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Indian Beauty, Health Traditions Reborn

Many of the health and beauty treatments we pay top dollar for in the U.S. come from India and are hundreds -- if not thousands -- of years old.

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Ayurveda. Perhaps you have read or heard about Ayurveda, the traditional healing system of India. With ayurveda, no particular treatment is offered for any specific symptom -- instead, each person is looked at individually and treatments typically involve diet, herbal remedies, exercise, and spiritual practices including yoga and transcendental meditation. It is based on the 5,000-year-old tradition of Vedic medicine, explains Nancy Lonsdorf, MD, medical director of The Raj, Maharishi Ayurveda Health center in Vedic City, Iowa. "I have seen ayurveda medicine go from being on the fringe to being totally mainstream for prevention to serious illness," she tells WebMD. "There is a real great appreciation that something natural is needed to enhance health and I have seen the use of ayurvedic medicine grow tremendously."

 

Ayurvedic medicine puts a lot of emphasis on the mind-body connection through specific techniques such as transcendental mediation, she says. "I see that this medical approach is going to continue to gain popularity and eventually be used as the primary approach to any chronic condition and prevention," she says. "Modern medicine will be reserved for car accidents and life-threatening emergency situations," she predicts. In fact, its popularity in the U.S. has grown so much there is now an actual city -- Vedic City, Iowa -- built according to Vedic principles. The city uses nontoxic construction materials and all buildings face east and are built on flat land. "We have a population 150 and growing," Lonsdorf says. Vedic City also includes a few hotels and a Maharishi University. And transcendental meditation, a facet of Ayurvedic medicine, is now offered in schools, hospitals, law firms, government, corporate offices, and prisons.

 

Yoga. If you are not one of the millions of Americans who tote a yoga mat with them, chances are you have seen a few of them en route to yoga class. "Yoga started in India a few thousand years ago as a science that would help us communicate at a higher level and get in touch with our spiritual side," says Bruce Van Horn, a yoga instructor and yoga therapist in Chestnut Ridge, N.Y., and author of several books on yoga including Daily Yoga Class: A workout for the Body, Mind and Spirit.

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