Healthy Living, December 1998
Healing in the Heartland
by Rachel Rabkin
You might think that a visit to a remote, luxurious, vegetarian spa in the country would mean only one thing: time to veg out. But at the Raj, the Maharishi Ayurveda Health Center that spans 100 acres of glorious green meadows and woods in the heart of Iowa, it means much more. Specifically built to offer Ayurveda treatments, the Raj teaches you not just to tune out the stress of your daily life but to tune in to yourself - to achieve balance in your body and mind.
One of the oldest systems of natural and preventative medicine in the world, the 5,000-year-old art of Ayurveda focuses on achieving equilibrium among the three kinds of energy, or doshas, found in the body: vata, pitta, and kapha. To determine your dosha, you will start your stay at this tranquil resort with an hour-long consultation conducted by a Western-trained M.D. and an Indian doctor or vaidya. (Healthy Living's editor-in-chief, Rachel Newman, was amazed by the accuracy of their diagnoses; see her story on the next page.) Once completed, a tailor-made plan is prescribed for you, which includes everything from meals and herbal supplements to exercise and treatments. Then you're left in the attentive and gentle hands of the staff-who out number guests two to one.
Doctor's orders: Lie back, close your eyes, and let the healing treatments begin. Some relaxing examples: The warm herbal oil massage (abhyanga), given in unison by two technicians, loosens toxins in your tissues and soothes your skin. This release of impurities leaves you primed for either an herbal steam treatment (swedana) to further purify, or the relaxation treatment (shirodhara), during which a continuous flow of essential oil is poured over your forehead to settle your nervous system. Sensuous mud and milk beauty baths are also available at your asking. Whatever work is done, the tender touches of the technicians, combined with sound and aroma therapy, will leave you as limp as a noodle.
Float along the carpeted floors, past open windows streaming with fresh air, to the garden-like dining area. Watch chefs whip up your organic, vegetarian, Indian-influenced meals as they dish out tips on how to prepare delicious food that will balance your doshas and aid in digestion.
Originally given to the royal families of India, the Raj's Ayurveda treatments and pampering will do more than make you feel like a queen-the Maharishi Vedic Approach to Health program also helps alleviate ailments from chronic fatigue syndrome to diabetes.
At the time of her visit, Sue Mandel of California had been to countless specialists to no avail and was taking 12 to 14 medications a day for her chronic asthma, digestive disorders, sinus problems, malfunctioning thyroid, migraines, and back pain. She claims that the Raj "turned my life around and put me back in charge of my wellness." She was inspired to adopt an Ayurveda lifestyle at home and is now down to two medications, suffers from no asthma attacks, and has shed 35 pounds.
Whether you come to improve a specific health problem, or simply to unwind, you'll want to take advantage of the yoga and meditation classes and the intimate, living-room lectures on health care, beauty, and leading a stress-free life. Above all, the Raj is about bringing new health practices home. So as you venture back to the daily grind, keep a piece of the Raj with you, even if it means simply doing one yoga asana each morning or eating fruit to promote balance in your body-and you may find that you feel better year-round.
Additional Side Bar:
by Rachel Newman
To prescribe my health regime, the Raj's Yale-trained Western M.D., Chris Clark, and his consulting Indian doctor or vaidya would need to determine my body type or dosha. After I'd completed a written medical history and questionnaire, the doctors talked with me for an hour regarding my sleeping patterns, eating habits and digestion, exercise program, and work schedule. Dr. Clark took my Ayurveda pulse by placing three fingers on my wrist and listening to its subtle rhythms. Once he assessed my body type and listened to my health concerns, he gave my customized prescription, which consists of a sun salutation yoga asana every morning, followed by a sesame oil self-massage. He instructed me on which foods I should avoid and which foods will aid in balancing my body. The attention the doctors paid me and the accuracy of their assessments inspired me to turn over a new health leaf-now if only I can stick to it!