Travelling by air can be very unbalancing for people whose main or secondary dosha is vata. Vata is made of ether and air and has the qualities of these elements, it is mobile, dry and light. In Ayurveda an imbalance is created in the doshas when the elements of that dosha are increased, so when a person with hight vata flies they are taken into the air, moved at high speed, enclosed in a dry air-conditioned environment and put in a situation that often creates anxiety. All these things go against what vata needs for stability. Vata needs grounding.
Luckily there are things that vatas can do before, during and after their flights to make the experience less aggravating. Essential oils, massages, pranayama, meditation, asana and food can all be used to keep this dosha as balanced as possible.
Massages are fantastically balancing and grounding for all doshas and in particular for vatas who should be booking themselves in for massages or giving themselves self massages on a regular basis. So when you are preparing to fly it is a good idea to give yourself a massage before you get on the plane. Self massages are very easy just warm some sesame oil, add some essential oils and apply to your body. Use long movements along your limbs and circular movements on your joints.
Essential oils that are grounding include; angelica, cypress, rosewood, sandalwood and vetiver.
Oils that will bring balance are; geranium, ginger and lavender.
These same fragrances can be used during the flight. Take a washcloth in your carry on luggage and some essential oils. Add some oils and water and inhale from it. If you are lucky you might even be able to get the flight attendant to heat it in the microwave for you. You can lay it on your forehead, neck, wash you face, whatever feels good.
Once you arrive at your destination take a bath using the same essential oils in the water. Follow that with another massage and take the time to really ground yourself.
Asana is another way to balance and ground. This is not the time for dynamic yoga, this is the time to go SLOW and breath deeply. Sitting poses and forward bends are be good to do once you have landed. Go slow, breath deeply and then lay in Shavasana for at lest 15-20 minutes.
Pranayama is controlled breathing. By bringing awareness to the breath with slow and controlled exercises we are able to bring stability to our mind. Stilling and slowing the breath stills and quietens the mind. A nice simple breathing exercise is Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril breathing). Sit in a chair or on the floor with your spine long and your chin slightly tucked. Close your right nostril with the thumb of your right hand and breath in through your left nostril for the count of 5, release the right nostril and close the left nostril with the ring finger of your right hand and breath out through the right nostril. Breath in through the right nostril, release the left nostril and breath out through the left nostril. This is one round. Do 7 more rounds. This will help ground and balance you before, during or after a flight.
Follow your panayama exercises with some meditation. Meditation is much easier once you have done some pranayama as it helps to settle the mind and brings awareness within. Focus on your breath again and imagine that there are roots coming out of the base of your spine into the ground. Breath in and imagine the roots going deeper into the ground. Each time you breath imagine the roots going deeper and deeper. This a great meditation to bring stability and ground after a flight.
Food needs to be heavy, moist and warm. Soups, stews, and lots of root vegetables. Eating these foods leading up to and after your flight will help you to feel more centered. Avoid salads, potato chips or anything light. Have a look at the vata food sheet for more details.
Next time you fly give these techniques a try and see if they make a difference. You should notice your flight and the days that follow a lot easier. All these techniques can be used at any time to help ground and balance vata. Happy flying.