Equilibrium during Air Travel

Ayurvedic tips for balanced plane flights

Travel of any kind can have an aggravating effect the body’s three governing forces, called doshas in Sanskrit. One reason for this is that the body finds it easier to establish healthy bio-rhythms when there is a consistent daily routine that both cleanses and nourishes the body and mind.

As travel often disrupts a healthy routine, it can be a time when the doshas become more provoked, which then disrupts the normal smooth operation of their various functional duties. The dosha most affected by travel is the Vata dosha, because Vata, being light and changeable in nature, is increased by the irregular, lightening effect of travel.

This is especially true of travel by plane. The element most needed for Vata’s stability is the earth element. During air travel, we are totally disconnected from the Earth, which can have an immediate detrimental effect on Vata.

However, if we carry this awareness when planning for a flight, we can take precautions so that the journey is smooth, Vata remains fairly balanced and the days following the flight are not a frantic attempt to regain some semblance of equilibrium, but rather an enjoyable recognition of the benefits of following these simple guidelines:

  1. Balance Before Travel.

In the weeks leading up to your flight, make sure to do everything possible to bring yourself to a stable place of balance. In Ayurveda, this means balanced doshas. To balance the doshas requires living a calm, aware, fulfilling life, following a daily routine that harmonizes body, mind and senses and eating a diet that fosters healthy digestion and vital tissues.

In this life, every time we come to a crossroad, a junction or any big change, the doshas are the ones that have to help the psycho-physiology adjust and adapt to meet the new demands our internal/external environment has set. This is one expression of homeostasis.

These junctions may be the change of seasons or a change in time zones or a change in climate and culture. If the bodily intelligences (doshas) are balanced before you travel, they will be in the position to set in motion the necessary adaptation processes and you will adjust with very little trouble.
This is a huge part of preventing jet lag.

2. Self Massage before the Flight

Vata dosha, the principle most easily disturbed by plane flights, is light, cold and dry in nature. To pacify Vata, the best regime is a warm oil self-massage. The best oil is cold-pressed Black Sesame Oil, or better still Vata Oil, which is a medicated oil containing numerous herbs that soothe the nervous system.

If massaging your whole body before the flight is not possible, at least massage your feet, hands and head. This will help to control Vata and keep you grounded and lubricated during the flight.

3. Eat Light Food in Small Portions

As already mentioned, your digestion is more sensitive during travel, especially travel over different time zones. Often on planes, food will be served in relation to the time zone of your final destination.

However, your body’s internal clock does not adjust that quickly. If you are not hungry, don’t eat. If you eat simply because food is offered, you will end up creating more toxins as your digestion will not be in a position to metabolise that food. (and of course, airplane food is not easily digestible at the best of times!)
Best is to honor your body’s wisdom.  Take along some light snacks like raisins and soaked, skinned almonds to see you through the flight.

This dietary wisdom should also be followed as much as possible during your trip away as well. As much as you can, eat light, warm foods cooked with kitchen herbs. Only eat when you are hungry. Do not over-eat. Eat with awareness.

Your body is already having to make so many adjustments in the new environment, if you create internal toxins due to poor diet choices and eating habits, it may be too much for the doshas to handle, This is when you will become susceptible to jet lag and many other ailments as well.

4. Drink Warm Water with Ginger on the Plane

The environment inside an air plane is extremely dehydrating. So adequate intake of fluids is essential. Many people drink cold water on planes, but this will actually cause a reaction that almost guarantees jet lag and poor digestion in the days or weeks following arrival at your destination. Here’s why.

Cold water is the nemesis of your digestive fire, called Agni in Sanskrit. This is because metabolism is hot, light and sharp by nature, just like a fire. It transforms fuel into energy like fire. When you put cold water on a fire, you put it out. It’s that simple. Your digestion is already compromised when you are on a plane, because Vata dosha is the force that stimulates the secretion of gastric juices. When it begins to accumulate due to the cold, dry, airy conditions on the plane, it will be unable to deliver its messages properly. So if you go pouring a bunch of cold water on an already weak digestive fire, you can imagine the result.

Plus the fact that the air conditioning is generally very high in the plane, so your body will already be working hard to keep you warm, so why not support its efforts rather than fight against it?

The best choice is to use warm water, which is easily obtained from the hot water taps on the plane. By placing 1 tsp. Grated ginger in the bottom of a thermos, and then continually filling it with warm water throughout the flight, you will be also receiving the numerous benefits of this amazing root including; protection against air-borne pathogens, improved metabolism, antidotes travel sickness and nausea and relieves pain of all kinds (headaches, ear-aches etc.)

Another good option is to take along a box of “Ayurda Vata Tea” which you can have instead of tea or coffee on the flight. This can be purchased from the Earthsong clinic.

5.    Protect your Sense Organs
It is through the medium of the senses that we perceive our world. Ayurveda teaches that part of being healthy means to have balanced sense organs that are under the control of your discriminative intelligence.

An airplane flight can potentially irritate the sense organs in a number of ways, so we must follow certain regimes and guidelines to  keep them functioning smoothly.

For the eyes, avoid watching movies excessively, as this places great strain on the eyes. The environment on the plane already places pressure on these delicate sense organs, so be sure to rest them as much as you can. If you cannot sleep, simply rest with your eyes closed, taking long, deep breaths. Even reading for extended periods can strain the eyes.

If your eyes become blood shot and irritated, a very good remedy is soaking cotton eye pads in pure rose water, and then have a 10 minute rest with the eye pads over the eyes. Pure Rose Water can be purchased from the Earthsong clinic.

For the ears, limit the use of headphones as much as possible. Even if the volume is low, the trapped vibration of the sound has a damaging impact on the eardrum. Ears are governed by Vata, so anything that impacts the ears will have a direct impact on this travel-sensitive dosha.

To protect the ears and balance Vata, before your flight place 2 drops of warm, cold-pressed black sesame oil in your ear, lying on one side and massaging ear, then place cotton bud in ear and do the other side.

This can be done after the flight as well.

For the nose, 3 drops warm, cold-pressed black sesame oil or 2 drops warm, medicated nasal drops should be dropped into each nostril using a dropper. Tilt head back, and then add drops, followed by a circular massage up and around the nose and eyes three times while breathing deeply.

This will keep the nose lubricated, help to filter out bacteria and stabilize hormonal balance due to the nourishing effect of these oils on the pituitary and pineal glands.

For the mouth and tongue, the warm ginger water will help to keep the mouth clean and lubricated. It is also wise to take your tongue scraper along with your tooth brush on the plane so you can keep your whole mouth free of the toxins that may accumulate during the flight.

For the skin,  the self-massage mentioned previously is best for protecting the skin. Also select comfortable clothes preferably of a natural material for the trip.

6.    Breathe deeply throughout the Plane flight

Every hour, take at least 10 long deep diaphragmatic breaths through the nose to ensure full oxygenation of the lungs, brain and tissues throughout the flight. This will also help calm the nervous system and balance Vata.

Finally, I like to take a few Ayurvedic herbal remedies in case of any ailments manifesting in myself or others. Two essentials would be:

Triphala is best for constipation
Trikatu can be used for colds, congestion and poor digestion

This may seem like a lot to remember. But I promise it is well worth the effort. And if you are following guideline #1, you will find you will be in the right mental state to adequately prepare for your journey. I promise the results will make it all worthwhile!


Pure Rose Water
Copper Tongue Scraper
Vata Oil
Black Sesame Oil
Medicated Nasal Drops
Vata Tea

All of these can be purchased from the Earthsong Ayurveda clinic.
Let us know if you are interested in any of these holistic traditional remedies.