Indian classical medicine, Ayurveda, is based on a conceptualization of the natural world, and all beings in it, as comprised of five elements: ether, air, fire, water, and earth. Another cornerstone of Ayurvedic belief is that these elements combine and manifest as three doshas, or energies: Vata (ether + air), Pitta (fire + water), and Kapha (earth + water). Natural phenomena, such as climate and the seasons, as well as human conditions, psychological and biophysical, can be understood in the context of the three doshas. Imbalances in nature, or within individual human beings, are then seen as the result of these energies departing from their natural, balanced state. Ayurveda seeks to enhance prana, or life force, by restoring balance where it has been disturbed.
Ayurveda is a complex, ancient science and we’re barely able to scratch the surface here, but for now, let’s focus on Vata dosha (ether + air). Vata is associated with conditions in the natural world or the body that are windy, light, cold, rough, mobile, subtle, hyperactive, and ethereal. As such, Vata dosha is responsible for movement, change, and spontaneity – all factors that come into play when we travel. To keep Vata balanced while traveling, key areas of focus are on reducing irregular, ungrounded, and dry qualities. Below are five self-care tips to stay balanced while traveling:
How You Can Use Ayurveda to Stay Balanced While Traveling:
Travel, especially air travel, dries us out! Try to increase your water and electrolyte intake while traveling as well as in the 48 hours before and after. For some inspiration on how to do this effectively, check out Kameko’s tips for staying hydrated here.
Abhyanga is the practice of self-massaging warm oil to the skin and letting it sit and absorb (ideally for 15 minutes) before bathing or toweling off. It hydrates the skin, supports lymph and blood flow, and grounds the nervous system, making it an ideal practice during travel. Sesame oil is particularly Vata-balancing.
3. Viparita Karani & Pranayama
After lots of travel and walking, the legs and feet often ache and swell. Give the lower body some R&R and support the nervous system by spending 15 minutes lying on the floor with your legs resting against the wall and extended straight up toward the ceiling (a pose known as Viparita Karani). If you are familiar with Pranayama (yogic breathing), Nadi Shodhana, Sammavritti, Vismavritti with extended exhales, and Bahya Kumbhaka are grounding practices; for more, see Kameko’s guide to Vata-balancing Pranayama at the bottom of this page.
4. Resetting Your Clock
Time change associated with travel can affect our energy as the body works to adapt to a new environment and routine. Try to get on the local time, resetting your body with the natural world. Avoid a bunch of naps and try to get up with the sun (or at a consistent time) the first few days to help the body adapt.
Scent is an incredible way to ground and cleanse your body and space. Aromas connect to our limbic system via the olfactory nerves. Our limbic system helps controls emotions, memories, reactions, and flight or flight response. It includes the hypothalamus, which works to bring the body homeostasis or better balance. It also controls hunger, thirst, body temperature, and your reaction to pain and new environments. Simply using soothing scents you can help your body adapt to a new or unfamiliar environment. Vetiver, tulsi, sandalwood, cedar, sage, palo santo, and frankincense are all grounding choices. Keep in mind that essential oils are powerful and should be sniffed or applied to the skin in diluted form only.
Kameko Shibata is an Ayurvedic practitioner, massage therapist, aerialist, wild creature, and world traveler. She is the creator and director of Yoga-Veda Shala, a Yoga-Ayurveda teacher training program at Namaste Oakland. She teaches classes and workshops in the Bay Area and leads several retreats annually. Check out her website, Nadi Girl Ayurveda, plus her upcoming Yoga + Ayurveda teacher training and her spring 2017 Playa Viva, Mexico retreat.