TRAVEL

If your mind is overworked, let your body sweat it out

September 1 1989 by Ami Finkelthal


Steve Rubin, CEO of Waltham, Mass.-based United Fuels International, claims he’s so relaxed after his spa experience that he can “sit in the midst of 15,000 screaming fans at a football game and meditate peacefully.”

He also can meditate in swerving New York City taxicabs-simply by closing his eyes and letting his mind settle on peaceful thoughts.

Rubin picked up transcendental meditation at the Ayur-Ved spa in Lancaster, Mass., which promulgates a scientific system of natural health care that originated in India 6,000 years ago.

Rubin first went to Lancaster complaining that every spring he came down with a mysterious case of laryngitis. He thought he had some bizarre infection, but the doctors at Lancaster felt the real problem was Rubin’s lifestyle. How exactly did he react to the onset of warm weather? Did it make him feel lazy-or temperamental? Did he sit out in the sun-or go into the shade? Did he eat hot food or cold? Based on his answers to these questions, they determined there was a psychophysiological explanation for the laryngitis. The warming sun made Rubin excitable and temperamental, and when he tried to cool off, he ate so much cold food that his bronchial tube became irritated. In the final analysis, there was nothing at all bizarre about Steve Rubin’s condition; he had simply been eating too much ice cream. Along with a change in diet, the doctors suggested meditation to keep the mind sound.

Why couldn’t an ordinary doctor unearth Steve Rubin’s malady? “Modern medicine doesn’t always look at the undeniable link between the workings of the mind, the nervous system and the body’s consequent ability to fight off or be susceptible to disease,” says Dr. Deepak Chopra, president of the American Association of Ayurvedic Medicine. “Many doctors might not have made the link between the weather, Rubin’s temperament, and the bronchial irritation.”

Ayurvedic spas are by no means the only ones conducting psychophysiological screening. The Canyon Ranch spas in Arizona and Massachusetts, and the Claremont Resort in Oakland, Cal. practice it, too.

Ayurvedic theory, however, is notable for basing therapy on the belief that there are three major personality types-temperamental, anxious and staid. The doctors at Lancaster told Lincoln Norton, chairman of Corporate Education Resources in Fairfield, Iowa, that he was born with characteristics of all three, but lately, he was veering toward temperamental behavior which caused digestive disorders and skin rash. When doctors prescribed a massage, Norton was laid on a table and drenched n with oil by two masseurs who then rubbed it into his body with identical orchestrated motions. The excess oil collected in troughs on either side of the massage table, where it was recycled for several successive pours, each a bit warmer than the last. “They put a cool cloth on my forehead to keep me from overheating,” Norton recalls.

They also dribbled a thin stream of warm herbalized oil onto the center of his forehead-with the purpose of stimulating the pineal gland located deep within the brain and making the brain waves more coherent. “I felt restfully alert,” Norton reports.

Ayur-Ved also teaches breathing techniques that can be used during the work day. Recalls Steve Rubin, “I once took five minutes off from one 12-hour meeting with lawyers to do these invigorating breathing exercises which channel the breath to different parts of the physiology.”

Transcendental meditation can also be easily applied during the daily business routine, as long as a CEO knows how to deal with potential distractions-a subject well covered at Lancaster. “They tell you if your nose is itching while you meditate, just scratch it and go on,” says Raoul Montgomery, chairman of Montgomery Enterprises, a business consulting firm in Detroit.

Many spas are very serious about having their guests work toward a goal without any distractions. That philosophy comes from the top at spas that are run by CEOs who are exercise fanatics. For example, Canyon Ranch’s Mel Zuckerman once lost 29 pounds in a 28-day calisthenic marathon.

Canyon Ranch spas set each guest’s goals on the basis of a six-hour battery of tests that measure everything from cancer risk to fat/body weight ratio.

Canyon’s guests quickly become familiar with the spa exercise jargon. For instance, “positive power” is a euphemism for an hour and 45 minutes of almost non-stop calisthenics. “Basic low impact,” on the other hand, is described as “30 minutes of aerobics that are easy on the joints.” In the dining room, a waiter might point to the sliver of cheesecake that’s mostly blueberries and say, “That’s portion control.”

With its emphasis on fresh-cooked vegetables, lighter meats and fish, spa food may not appeal to everyone. So the Claremont Resort in Oakland, Cal. has come up with what’s known as an “integrated menu.” Light foods are offered side by side with traditional heavyweights, such as rich Beef Wellington. “We want people to feel fulfilled, not deprived,” notes Vicki Poth, spa director. Other terms you should familiarize yourself with if you go to the Claremont include “herbal wrap,” a treatment that wraps the body like a mummy in warm linen sheets infused with herbs, with the purpose of inducing the body to sweat; and “salt glo,” a treatment in which coarse seaweed salt is rubbed into the body in order to improve the circulation. You might also take a “seaweed bath,” which means sitting in a Jacuzzi filled with essence of seaweed. Poth explains: “Seaweed is rich in vitamins and minerals which nourish the skin.”

Before you get into the seaweed bath, an attendant lights a candle and puts on some soft music. “We get you in the mood for it,” Poth concludes.