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The Chopra Center: San Diego, California

Joanna Hall

Where Is It: Carlsbad, just north of San Diego.

Why Go: It is a truly holistic spa at the heart of Deepak Chopra’s mind, body and spirit empire.

Best For: Couples who want something more spiritual from a spa experience.

Three Things We Loved: The treatments, the Ayurvedic oils, the location. 

The Ultimate Factor: The personalisation of your treatment.


I’m standing at the top of San Onofre Beach on a stunning late-autumn southern California morning. The sky is a pale milky blue, the early sun beaming across the low lying mountain range to the east, and the small but perfectly formed waves at the iconic surf break known as Trestles are gently rolling in against the sand. I have paused briefly to take a break from the bustling I5 freeway, and absorb the panoramic scenery before heading further south. My final destination isn’t far; it’s the picturesque community of Carlsbad, and a famous oasis of wellbeing and healing which I have wanted to visit for some time, called The Chopra Center. The surf and the power of nature before my eyes, prompts one of Deepak Chopra’s many well-known sayings to come to mind: “Nothing is more important than reconnecting with your bliss. Nothing is as rich. Nothing is as real”. They are typical words from a man regarded as a world-renowned authority of mind-body healing, and who was heralded by Time Magazine as the “poet-prophet of alternative medicine”. Twenty minutes later I am handing the keys of my car to a valet at the elegant La Costa Spa and Resort, which has been the home of the Chopra Center in recent years. 

The Spa:

The Chopra Center is set in a serene and lush setting of 400 acres just inland from the famous Carlsbad coast, a 90 minute drive south from Los Angeles and 48 kilometres north of San Diego. As I walked into the softly lit foyer, it was plain to see that that this wasn’t a typical North American contemporary spa.  Initially you feel as though you are in a new-age boutique, the air heavy with succulent incense. Lining the walls are shelves of books exploring mind-body-soul, yoga, Jyotish astrology and meditation techniques, and there are tables adorned with healing crystals, tarot cards, and spiritual jewellery.  Chopra has described this centre as “at the heart of” his life’s work. He founded it 15 years ago to help people experience physical healing, gain emotional freedom, and achieve a higher state of consciousness. And for anyone seeking an alternative way of living, it offers a variety of programs and retreats integrating the healing arts of the East with the best in Western medicine of today. The core of the centre’s teachings is Perfect Health, an intense six or 10-day program created over a decade ago, combining a detoxification process called panchakarma with mediation, yoga and Ayurveda. 

The Treatment:

My reason for visiting was to enjoy a 65-minute Odyssey Ayurvedic Massage. Like its approach to health and wellbeing, the spa’s treatments are based on centuries old Ayurvedic therapies designed to promoted balance and bliss in life. There’s also a strong element of personalisation. My therapist asked me if I had any health concerns, or was feeling anything emotionally in particular that day. First I told her that my “dosha”, or basic nature according to Ayurvedic medicine, was a predominant Pitta. It means many things, including that I have a strong association with fire, but am also sensitive with a tendency to flushing, and can become irritable when under stress. I also told her I hadn’t been sleeping well for a while due to jet lag, and felt somewhat weary, so she put together a heady mixture of oils aimed at invigorating body and spirit. This massage is undeniably divine, bringing new meaning to the word odyssey. My highly skilled therapist took me on a journey through five difference techniques designed to balance all the body’s systems. It began with Garshana, a dry glove massage that buffs the skin and stimulates the lymphatic system. The second stage was Abhyanga, where my body was enveloped in warm oil infused with dry herbs to exfoliate, and massaged using firm strokes to push the oil deep into the skin tissue to loosen toxins. The slow, relaxing strokes of Vishesh followed, and the treatment finally ended with Marma therapy, which uses light circular movements to stimulate vital energy points, and aromatherapy to invigorate the senses.

The Verdict:

After my treatment the therapist told me to relax on the table and take as much time as I needed. I don’t recall how long I stayed, but as I wallowed in blissful relaxation, another of Chopra’s famous sayings came to mind: “In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you.” Half an hour or so later, as I rejoined the traffic on the freeway, I kept those words firmly in my mind. And with the heady aroma of Ayurvedic oils still heavy on my skin, I didn’t so much as drive home but float. If you’re visiting Southern California anytime soon putting this spa on your “must do” list is essential.

The Chopra Center is located at the La Costa Resort and Spa, 2013 Costa del Mar Road, Carlsbad, CA 92009, .

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