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La Costa and The Chopra Center

Deepak Chopra is a name that for many people has become nearly synonymous with Ayurveda. The prolific author, insightful medical doctor, dynamic speaker and ubiquitous holistic doctor has certainly done much to popularize the ancient healing tradition of Ayurveda in the West. At the Chopra Center for Wellbeing, Dr. Chopra and center cofounder medical director and heartfelt communicator Dr. David Simon lead a team of dedicated, qualified and compassionate teachers and therapists who together facilitate people’s journeys to live perfect health.

The Chopra Center has its home tucked within the 400 rolling acres of the Spanish Mission inspired architecture of the La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, California. Strolling along perfectly landscaped paths accented with fragrant orange trees, just stepping onto the grounds evokes the promise of renewal and rejuvenation.

Rejuvenation, after all, is one of the great strengths and teachings of the medical system of Ayurveda. The word in Sanskrit means science of life, and it is an ancient medical system focused on techniques and teachings to encourage our ability to live in balance with the natural world. Understanding that the negative effects of long-term stress can have detrimental and damaging effects on the body, mind and spirit, one of the branches of Ayurveda specifically focuses on practices to restore and rejuvenate all of these the levels of the self. Educational and transformative classes, appointments with medical doctors, delicious food, yoga, meditation instruction, panchakarma (cleansing) and rasayana (rejuvenation) programs and oh, most importantly, the blissful body treatments are the reasons to embark on the path to perfect health at the Chopra Center.

Oil, warm, soothing oil, massaged on the body and poured in a warm stream over the forehead provides a nourishing, nurturing method for reducing the negative effects of stress and deeply soothing the nervous system. In Ayurveda, oil is used for both cleansing and rejuvenation. Cleansing, because it facilitates the movement of toxins, impurities and waste material we are trying to remove from the body, and rejuvenating because it calms the nerves, feeds the skin and bathes the body with an actual experience of loving touch. We often seek comfort through the heavy weight of oily foods, and according to Ayurveda, lubricating oil applied to the body with a loving touch is a deeper, longer-lasting comfort than any cookie, donut or ice cream could ever provide. For these reasons, many of the Ayurvedic spa treatments at the Chopra Center feature warm oil. After the soothing experience of oil massage, day spa visitors and retreatants receiving treatments within the rooms inside the cavernous expanse of the La Costa Spa or in the Chopra Center can indulge in the steam rooms and lounge areas at La Costa. Don’t miss it. 

Abhyanga is the foundational practice of Ayurvedic spa therapy: the warm oil massage with either one or two therapists working synchronously. I enjoyed this treatment during my winter stay along with garshana: a stimulating massage where the therapist wears silk gloves which create a gentle exfoliating and lymphatic-cleansing effect followed by abhyanga. And then there was shirodhara. Shirodhara is a quintessential Ayurvedic rasayana treatment. This is the application of warm oil in a continuous stream over the forehead. It calms the mind and the nervous system, rejuvenates the entire body and induces a deep meditative state. It’s bliss on a massage table. 

In order to maintain the meditative state long after the warm oil has soaked into the entire body, meditation, specifically primordial sound meditation, is taught and supported at the Chopra Center. Meditation instruction is part of all the programs, whether they are specifically Primordial Sound Programs, or the cleansing and rejuvenating Perfect Health week. Through the use of sound, discussion, repetition, a cozy and embryonic meditation room, and twice-daily led group sessions, the process of finding the gap between thoughts goes from intimidating to almost easy. Spending some time visiting (via mediation) the gap between thoughts, as described by Dr. Chopra and the rest of the staff at the Center, attunes us to the quieter, more peaceful depths of our mind. It’s our bliss.

To keep the bliss going on and off the massage table, meditation cushion, steam room and the yoga mat, programs at the Chopra Center include education in the Ayurvedic principles of health and wellness. These include how to incorporate ongoing practices such as mediation into daily routine, choosing a variety of foods to satisfy taste and promote seasonal balance, and following through on a daily abhyanga or self-massage practice to keep the bliss alive. 

Walking along the pathways of La Costa to enter the sanctuary of the Chopra Center for an hour, a day, a weekend or a week provides both a taste of bliss and the recipes to make bliss a part of our daily lives. Even hundreds of miles away and weeks later, I still close my eyes and smell rose, jasmine, citrus, spiced tea and feel the vibration of the meditation room, the stillness of the gap.

 Felicia TomaskoFelicia Tomasko RN is writer, yoga teacher, editor in chief of LA YOGA Ayurveda and Health magazine and member of the board of directors of the National Ayurvedic Medical Association and the California Association of Ayurvedic Medicine.

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