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Hints of India

By: Mary Bemis
Posted: June 23, 2008, from the April 2006 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

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The Chopra Center in Carlsbad, California, was founded a little more than a decade ago by Chopra and David Simon, MD, based on the philosophy of merging the wise “traditions of the East and West to celebrate and explore the infinite potential of the human spirit,” according to Simon. Although the Chopra Center is not necessarily a spa, it does have a spa component. It’s a facility that Chopra has described as “a place you go to learn—either to learn about yourself, or to gain some understanding of healing or emotional freedom.”

At the time of its founding in 1995 in La Jolla, California, it lacked on-site sleeping accommodations for clients. In 2002, La Costa and the Chopra Center celebrated its five-year partnership, and established its official business headquarters and flagship location. Chopra Center clients may enjoy the full benefits of La Costa, while resort guests receive special access to the Center’s sought-after wellness programs. There are three treatment rooms at the Center, as well as a team of 14 therapists trained in ayurvedic methods. In addition, there are five treatment rooms at La Costa that are set aside specifically for Chopra Center treatments.

The ayurvedic-based treatments at the Chopra locations are administered in silence, and all were designed by Chopra and Simon. “Holding the service in silence makes the client feel like the treatment is really for them,” explains Kerry Williams, spa director. “If clients have any special needs during the treatment, of course, they are encouraged to express them. Afterward, we can discuss different ways of doing techniques, such as yoga or meditation, and how these tools help to quiet the mind.”

Carrying this ideology throughout the spa, Williams and her team meditate together every day. “It helps us all get the day off to a good start,” she notes. Each spa treatment begins with a simple questionnaire to determine the client’s primary dosha, or mind-body constitution. Unlike the Chopra Center at La Costa, this location also offers facials. The Ghandarva Harmonizing Facial is one of the more popular choices and includes a relaxing session with a singing bowl, guided meditation and marma point therapy.

Crafting teamwork

To assemble a team of dedicated professionals, Ufland interviewed more than 100 applicants during a three-part interview process. The final team included 30 employees who participated in five weeks of intense training for eight hours a day under the tutelage of Grace Wilson, a senior trainer at the Chopra Center at La Costa. She returns every two months to retrain and maintain quality control. “Our therapists had to take everything they knew and throw it out the window,” says Williams. “A lot of our treatments are choreographed and require extensive training.” Ufland adds, “The expectation is so much higher, and the therapists are rising to the expectation. The services are so much different than regular massages. They need to learn hundreds of steps and can’t miss a beat.”