Why is it so hard to feel balanced when traveling? Ayurveda suggests that when we move by plane, train or car, our body is moving faster than nature intended it to. High-speed travel introduces a light, mobile, spacey quality into your body and mind. Air travel often disrupts our daily routine and even pulls us across ecosystems & time zones. When our circadian rhythms are disturbed, so is appetite & sleep, and so is vata dosha.
This incredibly fast movement through the air aggravates vata dosha (the air & ether elements in the body/mind). Vata is the subtle energy that governs movement; although our physical bodies aren’t voluntarily moving during most travel, it is still moving quickly through the air & ether, resulting in travel fatigue and jet lag.
Jet lag shows up as fatigue, dehydration, insomnia, anxiety, digestive distrubances, spaceyness, …the list goes on. Ayurveda offers a number of antidotes so you can appreciate the pleasures of travel while avoiding many of the discomforts. Anything to balance vata by way of diet, herbs, lifestyle, yoga & meditation both before & after traveling help limit jet lag.
In addition to the below tips, prioritize SLEEP & REST before traveling- if we go into the journey feeling rested, our jet lag symptoms will be less severe.
Give yourself abhyanga, a self-oil massage, within 12 hours of beginning travel. This calms the nervous system & grounds vata dosha.
TRY A NATURAL SEDATIVE
An hour before you take off, take equal parts ashwagandha & valerian root with a dash of cinnamon or ginger. These herbs strengthen agni (digestive fire), improve circulation, and help relax the mind. Valerian has properties similar to melatonin and can help you sleep during the flight. (I mix ashwagandha & valerian root with ginger & put in capsules. Take 2 capsules or 1tsp of herb mixture with warm water & ghee or warm milk an hour before travel)
Drink lots of water (more than usual, aim for 6-8 ounces of warm water every hour) and avoid caffeine, alcohol, and soda (haha, pretty much all of the drinks they offer on the plane!) Flying through the air is incredibly drying to the body-caffeine, sugar, alcohol, and carbonation are also dehydrating and aggravate vata even further. I usually bring my own tea bags with me: mint, ginger or Yogi “Bedtime” are great.
EAT GROUNDING FOODS
Avoid raw, dry, crunchy or cold foods like salad, dried fruit, rice cakes, granolas or chips. Favor warm & moist foods with healthy fats instead. Look for cooked apples, oatmeal, steamed veggies, lentils & hot soups. If you eat meat, small amounts of fish and chicken are also grounding.
SURYA CHIKITSA, SUNSHINE THERAPY
Yes, sunlight actually reduces jet lag! When you reach your destination, go outside and let the sun soak your skin for 20 minutes. Sunbathing resets your body clock to local time and helps us stay alert.
Then adopt the local time immediately. Reset your clock, trying to go to bed and get up at the same time you would at home, but in your new time zone. Give yourself time to adjust. Resist the urge to nap; it prolongs jet lag.
MASSAGE YOUR BODY AT BEDTIME
Massage your body with sesame or olive oil, paying with special attention on the soles of the feet. If you would rather not rub your whole body with oil, at least do the legs & feet. This calms the nervous system & literally pulls energy downward, grounding vata dosha. Add lavender essential oil for added grounded, as it’s a natural nervine sedative. If you can, then take a hot bath and go to sleep.
Triphala is an ayurvedic herbal remedy that regulates the bowels, preventing constipation and reduces jet lag. Add 1/2 teaspoon of the powder to a cup of boiling water and steep for 10 minutes. Strain the herbs before you drink it or leave them at the bottom of your cup. If the taste is too unpleasant (its pretty intense!) you can always take 2 triphala capsules instead.