Spafinder: Spring 2002


In the heart of rural Iowa on 100 green acres rises the French-inspired mansion that houses The Raj Maharishi Ayurveda Health Center. Inside, all is quiet, soft hued, the epitome of traditional Western elegance and taste. But the Indian healing tradition that reigns here, Ayurveda, reaches back 6,000 years. It was brought to America's heartland by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who introduced Transcendental Meditation to the West in the 1960's.

Although some spas offer Ayurveda treatments - such as shirodhara, in which oil is dripped slowly onto the forehead - here these techniques are presented in the context of a holistic system. That system holds that illness occurs when the body and mind are out of balance. Guest come to The Raj for total immersion, for rejuvenation and stress reduction, for disease prevention, for treatment of existing conditions, and for peace of mind.

Each person's mind-body type is determined in an initial consultation with both a Western doctor with Ayurveda training and a traditional Indian practitioner. Together they devise a program in which all balancing treatments, including diet and exercise, herbal medicines, and daily and seasonal routines, are tailored for the guest. "When you take care of the body and bring it back in balance, then your emotions and spirit will be in balance as well," explains Jim Garrett, a Raj director.

Every day, two to three hours are spent in treatments collectively called panchakarma. One daily treatment concentrates on purifying and relaxing the body and mind. It begins with abhyanga, a head-to-toe massage with sesame oil that is performed by two technicians in tandem, and may be followed by shirodhara, again using the fragrant sesame oil. The loosened toxins may then be eliminated with an optional basti, or medicated enema.

The remainder of the day is spent doing yoga, meditating, or walking slowly along The Raj's two-and-a-half miles of trails. (Vigorous exercise is discouraged during the program.) The vegetarian meals are light and wonderful.

Evening programs include lectures and conversation with those guests who are not participating in a silent retreat. "Or we just kick back and read," says Scott Fuller, a businessman from Middleton, Wisconsin.

Fuller and his wife, Lynn, visit The Raj twice a year. "The focus is on the purification of the physiology," he says. "In my personal experience, it results in a profound wholeness. I always come back from The Raj feeling more grounded and in contact with my Self - with a capital S. It's the kind of feeling that you have when you're six or seven and you feel there is nothing wrong with the world." - L.B.M.


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