Traveling can be exciting, full of treasured memories in the making. Part of the fun is the anticipation, waiting for the day to finally arrive when it’s time to head out on the open road or board the plane to your dream destination. Much time and effort is spent planning a trip—when it finally happens, the excitement is palpable. What you don’t plan ahead for, however, is the toll traveling can take on both your body and mind.
The nature of traveling is irregular—sometimes unpredictable and in flux. This is to be expected and adds to the unique experience of travel. Depending on the type of trip you have planned, your daily schedule may be busy, affecting eating times and sleep hours. You can expect the food to be different from what you normally eat, sometimes causing the toughest of stomachs to feel a bit questionable. Feelings of stress are no surprise.
Stress, even good stress during traveling, can affect people in different ways. Here are a few examples:
- Impaired digestive function
- Compromised immune system
- Feeling constant fatigue
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Various bodily aches and pains
These symptoms are the last thing you want to experience while you are traveling. You want to feel great for the duration of a trip and enjoy every experience, even the challenging ones. This is possible by weaving in a few helpful Ayurvedic practices into your travels.
Look to Ayurveda
Ayurveda seeks to balance the mind, body, and spirit to help maintain optimum health; it has great potential to keep you balanced and energized while traveling. One of the foundational principles of Ayurveda is balancing your dosha as a way to cultivate overall well-being. Not surprisingly, traveling has the effect of depleting and creating disharmony within the doshas, creating imbalances in your body and mind. One particular dosha, Vata, is affected the most.
Vata is the embodiment of change. It is composed of space and air and it likes to move. When placed in an environment like traveling that requires a lot of movement and change, it can be overloaded, leading to the above-mentioned symptoms. If you want to have a smooth trip, balance your Vata dosha.
Here are some Vata-balancing tips to help get you started in the right direction.
1. Eat Grounding Foods
On travel day, focus on eating grounding foods that are warm and moist, such as:
- Steamed vegetables
- Cooked apples
- Hot soups
Eat light and snack often; try to avoid heavy meals. Eating dry and raw foods such as salad, dried fruit, and potato chips tend to increase dryness in the body, which can lead to digestive complaints. This may require you to bring your own snacks. Luckily, airports and food marts are starting to offer healthier food options.
2. Massage Your Body
After a long day of walking and doing touristy activities, it feels good to slip into bed. However, before drifting off to sleep, try performing a self-massage, which has numerous health benefits, including:
- Calming the nervous system
- Releasing tension from the body (which has been found to help with headache relief)
- Increasing circulation
Ayurvedic self-massage is traditionally performed standing or sitting using oil such as sesame, which is pacifying for Vata imbalances. It’s nice to include a little bottle of oil (carefully wrapped in a plastic bag) as part of your travel toiletry kit. Your self-massage can be done lying in bed at the end of the day with or without the use of oil. Starting from the top of your head, massage the scalp and make your way down to the bottom of your feet. Remember to massage your stomach to help with digestion. You can also opt to do this in the morning right before a shower—make it work for you.
3. Practice Yoga
Traveling typically requires a lot of sitting. After a fun day of activities, there can be some bodily stiffness. Yoga is the sister science to Ayurveda and, when practiced together, the benefits are huge. Yoga doesn’t have to mean handstands and complicated twists. It can be any comfortable stretching that opens and creates space for movement and healing in the bodymind.
Try some chair yoga poses during your flights or at the end of the day at your destination. These fun poses specifically for a road trip can break up a long day of driving. Feel free to try some of your own stretches while standing, such as forward folds, bending side to side, or standing twists. Move in the direction your body wants.
4. Stay Hydrated
Think of flying on a plane hurtling through space with the aircraft cabin’s air blowing in your face—or zooming down the road with your windows down, enjoying the cool breeze. This is all dehydrating for your skin and body. Drinking lots of water while traveling is important, especially during long flights. Try to avoid drinking alcohol on travel day because it can be dehydrating, according to the Journal of Alcoholism & Drug Dependence. Bring a water bottle with you that is collapsible and easy to pack. Also, try drinking warm water, if possible, to aid digestion and for comfort.
You can also try taking an electrolytes on the day you’re traveling to get ahead of dehydration.
5. Sleep Well
Getting good sleep is crucial to your health and well-being. As best you can, stick to a regular sleep routine to allow for ample rest. During the night, your body and mind engage in self-repair, detoxification, and rejuvenation, and you don’t want to miss this time. It may be hard to decompress after a busy day, so try some techniques such as the following:
- Listen to relaxing music
- Journal about the day
- Take a hot shower
- Remove electronics from your sleeping area
If possible, leave room in your itinerary to include a leisure day where you will simply rest and enjoy the day as it unfolds.
6. Stop to Breathe
It is easy to take breathing for granted. Depending on your state of mind, your breath can become shallow in response to stress, or it can become deep when you’re feeling relaxed. The more deep, cleansing breaths you take, the better off you will be. Incorporating moments in the day where you will stop and perform some breathing exercises, even for a few seconds, will help you to feel calmer and more grounded.
An easy exercise is to close your eyes, breathe in through your nose for four seconds, and exhale out of your mouth for six seconds. Allow it to become smooth and rhythmic. Do as many breaths as you like, but begin with a minimum of three complete breaths. If you think you will have a hard time remembering to aside time to do your breathing exercises, set a reminder alarm for once or twice a day.
When planning your next vacation, start to envision incorporating these Ayurvedic-inspired practices into your schedule. Even committing to just one of these will alleviate some of the stress and strain of travel caused when the Vata dosha becomes overstimulated. When you travel, focus on balancing, grounding, and nurturing yourself through these simple but powerful practices. The payoff will be worth it when you get to your destination feeling refreshed and able to wholly enjoy your trip.
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.
Discover how to incorporate ancient healing wisdom into your daily life to choose the best foods, exercises, and lifestyle practices to benefit your unique mind-body type in our introductory online course with Deepak Chopra, Discovering Ayurveda. Learn More.