How to Ease Your Motion Sickness—No Medication Required


t’s summer. That means it’s time for road trips, sailing excursions, or flying off to vacation destinations. But all that getting away isn’t much fun if traveling makes you feel queasy. And statistics reveal that you are not alone: two-thirds of people experience motion sickness. There are remedies, but the currently available medications often induce drowsiness–meaning you might sleep through your joyful travel experience.

The good news is that there are natural, non-pharmaceutical ways to get relief–including yogic breathing.

Why Do You Feel Queasy?

Motion sickness occurs when there is a mismatch between sensory signals. For instance, when you’re in a moving vehicle, your inner ear tells you you’re moving, but if you’re looking at a book or smartphone, your eyes may perceive stillness. This sensory disconnect can disrupt the normal functioning of your vestibular system, which is responsible for maintaining your balance and equilibrium. This can lead to symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, and vomiting.

It’s not just travel that causes motion sickness. An upset stomach  can occur when you’re exposed to any kind of turbulent motion. Research suggests that some people get ill from airplane turbulence, amusement park rides, schussing down ski slopes or even camel riding. You can even experience motion sickness sitting still, such as when you’re playing video games or wearing a virtual-reality headset.

Some people rarely experience motion sickness. Your susceptibility may vary based on factors like genetics, previous experiences, and individual physiology. However, if you are one of the few who could experience seasickness on dry land (raising my own hand here) motion sickness medication helps reduce signals of nausea and vomiting by blocking the relevant neurotransmitters in your brain.

Breathwork Works

A 2015 study published in The Journal of Physiology found that people who experience motion sickness may have an increased sympathetic response (fight or flight) and reduced parasympathetic activity (rest and digest) when they get sick. This research suggests that balancing your sympathetic and parasympathetic branches, as well as hormonal and cortical patterns, may be the key to alleviating some symptoms.

“Breathwork has the power to bring about a sense of inner calm,” according to Linda Stern Lang, a clinical instructor at the George Washington University Center for Integrative Medicine. It can induce physiological changes that relax your gut and shift your biochemistry, alleviating the stressors responsible for nausea. For motion sickness relief, Lang suggests practicing diaphragmatic breathing and alternative nostril breathing. In both cases, breathe slowly and keep your head still.