Getting ready to go on a vacation or traveling for work can be exciting and and at the same time, depleting.
It’s a common occurrence to feel like a day of travel to your destination takes so much physical and mental energy that you might need a day or so to recover.
If you’re not familiar with the holistic system of ayurveda, the word means “the science of life.” It encourages lifestyle interventions and natural therapies to regain a balance in physical, mental and spiritual aspects. Through the lens of ayurveda, travel is vata-aggravating.
“Vata” is the principle of movement and change and is associated with the qualities of dry, light and rough. Some of the signs of vata aggravation from travel are gas, constipation, dryness, difficulty sleeping and exhaustion in the body and mind.
There are simple changes to routine that can help keep vata more in balance before, during and after travel, to leave you more time to enjoy your vacation instead of recovering.
Minimize caffeine, alcohol and carbonation. They are dehydrating and vata-aggravating.
Use a checklist. Vata imbalance can affect concentration and attention to detail.
Pack as lightly as possible. Simplify so you don’t feel so burdened during travel.
Take a scarf with lavender oil (or your favorite scent). Having a calming scent can be helpful if you find yourself experiencing a moment of stress. Use the scent as a reminder to take a slow, deep and calming breath.
Rest, but resist the urge to nap. Go outside for a bit at your destination to help your internal clock reset to local time.
After travel, try a diet of simple, warm, cooked foods for the first couple of days.
Bookend travel days with slow days.
Lastly, one of the most effective ayurvedic practices to incorporate into your travel routine to keep vata in balance is abhyanga (self-massage). This practice is essential to soothing the nervous system and also can help move stagnant lymphatic fluid.
If you have ever experienced some swelling in your feet or legs after a long day of travel, that is a collection of lymphatic fluid (fluid that bathes the tissues of the body). We want to keep that fluid moving so it can be refreshed and cleansed by the body to keep the tissues nourished and healthy.
The word for “oil” in the language of ayurveda is “sneha,” which also means “love.” By applying oil to your body with massage, you are taking time to show yourself some love and compassion. Great choices for body oils are cold-pressed organic sesame oil or coconut oil.
Start at your feet and work your way up your body, with circular motion over joints and long upward strokes on long bones of the body. When you get to your abdomen, start by moving up the right side of your abdomen, go across the top and down the left. This follows the path of digestion and can help you avoid travel constipation with gentle movement.
When you have finished your massage, give the oil some time to soak in as you wrap up in a cozy towel and enjoy some quiet time. Then rinse in a warm shower, don’t scrub the oil off, let it nourish your skin.
If a full body massage is not possible, another great option is to apply oil to the soles of your feet, a dab in your nostrils and a few drops on the crown of your head before bed.
Incorporating some of these simple changes into your travel routine can help you feel more balanced and at ease throughout your trip.
Tonia Mayerle is an ayurveda health counselor at Statera Integrated Health & Wellness Solutions in Dubuque.