Ayurvedic spa treatments ease the mind as well as the body

I had the privilege to set foot in the much-talked about Chopra Center of Wellbeing at La Costa Spa in Carlsbad, Southern California.

With all the tourist attractions and amusement parks to keep you up and about all day in this sunny part of the West Coast, I decided to leave the frolicking to my son and check out the "healing wonders" the centre offers.

Founded by and named after the famed wellness guru Deepak Chopra, the centre is located 90 minutes south of Los Angeles, and serves as a hub of ancient healing traditions interpreted by Chopra and co-founder, best-selling author and pioneer in the field of mind-body medicine David Simon.

The sprawling centre is complete with accommodations, outdoor amenities and services in a surrounding designed to unleash the full potentials of the mind, body and spirit.

The philosophy behind the Chopra Center revolves around the three pillars of timeless wisdom: meditation, Ayurveda and yoga. As an adventurous spaholic, I immediately signed up for the exotic Ayurvedic treatments, specifically the oh-so-relaxing Shirodhara.

This form of ancient therapy was developed by vaidyas, the practitioners of Ayurveda in Kerala, India, as a restorative therapy to treat a variety of conditions including eye diseases, sinusitis, allergic rhinitis, neurological disorders, insomnia and certain skin diseases among others.

In the spa scene, Shirodhara is well known for its relaxing effects. The heavenly head massage involves continuous pouring of warm herbal oil over the forehead, which is then massaged into the scalp and head. This brings a state of deep relaxation and inner peace, which is ideal for stressed-out moms looking after an adrenalin-fueled son, just like me.

Anxiety and depression

The goal of a 5,000-year old Shirodhara treatment is to stimulate circulation and rid the body of impurities. It dramatically improves the functions of the five senses and also helps address anxiety and depression. It harmoniously rejuvenates the body and mind, and thus is popularly known in the spa world as the ultimate mental and emotional relaxation therapy.

Another not-to-be-missed traditional Hindu treatment at the centre is the Champisagge head massage. It originally began as a system of grooming, where mothers massaging their daughter's scalps with oil to encourage the growth of long, lustrous hair.

Over the years, it has evolved to include massaging of the head, neck and face with different pressure to clear energy channels. These energy channels are often blocked, causing a build-up of negative energy that is believed to be the root of various ailments.

Stress typically accumulates in the head, neck and shoulders. Using the Champissage technique, these areas are gently, firmly and rhythmically massaged until the tension melts away. No oils are used, and it is done while one is seated on a comfortable chair. No wonder it's called the champ in seated massage.

Champisagge provides relief from eyestrain, aches in the neck and shoulder areas, and other stress and work-related symptoms. Other benefits include healthy hair growth, energy flow balance, and achieving a deep sense of inner peace.

There are no known harmful side effects for both Shirodhara and Champisagge. In fact, their rejuvenating effects have been known all over the world, such that these treatments have become spa staples. For me, the only downside is when your massage session ends.