Natural Living, Fall 1996
Four Star Health In The Heartland
by Sharon Kaufman
Even as I drove up to the entrance of The Raj, surrounded by 100 acres of lush emerald lawn, with trees lined up to lead the way, I could already sense the serenity which awaited me. Beyond the doors of this grand manor was a wonderful spa, dedicated to promoting perfect health.
The Raj, the nation's premier Maharishi Ayurveda health center, features elegant yet cozy French-county decor accented by the art of traditional India. It is an ideal four-star canvas for their specialized health and beauty revitalizing procedures, which are intended to completely balance, calm, comfort, and detoxify. The building itself was designed in accordance with Maharishi Sthapatya Veda, the Indian science of architecture corresponding to the laws of nature. The goal of this careful planing is to create an environment where everyone feels, "I am living in heaven on earth."
Arriving just in time for lunch, I was seated in an elegant dining area along-side other guests. My hearty vegan fare (as per my request) consisted of mung dahl (an Indian soup, in the split pea family), seasoned basmati rice, steamed vegetables, date chutney (a sweet/sour condiment), herbed string beans, and warm chapatis (Indian flatbread). Dessert was a naturally sweetened grain-based cookie (which, although quite good, couldn't top the rich carob pudding I had on my last day!). Everything was delicious and creative, and the portions were very satisfying: no bird food here - although if guests are interested, they can venture out behind The Raj for a walk around the sunlit lake, and enjoy the small garden, complete with thistle-filled bird feeders, bird bath, and some brightly feathered occupants.
The first step of the panchakarma, or health rejuvenation program, was receiving a nadivigyan, a traditional pulse diagnosis which allowed the vaidya, an Ayurveda physician, to detect imbalances within my personal body type, known as the dosha. The vaidya prescribed the specific herbs, foods, and activities that are best suited for my particular dosha. The entire process is geared towards removing ama, or toxic impurities, and promoting a harmoniously functioning body and mind.
Afterwards, I was ready to enter the Ladies' Treatment Wing (men have a separate wing) to begin my treatments. These commenced with an abhyanga, or warm sesame oil and herb massage. This absolutely invigorating experience was performed by two technicians who worked together in perfect synchronically: It seemed as if I was receiving a massage from one person who had two sets of hands! This very thorough technique is applied to the scalp, front, back, left, and right sides of the body. Soothing hot towels are then placed onto the sin, allowing the healing oils to penetrate the system. Sesame is a deeply penetrating oil, and the goal of the abyanga is to encourage the fat-soluble toxins to become attached to the sesame oil molecules, and then be excreted. (According to Ayurveda, toxins tend to gravitate towards fat tissue, causing disease such as breast cancer.) The delicious fragrance of the oil proved to be wonderful aromatherapy during the procedure.
Depending on your needs and length of stay, a variety of other rejuvenating treatments may follow the abyanga. The nasya focuses on opening up breathing passages, and includes a neck, shoulder, and facial oil massage, followed by a deeply inhaled eucalyptus steam plus herbal nasal drops to loosen impurities. Shirodhara consists of a calm-inducing, continuous flow of warm herbalized oil poured gently across the forehead. Pizicilli is probably the most luxurious of all. I was literally bathed in gallons of soothing hot herbed sesame oil, which was slowly poured again and again over my entire body, drenching me in its rich moisture for a half-hour, and supplemented with light synchronized massage. The experience is beyond incredible. It was easy to forget that each of these treatments are oriented towards maximizing health, since they were so completely pampering! After each day's treatments were concluded, I was led to my private Resting Room, for some time to relax in bliss. There I was given a basti, a gentle treatment to flush out the toxins which were loosened as a result of the treatments, then allowed to lie down with the accompaniment of softly playing gandharva, traditional soothing Indian melodies, and aromatherapy prescribed just for me. Birds singing just outside the window further enhanced the calming atmosphere.
The outstanding Skin Rejuvenation Program at The Raj offers specialized techniques to fully reveal your external radiance. Treatments in this category include an abyanga, followed by swedana, a dilating body and facial steam using crushed rose powder. The face is then comforted and freshened in warm foamed milk combined with a light facial massage. Afterwards, the body is covered from head to toe in a unified cleansing mud from India blended with nourishing herbs and floral extracts. This is rinsed off using g milk to feed the skin and promote luster. A final coating of mud is applied to the hair. The eyes, covered in cucumber slices to induce relaxation during the procedure, are also treated to a final bath of warm, calming Earl Grey tea to remove impurities. The results of this beauty-promoting procedure were undeniable: My skin became extremely supple and moist, and the condition of my hair was better than ever - dramatically fuller, shinier, and softer.
The staff at The Raj are exceptionally welcoming, and make you fell special and impeccably well-cared for. By my second day, I began to notice that tension and imbalance seemed to be lifted from my body. I felt renewed, refreshed, with a clearer peace of mind, and it was like nothing I've felt before.
In my room, on my very first day of arrival to The Raj, there was place a perfect, full, fresh pink rose. By my fourth and final day, it still remained radiant and alive. Considering my experience at this wonderful health resort, I'm not the least bit surprised.