Have you ever noticed how, despite your dedication in everyday life, your health and wellness routines tend to fall apart when you travel? If so, you’re not alone. With the best of intentions, we can all get caught up in the momentum of travel, thinking so much about our agendas and savoring each moment that we forget to aim for sustainability. While the temptation is to approach travel full on, it’s important to remember that staying balanced while traveling makes for the smoothest journey.
According to the Vedic science Ayurveda, our bodies find internal harmony when all aspects of our being–physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual–are in balance. Just like the rest of nature, our bodies are made up of the 5 elements (Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Space), which exist in different combinations called doshas.
We have 3 Doshas:
1. Vata (Air, Space)
2. Pitta (Fire, Water)
3. Kapha (Water, Earth)
They exist in different variations in each of us, creating our individual constitution called our Prakruti. These doshas are variable, moving in and out of balance, as our environment and lifestyle choices change. Optimal health is achieved when we understand this relationship within our bodies and make lifestyle choices that support it.
Vata is the dosha most likely to fall out of balance when we travel. It has a quality is mobility and is associated with physiological processes such as movement, respiration, and heart rate – also, less tangible things like thinking and emotions. When we’re on the move and ungrounded, it becomes dominant, causing symptoms such as brain fog, anxiety, irritability, sleeplessness, sluggish digestion and decreased immune support. This can quickly turn our travel experiences into a disaster.
In order to prevent imbalance while traveling, here are some suggestions:
One of the biggest mistakes is telling yourself, you’ll relax once you arrive. This sets the stage for problems. It’s best to aim for balance before you go to keep vata dosha in check. Consider packing and making sure all travel documents are in order well in advance. Have your clothes and essentials out the night before. Stay in your routine as much as possible. Let the night before be a relaxing calm before the hustle.
Stay hydrated in the days leading up to and during travel. Your body will thank you for this. The recycled air on planes and constant air-conditioning is drying to the body and can cause dehydration. It causes dry skin, but also other Vata imbalances such as constipation, excess gas, poor concentration, and lethargy. Stick to water and avoid all diuretic beverages like alcohol, tea, and coffee. Cold water cools our digestive fire and can further encourage poor digestion, which is already vulnerable during travel. Therefore, warm drinks like ginger tea are preferable.
During travel, we often find ourselves eating at times when we’d otherwise not eat. The body doesn’t understand this timetable. This routine upset, combined with the often heavily processed foods served along the way, can cause a build up of Ama, or toxic residue in the body. We can honor the body best by eating a solid, grounding meal before we leave home, and packing healthy foods that we can enjoy when hunger strikes. Nutrient-rich foods like nuts and fruit (which are loaded with fiber and water), are great choices. Upon arrival, slowly slip into local cuisine, eating light and warming foods until your system acclimates to its new environment.
Regardless of when you arrive, respect the time change. Our circadian rhythm (24-hour clock) can take time to adjust, especially when jumping time zones. At first chance, soak in some sunshine and plant your bare feet on the earth…dirt, grass, sand, or even asphalt. This will start to reset your internal clock. Even if you’re feeling wide awake at local bed-time, go to bed. Try to avoid sleeping-in your first morning even if you’re tempted. Rise at the same time you would at home.
Vastu Shastra, the Vedic science of design and sacred space (which shares the same origins as Ayurveda and Yoga), views clutter as an environmental stressor that can upset our sense of internal balance. Think of it as physical “congestion” that can lead to unclear thinking and a hindrance to the flow of energy. Make your space your own, by unpacking your bags neatly. Clean out your carry-on bags, removing accumulated travel-day clutter and organizing receipts. Become familiar with and arrange your new space. Strip the bed and put on your own sheets (cool colors and natural fibers are best).
Your first day is about re-establishing a healthy rhythm. Do your best to continue this routine as your adventure continues. As we’ve established, being on the go comes with its physical challenges. Some degree of predictability can serve as an anchor. The more we can maintain some semblance of our tried-and-true daily rituals, the easier it will be to adapt to the changes as they arise. Maintain sleep and eating schedules when possible. If you have a workout regimen, keep it going. The back-pocket survival tools you utilize in daily life will serve you on the go as well.
Nothing soothes excessive Vata like simple relaxation. As you know, wellness practices like yoga and meditation are the perfect tool for dealing with the stressors of change. They restore the baselines of homeostasis in the body and recalibrate the nervous system.In general, all yoga is good for grounding, though some practices are better than others. Fast-paced sequences can be aggravating to the system when Vata is imbalanced and we are, therefore, already prone to anxiety and mind-body fatigue. I opt for calming practices such a restorative yoga and seated meditation.
May these tips guide you on your travels! We’d love to hear how they work for you.