April – that time of year when thousands of people across the country are traveling for spring break or holiday family visits. Storms in the southeast this year caused major delays, cancelled flights and changes to peoples well intentioned plans. Maybe we can blame this on Mercury in retrograde, with Venus, Jupiter and Saturn in retrograde as well! Probably global warming is playing it’s part. Regardless of where you place the blame, when traveling, obstacles out of our control can be stressful, causing disappointment and anxiety. How we respond in these situations is vital to the health of our bodies and our relationships.
Personally, I do not enjoy traveling. By traveling I mean packing, driving, airports, flying, luggage, shuttles, taxis… It destabilizes me, giving me the feeling that I am not safe and in control. If you are like me, it is not about the journey, but the destination! The schedules, long lines, turbulence, and any unfamiliar destinations all contribute to my lack of ease. So, I have to be very careful to self regulate in healthy ways so as not to ‘fly out of control’ within my internal space and risk becoming reactive and anxious. But, the reality is – it is about the journey!
Grounding yoga, conscious breathing and Abhyanga massage are all very helpful tools to help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and fear whether due to travel or any other diminishing experiences.
When setting an intention to root and ground, make time to acknowledge where you are in space and time with compassion and curiosity. Begin by taking in your surroundings – the colors, the shapes, the light, and any objects that draw your attention. Sometimes it is helpful to focus on a particular color and look for objects of that color to orient yourself. What time of day is it? Is sunlight streaming in through the window? Or is your lamp is casting a shadow on the night time ceiling? How does this make you feel?
Next, bring your awareness to the parts of your body that are touching the ground, chair or bed. If you are sitting, this will be your buttocks and sit bones and feet. If you are lying down, the back of your head, your shoulders, upper back, pelvis, and the backs of your legs. Are you comfortable? How does touching the earth feel to you in your body? Do you feel light or heavy? Do any parts of your body feel heavier or lighter?
Once you access a sense of presence and connection to the earth, now turn your attention to your breath. Follow the flow of the inhale as it travels the inner lining of your nostrils. Maybe feel the flexion of your spine as you exhale. Continue to breath without changing the breath, and just observe with interest and a sense of adventure. What are the sensations you feel as you experience being in your body in this present moment?
A beautiful practice in Ayurvedic medicine is the Abhyanga massage with warm oil. Massage soothes the nervous system and eliminates toxins while relieving stress and fatigue. What a perfect antidote to a long journey. To promote grounding and embodiment use a warming oil like Sesame oil. You can also use Coconut oil, Avocado oil or Jojoba oil. You may even want to add a few drops of an essential oil that is calming and settling – like Lavender, Frankincense or Vetiver (my favorite.)
Place a few ounces of oil in a small glass jar or bottle and and let stand in warm water to heat. Begin with the soles of the feet massaging the oil with small circular motions. Using longer, stronger strokes move on to the calves and thighs, sweeping the oil onto the skin with respect for those powerful muscles underneath. At the joints (ankle, knee etc) be gentle and move in a circular motion. Move onto the belly and massage oil in a clockwise circular motion. Rubbing oil into the back of your body will be a tactile reminder to release tension from your low back, around the scapula, upper neck and shoulders. The neck, face, and scalp all deserve additional attention, although you may want to use less oil and just knead gently with your fingers for a few minutes. A gently scalp massage can be very balancing – both invigorating and soothing at the same time.
Allow the oil to linger on your skin while you brush your teeth and do your morning routine for approximately ten minutes. Then…step into a hot shower and let warm water run off your skin, opening your pores and giving the oil more opportunity to be absorbed. Wash with soap only areas of your body that really need it. Towel dry. Sit for a few minutes. Enjoy your presence within your body space.