Tips for the Road
Want to appreciate the pleasures of travel while avoiding many of the discomforts? Try out ayurveda’s bag of tricks.
By Vasant Lad
Whether you’re setting off to celebrate the holidays with family and friends, get to a vacation spot, or clinch a business deal, it’s hard to stay balanced on the road. Why? Because when you travel by plane, train, or car, your body moves faster than nature intended it to. High-speed travel introduces a light, mobile, spacey quality into your body and mind. Plus, it disrupts your daily routine and often pulls you across time zones. All this aggravates the vata dosha—the subtle energy that governs movement—and leaves you vulnerable to dehydration, insomnia, sluggish digestion, anxiety, spaceyness, jet lag…the list goes on. But here’s the good news: Ayurveda offers a number of antidotes so you can appreciate the pleasures of travel while avoiding many of the discomforts.
An Hour Before You Take Off
Swallow a ginger or cinnamon capsule, drink mint tea, or try some tagar (Indian valerian). These herbs strengthen agni (digestive fire), improve circulation, and relax the mind. Tagar has properties similar to melatonin and will help you sleep during a long plane, train, or car ride. (Do not take it if you are the driver). Put 1/4 teaspoon of powdered tagar on your tongue and wash it down with room-temperature water an hour before you depart and repeat every six hours while en route.
While in Transit
Drink lots of water (more than usual) and avoid beverages like coffee, caffeinated tea, alcohol, and soda. Caffeine, sugar, alcohol, and carbonation are dehydrating and aggravate vata.
If You’ve Traveled to a New Time Zone
Adopt the local time immediately. Reset your clock and go to bed and get up at the same time you would at home. Resist the urge to nap; it prolongs jet lag.
Eat Foods That Are Grounding
Avoid drying raw foods like salad, dried fruit, and potato chips, and choose warm moist foods with extra oil instead. Look for cooked apples, steamed veggies with garlic, lentils, quinoa, hot soups, and kitchari mixed with ghee and cilantro. If you’re not a strict vegetarian, fish and chicken are also grounding.
Massage your body, including the scalp and soles of the feet, with comfortably warm sesame oil. (For detailed instructions, see page 62.) Then take a hot bath and go to sleep.
Drink Almond Milk
This nourishing drink relieves anxiety and other vata-related imbalances. If you have access to a blender, soak five almonds first thing in the morning. In the evening, peel off the skins and blend the almonds with one cup of hot milk, a pinch of cardamom and saffron, and a teaspoon of date sugar or your sweetener of choice. Enjoy.
Triphala is an ayurvedic herbal remedy that regulates the bowels, preventing constipation and calming jet lag. Add 1/2 teaspoon of the powder to a cup of boiling water and steep for about 10 minutes, until it is cool enough to drink. You can strain out the herbs before you drink it or leave them at the bottom of your cup. Triphala has several tastes, including bitter and astringent, so in the beginning, you might not like the flavor. Whichever taste is lacking in your blood serum, you will experience that missing taste in your mouth. But persist. Over time, you will balance the six tastes within your body and the flavor of triphala will become less unpleasant.
Make Jet Lag Tea
Put 1/3 teaspoon each of jatamansi, tagara, and ashwagandha in a cup of hot water and steep for 10 minutes. Take this herbal drink for 1 to 3 days, both morning and night, to reduce both vata and jet lag.
Plus: Did You Know?
Sunlight 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 diurnal time and stimulates sadhaka pitta in the brain, which keeps you alert.
Vasant Lad, BAMS, MASc, is a world-renowned ayurvedic physician from India. He is the founder of the Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the author of numerous books.