A New Path to Wellness
Posted on October 12, 2017
The Chopra Center has long been a leader in the pursuit and practice of wellness with a mind, body, and spirit focus. This tradition of merging modern medicine and ancient practices to achieve total wellbeing is evident in the center’s newest offering: Ayurvedic breast massage. Introduced in August, the treatment is potentially controversial and thought-provoking, but also undeniably groundbreaking. As one of only a handful of facilities in the country offering the treatment, the Chopra Center is blazing trails in the worlds of both massage and breast health.
The center’s medical director, Dr. Sheila Patel, is a board-certified family medicine doctor who firmly believes in Chopra’s methods of addressing health in ways that may not yet be accepted as mainstream. “Taking Deepak [Chopra]’s lead and starting this center before anybody was even talking about mind/body connection, I think it’s important to be on the leading edge of health and healing,” she says. “Obviously, we do things based on science and evidence, and a full understanding of the body, but I think part of who we are as a center is being on the forefront and paving the way for better health.”
A huge component of this approach is massage. “We know that improving circulation, freeing up movement, better lymphatic flow — all of those things are good for the body as a whole,” explains Patel. “There’s lots of data on the benefits of massage, so it’s just carrying over these principals to every part of the body.”
Patel notes that in traditional Ayurveda, breast massage, or the opening of the chest and neck, was always part of a whole-body massage. However, under California massage therapy licensing laws, clients may only receive the treatment with a physician’s referral. The 65-minute session begins with a 15-minute conversation between the therapist and client reviewing medical and personal history, followed by the actual massage, which extends from diaphragm to the base of the head (massage of breast tissue is only about ten percent of the actual treatment), with a focus on clearing lymphatic channels and releasing muscle tension in areas not normally touched in a traditional massage. While all of Chopra’s therapists are trained in the protocol, only female therapists actually provide the service, which is performed within the limits of the client’s comfort level — they may remain draped, or even clothed, if they prefer.
“As one of only a handful of facilities in the country offering the treatment, the Chopra Center is blazing trails in the worlds of both massage and breast health”
Spa Director Jennifer Johnson says that following the treatment, clients often say they didn’t even realize they’d had tension in the area, and experience an increased range of motion. “They say, ‘I feel like I can breathe,’ or, ‘I’m pretty sure I’m taller!’” she laughs. With the ability to treat parts of the body in this service that they otherwise could not, Johnson says, they are able to clear edema and swelling from the area caused by trauma including mastectomies and reconstruction. And it’s not only women who can benefit — the treatment was administered to a male cardiac patient who’d been hunching forward inadvertently to protect his incision scarring.
“It feels great as a physician to be able to have more tools to help people, and actually help them heal and watch them get better, and not feel like I don’t know what to do next or there’s nothing else for them. It’s extremely satisfying to be able to just expand your toolbox,” Patel says. 760.494.1639, chopra.com Deanna Murphy
Portrait: Photo by Bob Stefanko; Chopra: Courtesy Photo