With 4 hours to wait for my connection at the Tampa Airport, I’m left thinking about how to make this experience as Ayurvedic as possible. Travel, by definition, aggravates Vata dosha, the wind principal. Travel is movement, and air travel in particular, with the radiation exposure and high speed travel through space, sends one’s Vata soaring through the friendly skies. Dry, recirculated air wreaks havoc on Vata dosha as well. So what is an ayurvedically responsible traveler to do? Of course we make allowances for our individual constitution and any imbalances that might be present. But given that we’re already such good ayurvedic boys and girls, I’ll assume you’re in a perfectly balanced state, and address the present potentially aggravating factors.
Let’s look at preparing before we even leave the house. This is the perfect time for abhyanga – warm oil self-massage. Heat up some lovely sesame oil, ideally with vata soothing herbs and essential oils, and work it all over the body before stepping into a warm shower or bath. Warm oil is a fantastic vata antidote and it works preventatively as well! The warm, heavy, oily qualities counteract the dry and windy vata dosha. Not only does this practice feel great, but it grounds the nervous system and moisturizes the skin.
It’s very important to have a solid meal before traveling if possible, since we know how great our dining options are going to be once we leave the house! You definitely want to start with Chyavanprash to keep your digestion and immune system optimal with all those germs floating around the plane. Extra ashwagandha too for serious grounding and immune support. Then some warm whole grains, cooked root vegetables, ghee, and off you go! Don’t forget plenty of water and snacks for the trip. Perusing around the airport, the only things I can find that I’ll let fly (all puns intended) are unsalted nuts, fruit, and vegetable soup. Once on the flight, if they even offer snacks anymore, kindly refuse. Salt, sugar, MSG and more salt. All vata offenders.
Drink gallons of water, as much as the carry-on limits will allow. You and your skin will thank you later. I know it’s tempting, but please skip the caffeine. It’s dehydrating and stimulating. Nightmare for your vata during an extremely vata aggravating experience.
Take a nap on the plane. Not only does the time fly by more quickly, your nervous system will be refreshed and less wired than if you spend the whole time working while listening to music while reading SkyMall. This is a great time to secretly meditate in public. Focusing on your breath for 10-15 minutes does wonders for keeping the prana in the body smoothly flowing. I like to listen to dharma talks on my iPod during the flight too. (Zencast on ITunes is great) By the time I arrive at my destination, I’ve learned something new and I feel connected, grounded and inspired. Did I mention drink lots of water?
If they’ll let you get up and walk around a bit, take advantage and do a little stretching in the back of the plane. Although it may seem absurd to do mountain or tree pose 30,000 feet up in the sky, your butt be much happier as you walk off the plane and begin the next adventure.
Well I’m off to take one last walking tour of the airport before I cram myself into a tiny seat for 4 hours. I’ve got Ram Dass cued up on my iPod for the flight. I’ll have to try hard not to laugh out loud and endure strange looks from the other passengers.
Sharada Hall is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine and an Ayurvedic practitioner who offers a unique and comprehensive approach to preventing illness, correcting imbalances, and achieving optimal health. She is the creator of Bodhimed.com, an online natural health magazine that delivers health tips from ancient medical traditions in a fun, fresh, and friendly language that you can easily understand and apply to your modern life.