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The Road to Wellville

On the West Coast, spirituality comes first. That's what attracted Deepak Chopra, best-selling author and trailblazer for the mind-body movement. Formerly the chief of staff at Boston Regional Medical Center, Chopra began moving away from traditional medical practice in the late eighties to promote a new concept of perfect health—not an absence of disease, but a state of balance among the mind, body, and spirit. His approach fuses Western technology and Eastern wisdom, supplementing conventional medicine with Ayurvedic treatments, meditation, and other therapies. Last spring, the Chopra Center for Well Being relocated to La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, California, and there are plans to expand the center to other hotels, including Miami's Doral Golf Resort & Spa and the Grand Wailea Resort on Maui. Sylvia Sepielli, the creative force behind spas at the Enchantment Resort in Sedona, Arizona, and Grand Wailea, is collaborating on the new La Costa quarters, which Chopra envisions as a facility where both medical and spa therapies converge. Seminars and retreats are based on his best-selling books, and incorporate yoga, integrated medical consultations, Ayurvedic spa treatments, and primordial sound meditation, which involves chanting personal mantras to the beat of the earth's natural rhythm. His newest venture is Wellness Golf, a program based on his upcoming book, Golf for Enlightenment. It combines visualization, yoga, therapeutic massage, and daily instruction on the resort's championship courses. His plan: Enlighten the masses and grab some tee time.

Rancho La Puerta founder Deborah Szekely is responding to a health crisis on both personal and communal levels. At the same time that she helps her 43-year-old son Alexandre battle recurrent melanoma, she's launching a program at the ranch called Awaken the Spirit. Every month, noted specialists—women's health advocate Dr. Christiane Northrup, cancer survivor and author Jeanne Achterberg, spirituality guru Marilyn J. Mason—conduct workshops that offer novel approaches to dealing with life challenges and learning preventive health practices.

Even after 43 years, Szekely's other spa, the Golden Door in Escondido, California, also keeps an open mind about the latest healing techniques. It has recently introduced the Japanese philosophy of kaizen, loosely translated as "baby steps." This method of implementing change in small increments helps people cope with trauma and tends to reduce the fear of failure attached to big commitments such as seeking a healthy lifestyle. It's about building consciousness: if drinking eight glasses of water a day seems impossible, just keep sipping from a glass on your desk. A 10-mile hike isn't in the cards?Walk to work. This sort of thinking is well-being in its purest, most uncomplicated form.

"The guests at both of our spas are people who want to live life more optimally. We teach people individual responsibility about their well-being," says Gary Frost, executive vice president of Canyon Ranch in Tucson. The spa has started offering wellness retreats, which include a medical evaluation and a roster of board-certified specialists who help manage issues such as stress, sleep disorders, and nutritional imbalances. Not to be outdone, Canyon Ranch in the Berkshires has created two programs that address longevity. "Ultraprevention" assesses your physiological functions and includes recommendations from staff experts on integrative therapies like herbal remedies and gyrotonics. "Lifemapping" involves training in holistic thinking and problem-solving for people facing major transitions, such as menopause and retirement. "Baby boomers are preoccupied with not getting old the way their parents did," says Frost.

Obviously, we've come a long way since Dr. Kellogg's Sanitarium. And though this road to wellness may often begin with pain, the journey doesn't have to be about illness. Dolphin Court Grand Spa at the Green Valley Ranch Station Casino provides a minimalist haven outside the nonstop, all-out bacchanal of Las Vegas. Sometimes, that's all you need. The spa lounge is belowground, hidden from the desert glare; 10 treatment rooms are positioned directly beneath cascading waterfalls, so every massage and facial in the earth-toned concrete bunker is accompanied by natural white noise. In keeping with the playful Vegas vibe, the spa disguises wellness with lighthearted treatments such as a "desert gold" clay wrap and a cookies-and-cream body mask. It smells like Chips Ahoy.

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