Sun, 13 Aug 2000

The Body Shop branches out into matters of the mind

JAKARTA (JP): It was bound to happen sooner or later. An international chain of all-natural cosmetics and beauty treatments gets all cerebral with Ayurveda, the ancient Indian approach to mental and physical well-being.

The Body Shop now has its Ayurveda range, based on the principles of Indian Ayurvedic medicine practiced for more than 2,500 years (Ayurveda is from Sanskrit and means "science", "wisdom" or "knowledge of life").

At an ethnically themed press launching held last week in Kemang, South Jakarta, the assembled journalists were helped to identify their dosha -- the three forces which Ayurvedic teaching holds to be at play in our health -- through a question list including energy levels, weather likes and dislikes and emotions.

Called Vata (air), Pitta (fire) and Kapha (earth), the forces are present in varying amounts in each of us, but one usually predominates. The foundation of Ayurvedic treatment is to put the inborn dosha back in balance when it veers too far one way or the other.

Each of the forces has its positives and negatives. The Vata, which governs movement including breathing and circulation, predominates in individuals who are artistic, energetic, bright but given to stress and nervousness (the company's literature identifies Cameron Diaz, Julia Roberts and Gwyneth Paltrow as "breezy Vatas").

The Pitta regulates digestion and metabolism; Pittas such as Madonna and newlywed Jennifer Aniston are said to be "inspirational, never dull, sometimes overbearing". Kapha, governing the muscles and bones, is said to predominate in "solid and dependable ... people persons" (Kate Winslet, Oprah Winfrey).

The Body Shop Indonesia general manager Toha Azhary said Ayurvedic therapy was ideal for helping people cope with the stresses of modern living.

"Most of the treatments offered today are only skin-deep, limited to changing the external appearance. However, to achieve real beauty and a sense of well-being, physical beauty must be complemented by physical and spiritual health," Toha said.

A variety of body sprays, scrubs and massage oils have been tailored for each of the three types, with special ingredients such as herbs from the Himalayas in Tibet.

Company matriarch Anita Roddick said recently the launching of the Ayurvedic range was partly a reaction to the growing dependence on drug treatments for emotional disorders in the West.

"I was also disquieted by the western medical industry that promotes drugs like Prozac and Valium to treat the imbalances in mind, body and spirit," Roddick told the July edition of Malaysian marie claire.

"As we had already decided a few years ago to go into well- being, it all kind of fit into place. We had already launched our aromatherapy range, which is doing exceptionally well, so it felt completely appropriate to do Ayurveda, which is all about dealing with stresses in life, naturally."

Of course, the company is quick to admit that spraying on a little body oil mist (Rp 150,000 for a 150 ml bottle) every so often will not be enough to permanently calm the fluttering nerves of a Pitta. Ayurvedic treatments prescribed by specialists, now increasingly popular in the West, include diet therapy, yoga and "internal cleansing" such as enemas and emetics.

As an introduction, however, the products -- ranging from pillow spray (Rp 200,000), nourishing body balm (Rp 150,000), cleansing body scrub (Rp 210,000) to massage gel (Rp 135,000) -- may be sufficient. There is also a special "starter kit" for Rp 175,000 plus a book on Ayurveda therapy (Rp 75,000). (Bruce Emond)