It’s a New Year. Will there be a new you? If you’re looking for something more lasting and, potentially, life-changing than losing those pounds gained during the holidays, the five- or ten-day “Perfect Health” program at La Costa’s renowned Chopra Center is worth exploring. “People choose Perfect Health as a pattern interrupt in their lives,” says Davidji, dean of Chopra Center University. “There’s an imbalance that they are experiencing at the emotional or physical level, and they’ve finally gotten the gumption, or the inspiration, to say, ‘I want to make a change.’”
Many, he says, are at a crossroads in their lives. Loss is a common theme: “They’ve just gotten divorced. Or they’ve left their job, or they’ve just lost someone close to them. Or they’ve lost a sense of their own health.” Or, perhaps, they’ve stayed in a relationship too long. “People are in a relationship that they said they would get out of five years ago, and they’re still there. People in a job that they said they were going to leave 20 years ago, and now they’ve just been diagnosed with an ulcer.”
Chopra Center director Amanda Ringnalda sees people struggling with “ongoing stress and anxiety,” sleeplessness, problems with digestion, and an inconsistent or unhealthy relationship with food, whether they are under or over weight. “They know that emotionally or mentally, they’re up and down a lot.”
“There are different reasons people come,” says Davidji. “Ultimately, we’re all looking to return to our most whole self.”
Perfect Health, based on the book by Deepak Chopra, fuses modern Western science and the ancient healing arts of the East. It incorporates conventional medicine with Ayurveda, “the wisdom of life,” a natural healing system that dates back 5,000 years to India. The Chopra Center incorporates aspects of that system that have been scientifically proven. “Modern Western science defines health as the absence of disease,” explains Davidji. “Ayurveda says health is not simply the absence of disease. Health is physical and emotional balance and integration.” In short, the Perfect Health program teaches that a happy, healthy life results from harmony between the body, mind, spirit, and environment.
Meditation, a healing practice that helps people to experience inner calm and deep relaxation, is crucial to the program. “We believe that being able to access the stillness and silence that rests within is your key to making more conscious choices,” says Davidji. “It’s your key to making changes in your life. It’s your key to departing from the conditioned patterns that you’ve been living your whole life.” Meditation can be compared to turning down the volume on the internal radio that constantly plays in your mind. The result is that you silence the tens of thousands of thoughts running through your mind each day, at least for a while. When you clear your mind, you can hear yourself. “How can you connect to the quiet inside,” asks Davidji, “unless you can hear the quiet inside?”
The center teaches that the inner stillness experienced during meditation flows into your outer world, leading to better health, more loving relationships, and success. A regular meditation practice can lessen stress and lower blood pressure; lead to restful sleep, peace of mind, improved immune function and digestion; and awaken you to your life’s purpose.
On the first day of the Perfect Health program, clients take a quiz designed to determine their dosha, or mind-body type. These three types are known as Vata, the principle of movement and change identified with the wind; Pitta, the principle of transformation associated with fire; and Kapha, the principle of protection, nourishment, and stability identified with earth.
The Vata temperament could be described as lively and enthusiastic by nature, someone who likes change. But if Vata becomes excessive, it can create anxiety, insomnia, dry skin, or irregular digestion.
The Pitta type is purposeful and intense, and likes to persuade others. When balanced, people with this dosha are warm, intelligent, and good leaders. Out of balance, they can become critical, irritable, and aggressive.
The Kapha temperament is stable, easy going, accepting, and supportive. Calm, sweet, and loyal when in balance, those with Kapha tendencies can gain weight, become congested, and resist healthy change when out of sync.
Once they identify and understand their doshas, clients sit down with a physician to talk about how to practically apply what they’ve learned to their daily lives. The Perfect Health staff helps clients create routines to keep minds and bodies in balance, optimizing health and well-being. Depending on their dosha, clients can benefit from dietary changes, colors, sound therapy, and scents. Daily treatments, including luxurious massages, herbal wraps, and steam baths to promote detoxification, are tailored to each individual. “It’s specific,” says Davidji. “It’s not one size fits all. We’re not going to use hot oil on someone who’s fire by nature. We’d use soothing or cooling oil on them.”
Breakfast and lunch, composed of simple, clean, and easily digested foods, is included in the program. It’s easier to access nutrients in steamed or blanched vegetables, for instance, than raw, Davidji explains; and white, rather than wild, rice can be easier on a tender stomach. The program also includes access to The Spa at La Costa with its outdoor pool and sunbathing gardens, Roman waterfall, cedar sauna, and steam room.
How do guests look and feel when they leave the program? “Shiny,” says Ringnalda, with a laugh. She says she often doesn’t even recognize them, based on photos taken the first day. Adds Davidji: “They’re lighter, happier, clearer, more peaceful, they believe that there is an answer, and they’ve been taught many tools to help them when they go home.”
In the end, the Perfect Health program can become “a defining moment, a transformational moment, a jumping off point,” says Davidji. When asked if this is potentially life-changing, he replies: “No, it’s emphatically life-changing. If you’re willing to get here, you will be transformed.”
The Chopra Center offers Perfect Health throughout the year, beginning in January, along with many other programs, and weekly classes in meditation and yoga. A two-day “Meditation Weekend” premieres January 14-15. (888/736-6895, www.chopra.com) ANDREA NAVERSEN