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Traveling can be exhilarating and exciting, or it can be exhausting. The direction it goes depends on how you prepare and how you take care. Luckily Ayurveda has a variety of techniques for maintaining your balance regardless of the destination or the length of time that you spend in transit.
Ayurveda views travel as a Vata-dosha-increasing activity. This means that the changes in routine, time zone, diet and daily activities all contribute to a sense of unrest in the physical and mental bodies. This may manifest in “jet lag” or dryness, insomnia, digestive upset, elimination challenges and emotional swings. This does not mean that we must remain home to remain healthy, rather we need to consider what will keep our bodies balanced regardless of where we are going or how we are getting there.
Preparing for travel is very important. Considering where you go and how to most closely approximate your daily routine will ensure an inclusion of all those items that will ground you out when far from home. Packing and planning early will also help to ground out that scattered energy of travel.
Oil massage as a daily practice is very helpful for preparing the body for the challenges of travel (see Yogi Times, December ’06). This pacifies the nervous system and stabilizes immune response. Begin at least two weeks before a trip that involves long transit time. Continue this practice throughout your time away to maintain the positive benefits begun at home. Air travel is very dehydrating, and having adequately moisturized skin helps to limit dehydration. For very long or overnight flights, bring along some oil to massage into your feet and scalp to ensure adequate sleep and protection to your mental-emotional body.
Neti, the practice of rinsing the nasal passages with salted water, will prepare your body for exposure to new and different pathogens in your travels. This clears and strengthens the body’s first line of defense so that the sinus passages can work optimally. Apply a small amount of oil in the nostrils after neti to maintain moisture in the nasal passages.
When traveling, it is important to drink adequate amounts of water. This is a challenge when flying now that we are limited to bringing only small quantities of water onto an airplane. One way to combat this is to carry on an empty water bottle and early in the flight ask the flight attendant to fill it. The general rule of thumb is one liter of water for every three hours in the air. Other beverages may further dehydrate you, so it is best to drink water, herbal tea or juice as opposed to coffee, sodas or alcohol.
If you are challenged with motion sickness, ginger tea will go a long way to calm your stomach as you travel. Place a few tea bags in your carry-on luggage and sip away when needed. For ground travel, make a thermos full of tea; it will calm an uneasy stomach and stimulate digestion.
Upon arrival in a new place, it is important to pause for a moment before jumping into a different routine. Bring with you something from home that will signal that this new space you are in is “home” for right now. A scented candle, photos or flowers may all be used to create a homey feel in a place you are visiting for a short time. If you meditate, take the time to meditate for a few minutes in your room upon arrival. Prepare your meditation or yoga space so that you will maintain your routine during your stay.
While visiting in a new location, allow your digestive system to adapt slowly to new and different foods. Dine lightly on yogurt, rice and fresh fruits and vegetables until you feel your digestive system is ready to enjoy the new and different foods in your destination, then go slowly to assure healthful digestion.
Travel can be a wonderful experience when we stay healthy during it. As much as possible, maintain routines around waking and sleeping, then the eating and energy expense will go furthest in assuring that we get the most out of our time away from home.