1. Stay Hydrated!
The air in the airports and aircraft cabin is extremely dehydrating to the body. Plus naturally, travel vitiates vata dosha, increasing the dry, rough, cold, light and mobile qualities in the mind and body. This can cause dry skin, dry mouth, fatigue, constipation, anxiety, indecisiveness, insomnia and poor concentration. So drink plenty of water a few days prior to flying, after and during the flight.
Also make sure to avoid further dehydration by passing on the complimentary sodas, sugar filled juices, tea, coffee and alcohol, as these are diuretic in nature. You’ll even want to pass up the soda water, since anything carbonated will aggravate vata. Drink warm water, no ice water! Go for a caffeine free spiced tea, such as peppermint or ginger. Or get hot water with a slice of lemon or lime and even add a pinch of salt to balance electrolytes. This helps to keep the fluid levels up without aggravating vata.
2. Seriously, Stay Hydrated!!
Externally you want to stay hydrated too. Don’t forget to bring a little spray bottle with organic rose water to spritz your face before take off, after landing and as needed to freshen your skin and senses. One of the most vital tips I can give you is: maintain your Abhyanga (oil massage) while travelling! Apply oil as close to take off as possible; as oil is the best way to calm Vata. Carry a travel appropriate container of oil (organic cold pressed sesame or sunflower) to massage your entire body (head and face is optional but feet are not- just take good care not to slip getting into the tub!) Do this before departure and after arrival, the oil massage is done before your shower. Simply warm the oil if possible and leave it soak on your skin for at least 15 minutes, then get in shower to rinse off and wash as usual. Make sure not to apply soap to skin, just rinse with warm water. For full details on HOW TO DO SELF MASSAGE see here.
3. Maintain Your Regular Routine
A common question for travel is: should one adhere to the new time zone upon arrival, or take a few days to adjust? Ayurveda says to just follow the local time zone and continue with your routine as normal. Wake, eat, sleep and exercise at the same times daily, like you would regularly. The more you can keep a routine similar to yours at home, the easier the change will be on your body.
When crossing time zones, it is ideal to set your watch to the destination time zone as soon as you get on the plane. Eat your meal when between 11 a.m.-2 p.m. destination time and start preparing for sleep around 10 p.m. This supports the circadian rhythm (body clock) and will alleviate the effects of jet lag.
4. Do Nasya
This is the therapeutic application of oil into the nose, which has a variety of remarkable benefits for travel; from protecting the immune system to relieving anxiety. This technique should be done as close to departure as possible. But should not be done within 30 mins of traveling, eating, drinking (even water), showering, exercising or having sex. Make sure not to do this technique if you are pregnant or menstruating.
TO DO: You can do this either while seated or lying down. You need to tilt your head way back so the oil is directed into the nose and not the throat, and then drop 3-5 drops of oil from a dropper into each nostril. Inhale forcefully thru the nose a few times before bringing your head back to neutral.
A quicker (but not as effective) method is to just use your pinky fingertip to apply a little oil to your nostrils and ear canals. The use of nasya not only clears your sinuses and mind, but also balances your emotions and pranic energy while acting as a barrier for any bacteria that may be circulating in the air. Cold pressed raw black sesame and almond oil are best or you can use a specialized Nasya oil- this one is my favourites- Super Nasya Oil
5. Practice Yoga (in the airport and during flight!!)
Obviously it is more ideal to practice yoga somewhere inspiring such as on the beach in Costa Rica or at the local yoga studio or in the comfort of your hotel room once you’ve settled at your final destination. But it is also very important to keep your circulation pumping during travel, especially in an airplane, to prevent body aches and stiffness and more serious conditions such as clotting! Try to keep moving while travelling, get up and go for a walk every hour.
Some easy postures for flying are:
- Flex and extend your feet at your ankles, do ankles rolls to both sides. Do the same with your wrists and fingers.
- Do neck rolls, drawing your chin to chest make semi circles from one shoulder to the other.
- Gently touch your toes, then reach up towards the sky a few times.
- Hug your arms around yourself, trying to touch your shoulder blades with your fingertips. Once in that position, stretch your neck by pressing your ears towards your shoulders both left and right. You can even do eagle arms here, interlacing your forearms and hands, then lifting your hands to the sky and pushing them away from your face.
- While seated, put your right ankle onto the thigh of the left leg right above the knee. Keeping your right foot flexed, bend forward at the hips, gentle pressing your right knee towards the floor- you should feel a stretch in your glutes and IT band! Repeat on other side.
- Holding the armrest, gently twist shoulders and head towards the back of your seat.
- While seated, inhale and lift your chest towards the sky arching your back, exhale round your back drawing your bellybutton to the spine. Do this 4 times and then hug your knees to your chest.
- While standing go somewhere you have enough room to do a high lunge, stretching your quads and other hip flexors for a few breaths on each side.
- While standing, keep feet together to do a lateral stretch. Place your left hand on your hip, reaching up with the right hand and over to the left side pressing the hips over to the right- keep weight evenly into both feet. Repeat on both side.
- While standing, do hip circles, small and large and in both directions
6. Try Not to Eat Airplane Food!
Airplane “food” is devoid of prana (vitality) nutrients and usually flavour and a variety of tastes. Combine that with dehydration and the impaired digestive function that comes along with exacerbated vata due to the irregular nature and excessive movement of travel…and it’s very hard for the body to digest, assimilate and absorb the food, causing toxic build up (called ama).
Try to eat a main meal 1 – 2 hours before traveling and pack something light to eat on the flight such as a tupperware of steamed vegetables and ghee or some sweet, juicy fruits. Fruits or steamed vegetables are ideal, as they’re high in fiber and water content. Avoid saying yes to the artificial sugar and dry crunchy snacks offered on the plane- these put vata totally out of whack, along with the carbonated beverages!
7. Drink a Sedative Tea Before Bedtime
Simply having a chamomile tea before bed once you have settled into your final destination, can make all the difference for a good night’s sleep and relieving jet lag. You can also try something a bit stronger such as a valerian tea, if you are prone to sleep issues normally or during times of travel.
If you have access to a kitchen, Ayurveda recommends warm milk with ¼ – ½ tsp of ground nutmeg before bed. Also, the herb Ashwagandha is ideal for times of travel, as it is recognized particularly for its building, strengthening, and nourishing nature. Ashwagandha is available in powder and tablet forms, and as a liquid extract. The traditional use is as a powder, mixed with warm milk (high fat milk like coconut, almond or cow) and honey, and taken before bed, not unlike the nutmeg remedy. The medicated milk method is what I recommend most for travel as it is very calming for vata and promotes healthy sleep patterns while rejuvenating and building strength. A general dose for travel can be ¼ – ½ tsp once or twice daily. For a more convenient method of taking ashwagandha, you can also find the herb in tablet form. This can be an easier method, especially for those that travel a lot, have a shortage of time, or do not like the taste of ashwagandha tea.
8. Take the herb Triphala
It is very common to become constipated when traveling due to the disturbance of vata dosha, impaired agni (digestive function) and disruption of regular routine. While travelling, take ½ tsp of Triphala powder or 2 Triphala capsules at bedtime with warm water. Triphala stokes agni (digestive fire), gently aids bowel movements without creating any kind of dependency, while toning the colon and cleansing the liver and blood. Triphala is safe for everyone* and is even recommended to take daily. It is an herbal compound that contains three fruits, one being Amalaki, which contains loads of vitamin C and antioxidants! This will help support the immune system to help fight off any bugs you may pick up on your journey.
- Contraindications include: diarrhea, dysentery, and pregnancy. There are no known drug interactions with the herbs that make up triphala. Some studies do report findings that would advise caution in people taking blood-thinners.