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Patricia Leigh Brown, a reporter from The New York Times travel section, tried her hand at the ever-more popular ayurvedic spas popping up all over southern India to cater to Westerners, and describes the experience in her rather humorous article from this Sunday’s Times, “In the Land of Four-Star Asceticism.

Ayurveda is a “3,500-year-old herb-based healing tradition that still flourishes in the daily life of India,” she writes. Yet for more money than any native Indian would dream of spending on such a common tradition, you too can take what Brown describes as “the Order, the humble oath of four-star asceticism,” which requires that you agree “to forsake all known forms of vacation decadence (rice gruel for dinner, anyone?), to give up meat, alcohol, caffeine, leather accessories, naps, sunbathing, swimming, and mindless frivolity in order to purify and balance your whacked-out Western body and soul.”

Brown reports that ayurveda, “which means “knowledge of life” in Sanskrit, was designed to ‘restore health and establish the digestive powers and likewise create intellectual brightness, personal beauty, acuteness of the senses, and prolongation of life,'” and includes a therapy-like “consultation to determine the elements, or doshas, of my native constitution–a process she refers to as “diagramming the person.””

Why pay thousands of dollars for what, according to Brown, is about as un-vacation-like as a week of overtime on Wall Street? “The big idea of ayurveda, said to have divine origin, is that health is a state of balance between body, mind and consciousness. Its sister discipline is yoga, which, before it became an industry, was also a science dating back to the Vedic period. One’s constitution is said to be composed of three doshas–vata (air), pitta (fire) and kapha (water)–encoded in every cell. Initial treatment includes a prescribed diet (supplemented with herbs both ingested and applied), yoga, meditation and massages to prepare the body for elimination of agni, or waste. Pancha karma, a specialty of Kerala and no stroll through the park, includes a stamina-challenging sequence of enemas. ‘We are not treating part by part and organ by organ,’ Dr. Sreelatha explained kindly. ‘We consider the body and soul.'”

Before rushing to Expedia to book your trip to an ayurvedic spa, be sure to read Brown’s humorous reflections from her whirlwind ayurvedic tour through southern India. If afterward you are still game, some plans begin at $5,000 for a two-week stay (and that’s not including the flight).

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