I am fresh off the plane from my travels – talk about trying to balance out the weather! After leading my annual New Year’s Retreat in Belize (warm, kind of rainy) I was home for two days (cold, cold, cold) and then got word that my Visa for Sudan came through so left two days later for Khartoum (hot, hot, hot, and dry, dry, dry). I was there for almost three weeks, then decided to stay in Istanbul on my way back (cold, windy, rainy) for two days since I had never been there and heard such great things about it. So I am back in NY for a week and a half (cold, cold, cold) and then I am off to San Francisco (moderate but cloudy) for three days to do an intensive with Dr. Claudia Welch, an expert in Western Medicine as well as Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine. (Definitely check out her book, “Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life”.) I come back to NYC (cold, cold, cold) for 48 hours, then head to Dusseldorf and Koln, Germany (cold, but not AS cold) to teach a 25 hour Ayurveda training and a couple of workshops. Whew!
Needless to say, there are certain measures that need to be taken when you are traveling so much, or even on a short trip. These measures don’t have to be too complicated. They just require that we take a few precautions and bring along a few supplies.
Here’s some Ayurvedic advice for all of you who are going skiing, or down to someplace warm, or both, or anyplace in between!
Before you get on a plane, and as soon as possible when you arrive, take a nice warm shower or bath and oil yourself up big time. We all get more Vata when we fly – up there in air and space, it’s so cold and dry. Even a couple hours in the sky can be upsetting for the system. Balance that out by making sure you are thoroughly lubed up before you go, and then bring a small bottle of sesame oil to give yourself a thorough abhyanga (oil massage) once you arrive at your destination. Pay extra attention to your feet. They are the connected to the first chakra, which is the element of earth, so massaging the feet is very grounding.
Get your feet on the local soil!
And while we’re on that subject, as soon as you can upon arrival, go for a walk. Get your feet on the local soil or sidewalk or sand. My co-teacher on my New Year’s Retreat, Sheri Celentano, and I literally get off the plane each year and go straight to the beach to get sand between our toes and dip our feet in the water and pay homage to the ocean. We do it before we even check in! This ritual is so important to us, to truly arrive on the land, to set a good intention and to thank Mama Nature for taking care of us. On my first day back in Khartoum, I walked all over the city, just to get my feet back on those sandy back streets and see the people, smell the smells. Let your skin get accustomed to the change in temperature and/or humidity, and check out some local sights.
I had the good fortune, totally unbeknownst to me, to book my B&B in Istanbul right next to the beautiful Cihangir Yoga Studio. Check my FB page for the story, it’s pretty amazing. I arrived in Istanbul at 7 am, totally out of it, and a 9 am class put me right back on track. If there is no yoga studio available, do a short home practice or check out a yoga video online. Laughing Lotus has a bunch of videos on the website, and I also have some classes on www.MyYogaOnline.com. Even a few sun salutes and a couple of warrior poses and some nice twists will help so much to get the blood flowing and the internal organs back in gear.
An Ayurveda Travel Kit
I travel with a little kit of herbs and teas. I always bring triphala, a few bags of ginger tea for traveler’s tummy, chitrak and purnarnava if it’s cold, neem and hibiscus if it’s hot, and always some Yogi laxative tea. For those of us with a tendency towards Vata dryness or Kapha slow digestion, it’s essential! Bring your tongue scraper and your neti pot, and a couple of essential oils-peppermint is great for energy when jet lag kicks in, and lavender or clary sage is great when you need to get some sleep.
Create A Little Sacred Space
A pack of incense and a little candle is lovely to create a sacred space. In Khartoum, my bedroom just had a bed and a couple of little nightstands. I used one for books and the other for an altar. Holy goes with us wherever we go, and giving it a tangible form is very comforting. Grab a local souvenir or a little plant or flower or photo as a centerpiece.
Eat some local food. Yes, I know, you are gluten free and/or dairy free and/or raw, and/or Paleo, or any other way of eating, but keep in mind the great advice my first Ayurveda teacher, Maya Tiwari, gave us. She said, “You want to know what to eat? Go to the local farmer’s market and eat that.” Mother Nature gives us exactly what we need for any climate at any time. In New York City, most of the year I’m vegan. In Africa, it’s so hot and dry and the local dairy products are so well made that I had cheese and yogurt and milk and felt fine. I haven’t wanted them at all since I’ve been home, because it’s been too cold and wet. I’m not suggesting that anyone goes against any severe food allergies or moral issues, just that there be an awareness of the local specialties and a softness around any everyday food rules here and there. When in Mexico, I exist on guacamole and black beans and those delicious masa tortillas. Last time I was In Germany-well, okay, in Germany I ate a lot of Indian food, which was surprisingly good… Because the Germans do love their meat and that doesn’t work for me. I did, however, go to the local market and get great veggies and spices.
Check The Weather BEFORE You Go!
Lastly, check the weather reports before you go! I hadn’t planned on going to Istanbul, so I didn’t have enough warm clothes, and I froze my tail off. I didn’t care because I was having such a good time, but avoid that if at all possible. The local hammam (bath house) was the best remedy…more on that story later, it’s pretty hilarious. I will get to that in the next column.
With a few of these tips, and all around general self-care, there is no reason to feel unwell either on a trip or upon return. Ayurveda means the “Science of Life,” and we are our own best laboratory. Year round, do the best you can to eat well, sleep enough, stay hydrated and in good company. And then get out and have some adventures -hOMe will be that much sweeter when you get back.