.
- Alternate Nostril Breathing is good for balancing the right and left hemispheres of the brain, calming and focusing the mind. Here is a fun video I took at the airport, instructing another passenger in Alternate Nostril Breathing to help calm us all during a 3 hour delayed flight.
Wishing you easeful, fun travels!