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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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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.

 

"Yoga helps us escape from the pattern of stress response through deep breathing and stretching to bring ourselves back," he says. Interested? Van Horn suggests starting with a simple breathing exercise: "Breathe in for four seconds and exhale for six seconds." He explains. "It actually makes us calmer. From there, consider taking a gentle, yoga class that focuses on breathing exercises, meditation, and gentle stretches; and if you like that, move on to classes.

 

Sexual healing. While many of us may think of Marvin Gaye's classic tune when we hear the expression "sexual healing," it can also signify something known as tantra. Tantra is a complex marriage of yoga, meditation, ritual, and intercourse that originated in India in 3,000 B.C.

A spiritual, sexual science, tantra identifies and stimulates innate sensual spirituality and helps proponents such as musician Sting harness tantric energy for sexual pleasure and awareness. In fact, tantra is becoming so mainstream that it's popping up in such movies as American Pie 2, where the character Finch is studying tantra throughout the movie.

 

Tantra is basically the total surrender of all mental, emotional, and cultural conditioning, so that universal life energy may flow through you. Considered the highest possible synthesis between love and meditation, it includes yoga-like breathing, vocalizations, and muscle techniques that can lead to orgasm as well as channeling below-the-belt energy up into their hearts and brains where it may increase creativity and improve relationships.

Clothes that cure? And another Indian tradition may be coming soon to a clothing store near you. London-based designer Diana Irani, MPhil, a research student in fashion and textiles at the Royal College of Art, and others are developing clothing that slowly releases medicine throughout the day. Such clothing may one day relieve the itchy, sensitive skin of eczema, the joint pain and stiffness of arthritis, depression, and other ailments. While new to us in the U.S., this technology has been used in India for decades. There, certain herbs are sometimes woven into the fabric of saris and headdresses worn by Indian women. It's called microencapsulation and involves implanting tiny balls designed to hold the designed chemicals and "bond" them within the fibers of fabric. As the wearer's body heats the fabric, the substances are released on the skin. The medicine in the clothing absorbs directly into the bloodstream through the skin. The medicine lasts for many months and clothes can be hand-washed repeatedly without losing their healing properties, inventors and proponents say.

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