While the positive aspects of travel include seeing new places, meeting new people, and many other joyful experiences, we have to find ways to cope with the mind/body stress and anxiety associated with changes in our usual daily routines and rhythms.
According to the science of Ayurveda, the psycho-physiological, elemental or chemical balance of an individual is affected by the physical and emotional activities of the mind, body, and senses. The changes in our regular routines associated with traveling influence our biological humors/doshas as well as our elemental make-up on a cellular level and often cause disturbances in our mind and body.
Most imbalances associated with travel are related to the aggravation of vata (air and space elements) and some aspects of pitta (fire and water elements). Extended sitting may cause sluggish elimination, excessive movement may cause anxiety, irregular eating schedules and changes in diet may disturb digestive enzymes and our digestive fire, just to name a few – and all can affect our mental, emotional, and physical balance.
The knowledge of Ayurveda provides us with some travel-friendly tips to address a number of these possible vata and pitta imbalances:
- Dryness and Dehydration
- Self-Massage with Oil – Before and After Travel
The aggravation of the vata (air and space elements) can lead to dryness of the skin and internal tissues. Gently massage your body (including ears and feet) with warm oil before and after travel to help sooth and calm your vata imbalance. (Wear socks if you’re oiling your feet.) If possible, try self-massage during your travels, especially in the evening, to encourage moisture, healthy circulation, and sound sleep. If oiling during travel is a little inconvenient, a gentle massage can be accomplished without oil.
Don’t forget to apply two-four drops of herbal nasal oil into each nostril before, during (if possible), and after your journey.
- Drink Water Regularly
Drink 8 to 10 glasses of water daily to keep yourself well hydrated.
Avoid fizzy drinks, ice cold drinks, alcohol, and caffeine as these may disrupt digestion and aggravate anxiety. Opt for herbal tea, or warm (or room temperature) water instead.
- Practice Alternate Nostril Breathing
This breathing technique will help alleviate stress, anxiety, and sleeplessness.
- Constipation, Irregularity and Diarrhea
- Constipation is a comment complaint with travelers. Make sure to pack healthy snacks that are easy to carry such as fennel seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, figs, prunes, or raisins. Don’t forget to chew well! Remember to pack some triphala (in powder or capsule form), which gently aids healthy bowel movements.
- In the event of diarrhea or excess gas, combine a pinch of dried ginger and a pinch of dried nutmeg powder in a glass of warm water and drink before your meals.
- Indigestion, Nausea and Heartburn
- For indigestion, combine a teaspoon of chopped or sliced fresh ginger root with a few drops of lime and a pinch of sea salt. Nibble on this before your meals.
- Heartburn can be addressed with peppermint tea, as well as chewing on an equal amount of coriander, cumin, and fennel seeds.
- If you have access to it, sip on aloe vera juice to balance digestion and reduce nausea.
- Colds or Flu
- Take a teaspoon of amalaki (Indian gooseberry) three times a day to aid your immune system and act as a rejuvenative. Amalaki is an excellent natural source of both Vitamin C and iron.
- Drink warm water throughout the day to aid in removing toxins from your system and hasten recovery from cold and flu.
- Drink turmeric or holy basil tea.
- At some point in our lives, most of us have experienced the discomfort that accompanies a little too much sun exposure. Apply cooling aloe vera gel (pure if you can find it, not the type with alcohol) to your burned areas. If you can find an aloe plant, lightly rub your skin with the gel inside an aloe leaf.
- Remember to drink plenty of cool (not cold or icy) or room temperature water to maintain hydration. Sip water throughout the day and evening, rather than taking in your entire daily water intake at one time.
- Applying coconut oil or dairy milk is effective for soothing sunburned skin.
- Jet lag
- Eat a small chunk of ginger root or two capsules of ginger one to two hours before your flight.
- As soon as you reach your destination and it’s conveniently possible, massage your scalp and the soles of your feet.
- Enjoy a pinch each of dried ginger and nutmeg mixed in a glass of water or milk.
- Practice deep belly breathing, stretch, and walk as much as you can.
- General Travel-Friendly Tips
- Avoid stimulants such as alcohol, caffeine, fizzy, or sugar-laden drinks.
- Practice gentle self-massage three times a week prior to the journey. Don’t forget about your ears, temples, forehead, jaw, and the soles of your feet.
- Palm your face, cheeks, and eyes to prevent puffiness.
- Practice eye exercises to help relieve tension in the eye muscles.
- Take regular breaks during long car drives to stretch and take in some deep breaths. Practice chair-style exercises while seated in an airplane and get up as often as possible to stretch and move. Be mindful of how you are sitting during your travels – choose supportive postures and positions.
- Make supportive food choices and travel with healthy snacks that are easily digestible.
Pack yourself a travel remedy kit with dried ginger, nutmeg, amalaki, coriander, cumin, and fennel seeds, a small bottle of aloe juice and gel, a small box of raisins, prunes, or figs, some herbal tea, as well as a small bottle of massage oil and nasal drops. Don’t forget your water bottle. Your kit need not be elaborate; make it convenient for yourself.
Remember to practice mindful actions that will help you feel grounded and comfortable. Incorporate some yoga, meditation, and regular breathing exercises daily. Have fun and enjoy your travels.
Dr. Ram Tamang is a licensed Ayurvedic Physician & Herbalist (India & Nepal) and a Registered Ayurvedic Specialist in the USA. He is a partner with The Healing Gardens of Ayurveda and serves as the master physician. In addition to his full time clinical practice, Dr. Ram is a lecturer at several, national and international schools and colleges. Dr Ram is involved in many different organizations, associations and publications that help build and sustain a growing community of people passionate about the value of Ayurvedic Medicine. He is a charismatic public speaker and has presented on various health issues and Ayurvedic Topics at events and radio shows around the world. He currently serves on the executive board of the Council of Ayurvedic Research USA: Thehealingardens.com.