Finding balance while traveling can be hard.
Travel can prove very challenging and stressful on both our bodies and our minds. We go through different time zones, climates, altitudes, and cultures, and our system has to adapt to all of these new aspects that we are throwing at it. Just think for a second how crazy it actually is that we can go from being on a jungle river in Central America to being in 20 feet of snow on a mountaintop in California in less than 24 hours. I mean, that is wild! And we just expect our bodies and minds to adapt like it’s nothing.
The time we live in is pretty amazing, and our systems do pretty well with it, considering, but we can definitely still feel the negative side effects of travel.
Jenna Granger is a traveler and health coach. She brought these two passions together and started an amazing blog called Healthy Away From Home. She started traveling when she was as young as 11, and ever since, she’s been traveling the world over for work, fun, long term adventures, short term weekend trips, family travel, and more.
Wanting to explore more about Ayurveda and how it can be useful during travel, Jenna recently visited the Art of Living Retreat Center and the Shankara Ayurveda Spa, located amid the magical, heavenly mountains of Boone, NC.
During her visit, she had a wonderful conversation with Medha Garud, Ayurveda Program Director at the spa. In this interview, Medha shared some helpful tips to stay grounded while traveling. These suggestions are tangible and simple, so read along to learn how you can incorporate Ayurveda into your travel habits!
JG: What is your experience with Ayurveda?
MG: Well, I am currently the Ayurveda Programs Coordinator and Director at the Art of Living Retreat Center in Boone, North Carolina. But I have been a physical therapist and yoga teacher for many years, and have struggled with supporting people in the important aspect of diet and lifestyle, so I turned to Ayurveda for help. I wanted to work more from a body, mind, and spirit mindset, and am now an Ayurvedic practitioner and massage therapist. Ayurveda applies to everything and takes everything into account. It really gives us tools to help each person differently, as health is not a one size fits all system. People may have the same constitution, but their lifestyle and environment differ, so to have a modality that looks at everything is powerful.
JG: For the many people who are new to this, what is Ayurveda?
MG: Well, Ayurveda is the sister science to yoga and has been studied for over 5,000 years. Ayur translates to life and Veda translates to knowledge in Sanskrit, so it is simply the science of life. It is what is outside us, our environment, and within us, our feelings, thoughts, emotions.
The 5 elements are a primary part of Ayurveda: earth, air, water, fire, and space. These elements exist both in the world and within the body. When these elements are in balance, we are happy and healthy. When they go out of balance, we get sick, or if it is a long-term imbalance, disease forms. Ayurveda can help you identify the symptoms of imbalance and how to come back to balance, can help remove disease that is already present by finding the root of the problem, and can help prevent it from coming back.
The five elements also combine to create 3 doshas or constitutions:
- Earth and Water = Kapha
- Fire and Water = Pitta
- Air and Space = Vata
The time we were born, our parents DNA, and the planets all contribute to deciding our individual dosha. You are born with your doshic proportions set, which define your nature and doesn’t change. All three doshas are within everyone, but we each have one primary dosha and one secondary. And everyone can go out of balance for any dosha depending on their environment, lifestyle, diet, etc…
JG: What does travel do to our body and mind from an Ayurvedic perspective?
MG: The five elements are within us. Vata represents light, dryness, moving, and cold. So when we travel (especially in airplanes) we all slip into a vata imbalance. This shows up in these common travel symptoms:
- dry skin, mouth, and hair
- too many thoughts
- anxiety and fear
- constipation and bloating
- hard time sleeping
- joint pain and body aches
JG: So how can we get back into balance while traveling? How do we balance out our vata?
MG: By giving yourself the opposite. We know vata is drying and light. So anything that will help you feel grounded and will add heat.
6 ways to balance your vata while traveling:
Oil. Oil is heavy, sticky, and grounding. When you travel, you can bring a little bottle of sesame oil (great for all doshas), olive oil for pitta, or coconut oil for hot climates. Once you arrive, you can give yourself a quick oil massage or rub-down for 10-15 minutes before you shower. When you do shower, use limited soap, just use soap for armpits, private parts, toes, etc… and just let excess oil rinse off, leaving some of the oil to absorb into your body.
Sesame oil ear treatment. Ears are the seat of vata. Put 7-8 drops of sesame or karnapurna oil (sesame oil with herbs) in your ear two nights before traveling, gently plugging your ear with a cotton ball. Sleep with that ear towards the sky that night. If you roll over, it’s fine -- that’s what the cotton ball is for. The next night, you do the same thing in the other ear. When you get home from your trip, do it again. This will help minimize vata imbalance from travel.
Internally taking oil is great as well. Have one tablespoon of oil or ghee (clarified butter) with your food to make it grounding and dense. You want to do this a few days before you travel, while traveling, and after you get home for a few days.
Limit your raw food at night. Do this before, during, and after your travels. Raw foods are vata: light and dry. Also avoid other dry and crunchy foods, like crackers and chips. You want to eat warm, moist foods that are nourishing, maybe with some grains. This will help ground you.
Black pepper. Add black pepper to your foods, as it adds warmth to what you are eating.
Vata is also most the likely energy to go out of balance, even when you are not traveling. So any of these remedies can be done regularly to prepare for travel or otherwise to manage your vata. These will also help reduce the effects of aging.
- Stay warm.
- Stay calm.
- Sleep on time, and a lot when you can.
- Do some restorative yoga and grounding postures, ones where you are sitting, lying down- especially savasana and child’s pose.
So there you go, some great Ayurvedic tips to help you stay grounded while flying around the world! I would recommend picking one of these, and experimenting with it on your next trip. If you want to take a little quiz to get an idea of what your dosha might be, click here, or visit an Ayurvedic practitioner and they can find out by taking your pulse.
By Sejal Shah, E-YRT 500 Sri Sri Yoga Teacher, YACEP, Art of Living Teacher, NYU Post Graduate Medical School approved Yoga-CME retreat facilitator, Mind-Body Wellness Writer, Homeopath
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