Travel Kit and Tips for Preventing Common Ailments on the Road

After sitting for hours, sometimes I just gotta get upside down.

Part of traveling to far-away lands means letting go of attachments, putting routines aside, and doing some new stuff.

I recently got back from a two-week trip to Turkey and, though I enjoyed being away, I’m also I’m also very much a creature of habit. When I’m not at home, I miss my routine: my morning yoga practice and the assorted props that go with it, comfy meditation cushion, herbs I take to maintain health and digestion, my favorite foods…you get the idea.

Routines aside, travel is hugely disruptive to our sensitive systems. The movement of the plane and stress from being patted down by the TSA disrupts the vata dosha (which regulates movement in the body—namely, breath, elimination, and circulation). As a result of vata increasing, you may feel dryness, constipation, anxiety, edema, headache, and a compromised immune system.

By taking a few precautions to keep vata in check, you can avoid getting sick while traveling, you won’t need to take pharmaceuticals or over-the-counter meds, your digestion will remain solid, and you’ll sleep well, too.

Over the years, I’ve assembled a small travel kit with commonly found items and portable routine that ensures I can still squeeze in a bit of yoga and stay healthy–no matter where I am in the world. What’s in that kit, you ask?

A Yoga Strap
There are so many yoga poses I can do with just a strap and some pillows and blankets from the hotel. If only there were a travel yoga mat small enough to fit into my suitcase without compromising space for my shoes.

Herbs (Not That Kind of Herb!)

  • Ginger
    One thing I never leave home without is ginger powder (you can get it in capsule form, too). Ginger works wonders for nausea, diarrhea, or other stomach upsets, plus it won’t stop your digestion, unlike that pink stuff I shall not name. Just ask my mom, ginger works miracles.
  • Black pepper
    I also use black pepper (it’s almost always included in meals on the plane) as it helps circulation and digestion.
  • Cardamom
    If you’re adventurous, you can bring green cardamom pods and pop a couple in your mouth to help relieve gas and nausea, plus it freshens your breath, too. (Just chew the pod and the seeds, but you can spit out the pod after a few minutes.)
  • Triphala
    If you’re familiar with Ayurvedic herbs and have a practitioner you trust, the herb triphala (which is a mixture of three herbs that balance vata, kapha, and pitta doshas) can help get digestion moving. Markets like Whole Foods stock triphala, but it’s best to see a practitioner first before taking it.
  • Sleeping herbs
    I typically go to Whole Foods to get an herb blend that includes kava kava or valerian root. These aren’t Ayurvedic herbs, but they work magic to help me relax and they’re mild enough that I don’t get a hangover. I don’t necessarily sleep like the dead, as I would with prescription-grade sleep meds, but I get a little nervous being knocked unconscious on a plane.

Stay Healthy on the Plane

The human body just wasn’t built to hurtle through space 35,000+ feet in the air inside a metal tube going 500 miles per hour. All of that movement can wreak havoc on the vata dosha.

These tips can keep vata in check while in flight or on the go:

  • Stick to small meals rather than snacking.
  • Because travel dries out your body, eat light, warm, unctuous food.
  • Avoid food that is dry and salty (like potato chips or pretzels) and eat things that are warm or hot.
  • Avoid carbonated or cold drinks (see my post Ice Water: Is It Making You Fat? for more information about ice and digestion) and opt for hot tea.
  • You can even go a step further and bring your own herbal tea, preferably chamomile or ginger. Then you can totally annoy the flight attendants by asking for hot water which isn’t on their little cart thingy.
  • If you’re on a long flight, get up and do some gentle stretching, do circles with your feet, and bend and straighten your legs. In your seat, you can bring your arms over your head and twist gently. I always sit in an aisle seat so I can get up and walk around the cabin. Climbing over people gets tiring.
Can I do yoga up here? (Pigeon Valley in Cappadocia, Turkey)

After the flight

When I get to my hotel or destination, I follow a quick, but effective routine.

A good post-travel sequence, though technically geared for high blood pressure, is this one from Yoga Journal’s site. (When you’re done, add in “legs up the wall” pose, a great counter pose to sitting.)

Sesame oil massage
(Not the toasted kind, but plain sesame oil.) Rub a small amount of oil in hands to warm, then massage your feet and put a dab of oil on your scalp. You’d be surprised how well it works to ground and relax you after a long flight.

Do you have any other travel tips or remedies you use?

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