More MS news articles for Jan 2002

Ayurvedic treatments draw spa-goers to Iowa's cornfields

Saturday, January 19, 2002 Page T8
Associated Press

VEDIC CITY, IOWA -- Down a narrow country road named Jasmine Avenue, past tractor-crossing signs and fields of ripening soybeans, sits the oldest business in Iowa's newest incorporated town.

It's not a Wal-Mart, nor a farmer-owned ethanol plant.

It's a luxury health spa, the Raj, hidden amid rolling cornfields in the southeast corner of Iowa. The 18-bedroom, gleaming-white building situated at the end of a long driveway of perfectly spaced trees resembles a French country villa. It doesn't offer seaweed wraps or tennis, yet clients are shelling out as much as $3,816 (amounts in U.S. dollars) for a seven-day stay.

They come for Ayurveda, a Transcendental Meditation-prescribed treatment that includes a vegetarian diet, light exercise, holistic medicine, deep tissue massages, hot oil and herbal enemas.

The Raj, built in 1993, is the main draw for outsiders in Vedic City, founded by followers of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and his Transcendental Meditation movement. The city was chartered last July.

The chronically ill and stressed out arrive here from New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Minneapolis. They follow in the footsteps of celebrities such as Bianca Jagger and Mike Love of the Beach Boys, says Jim Garrett, a spa spokesman.

Many claim that Ayurveda balances bodies out of whack from years of poor nutrition and stress or helps chronically ill patients suffering from multiple sclerosis or cardiovascular disease.

"We like Ayurveda's use of herb and other natural products," says Katie Garber, a spokeswoman for Canyon Ranch Health Resorts. Canyon Ranch spas in Tucson, Ariz., and the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts also offer Ayurvedic treatments.

"We use it to maintain an overall balance and sense of calming for guests," Garber says. "It has been quite effective."

When customers arrive at the Raj, they first meet with Dr. Nancy Lonsdorf, the spa's medical director, a graduate of Johns Hopkins University.The consultation includes the Maharishi Ayurveda pulse diagnosis, which detects physical imbalances, Garrett says. "The human physiology naturally wants to be in a state of balance," he says.

An Ayurveda specialist from India also prescribes individual programs, which may include Panchakarma -- a trio of therapies that includes a deep tissue massage, a drizzle of hot oil over the body, and an herbal enema.

The Raj is at 1734 Jasmine Ave., Vedic City, Iowa 52556; phone (641) 472-9580; or visit the Web site at

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