Ayurvedic Healing at the Raj
By Ann Nelson
I wanted to go to a unique place, unlike any place I’d visited before and decided to spend a few hours poring over my old travel guides. After picking up a few books from a shelf in my garage, I dusted off “The Best Vacations to Enrich Your Life” by Pam Grout. This book reviews all types of trips, including arts and crafts getaways, volunteer vacations and “brain retreats.”
The Raj Maharishi Ayurveda Health Center, located in Fairfield in the middle of the Iowa cornfields, caught my eye. This center, simply known as “the Raj,” opened in 1993 and at the time was the only Ayurveda health facility outside of India.
I wasn’t exactly sure what Ayur-veda treatments were, but was aware that Dr. Deepak Chopra had written several bestselling books about this 5,000-year-old natural healing tradition.
When experiencing stressful times in life, traditional Western medicine often recommends exercise or anti-depressants. Ay-urveda rejuvenation treatments are designed to get to the root of the real problem and restore imbalances in the nervous system that build up from stress and busy lifestyles.
Downtown Fairfield looks like any other charming old town founded in the mid-to-late 1800’s. There is a quaint town square lined with old brick buildings. The town, home to around 9,200 residents, is far from traditional and a place Oprah found so intriguing she visited just before Christmas 2010. It is safe to say that Fairfield has more meditators per capita than any place in the U.S. It is believed that a quarter to a third of the Fairfield residents presently practice transcendental meditation on a regular basis.
In the late 1950’s, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi started the TM movement as a means of bringing spiritual balance and peace to the world. In 1973, The Maharishi International University was founded in Santa Barbara, CA for the purpose of promoting this cause. One year later the school moved to Fairfield and is now known as The Maharishi University of Management.
Preparation for my trip began ten days before I boarded the plane from San Diego. My home preparation kit arrived in the mail and contained essential herbs and pages of instructions. To obtain maximum benefit from the program, it was highly recommended that I follow the pre-treatment procedures, including eating special soups and herbal tea. The instructions were clear and easy to follow.
George, a driver recommended by the Raj, picked me up at Cedar Rapids Airport. I couldn’t help but notice the peaceful and quiet manner this man displayed as he pointed out highlights while driving along through the countryside. He informed me that Fairfield is quite progressive when it comes to the environment. The town is said to have the only solar-powered radio station in the U.S. George moved here over twenty years ago to practice TM and begins his day, along with thousands of other local residents, with meditation.
Soon after arriving at the Raj, I met with Mark Toomey, PhD, the Ayurvedic Health Specialist. All treatments are customized and based on the results of an initial assessment of the Ayurveda pulse. This test reveals an incredible amount of information about what is going on with your body and your spirit.
The results also indicate the imbalances that may be developing at the deepest levels of your physiology, including levels of toxicity, metabolic digestive weaknesses and vitality. Dr. Toomey explained that sludge and plaque build up in our arteries and our bodies need an occasional tune up, like our cars.
My pulse assessment determined that my metabolism and energy level were a bit sluggish. His assessment was not off base. After finding where I was out of balance, Dr. Toomey recommended a program consisting of a specialized diet, herbs, aromatherapy, massage treatments and meditation. Follow-ing his specific instructions were an essential ingredient in removing toxins from my body and restoring balance.
Prior to visiting The Raj, I felt raw and fragile after the unexpected loss of a dear friend. The warmth of the guests and genuine staff cannot be over estimated. I felt comforted and cared for. I went on long afternoon walks with Ted. He has been a guest at many Ayurveda Health Centers all over the country and returns to the Raj every year because he feels it is the most authentic center he has visited.
During my visit, I met guests who had made the decision to spend time here because of a serious illness. I met people like Leslie and Howard, a happily married couple, who have stayed in luxurious hotels all over the world, but now prefer to take trips that have real meaning.
Plush towels and high-thread-count linens are no longer important to them. During my trip, I did not meet one person who visited the state for the sole purpose of impressing their friends. People come here for genuine, heart-felt reasons.
Days at the Raj are filled with yoga, cooking classes, meals, meditation and alone time. Staff members were always on hand if I had a question or wanted to talk. I picked up the phone a few times during my visit and made a personal appointment with Lisa or Helen. These private talks were important, insightful and truly helped me figure out how I needed to move forward.
The time I looked forward to most during my stay were the daily three-hour Maharishi Rejuvenation Treatments. During my first treatment, sesame oil was poured over my entire body by two technicians who used a synchronized four-hand massage to rub the oil into my skin.
It is believed the application of herbalized oil softens and opens the channels of elimination so toxins can be easily removed from the body. During this treatment, I was certainly experiencing a little slice of heaven here on earth!
The New York Times has recognized The Raj as “one of the four recommended silent/med-itative retreats.” Newsweek Magazine listed The Raj among “the best eight Destination Spas.” A few days after arriving home, I realized that going to Iowa in the middle of the winter had been an excellent decision. Visiting the Raj is one of the most pleasurable and memorable trips I’ve ever made. Lessons I learned during my stay will have a lasting impact on my life.
For more information on the Raj Maharishi Ayurveda Health Center, call (800) 248-9050, or visit: www.theraj.com
Ann Nelson is a freelance writer residing in San Diego, CA.