Ayurveda vacations offer an opportunity to travel and relax while focusing on health.
Ayurveda is one of the world’s oldest forms of holistic medicine. It was developed more than 3,000 years ago in India, and remains one of the country’s most important traditional health care systems. Many of its practices, like herbal remedies, mineral therapies and energy balancing, have been adopted by Western holistic medical systems.
As a natural extension of the West’s deep interest in holistic medicine and Eastern health practices, the trend of Ayurveda vacations is growing rapidly in the United States.
Ayurveda vacations combine travel and relaxation with educational and potentially life-altering experiences. They offer tourists a chance to not only take a break from their usual routines and explore new regions of the country, but to also improve their health.
Although the treatment for ailments like allergies, diabetes, obesity, stress and depression can be manifold, the common element within all Ayurveda practices is to seek balance of the body, urges and the mind. The philosophy behind an Ayurveda vacation is to immerse oneself in a treatment, so as to “jump-start” the move toward good health, and then to carry these forms of balance forward once the vacation has ended, by integrating the newfound knowledge and practices into one’s daily routine. As per the teaching of Ayurveda, it continues to enhance one’s health as long as the remedies and practices are continued. In this way, the benefits of the treatments availed during the vacation can be enjoyed long after the trip has ended.
Two locations are at the forefront of popularizing Ayurveda vacations in the United States: The Raj in Fairfield, Iowa, and the Ayurveda Health Retreat in Alachua, Florida.
Started in 1993, The Raj soon became one of the major centers of Ayurveda medicine in the United States. Although Iowa may seem very far afield from India, careful thinking went into establishing The Raj there.
Fairfield is home to the Maharishi University of Management and the Maharishi College of Consciousness Based Health Care. Before The Raj opened, at an international conference in Holland in 1990, Ayurveda experts thought of establishing a “Mayo Clinic” of prevention, based on Maharishi Ayurveda. As a lot of research in the field of Ayurveda was conducted through the Maharishi University of Management, it was decided that Fairfield would be the ideal location for the project, which included The Raj.
The health spa offers various comprehensive treatment and educational options. A treatment is initiated by meeting an Ayurveda health consultant, who begins the process of gauging the visitor’s needs and level of health using the Maharishi Ayurveda Pulse Assessment, a diagnostic technique which helps to identify the level of imbalance in the body. All treatments are designed to meet individual needs, but they typically include two to three hours of massage, cleansing, counseling or other therapies.
Food is integral to Ayurveda, so only organic, vegetarian food is served at The Raj. Yoga classes are conducted twice daily, with an emphasis not on intensive exercise but on learning a series of exercises and poses that can be practiced at home as well.
Ayurveda Health Retreat
Sharing the same vision as The Raj is the Ayurveda Health Retreat in Alachua, Florida. The mission statement of the retreat is: “To share the wisdom of yoga and Ayurveda in the spirit of healing, love, transformation and service.”
Founded in 2001 by Richard Masla, the retreat offers services of psychologists, massage therapists, Reiki healers, and yoga and meditation teachers. It also offers a great range of intensity and duration in terms of packages, from weekend programs to a full 21-day retreat. The ability to reshape one’s lifestyle is one of the main reasons behind the expanding appeal of Ayurveda retreats and is at the core of what the center caters to—offering visitors the chance to learn about and follow practices that will help them manage their health well. As Masla says, “Ayurveda includes the science of rejuvenation, but many people take better care of their automobiles than they take care of their bodies.”
But, with an Ayurveda vacation, it is possible to arrive at a location that reminds the traveler of the most important vehicle of all.
Natasa Milas is a freelance writer based in New York City.