JUSTLUXE: The Doctor Is In: Deepak Chopra Talks About His MGM Grand & Delos Partnership, Biogenetic Research and His Plans to Improve the Quality of Life
There’s nothing better than spending time connecting with yourself. Focusing on inner wellness, spirit, mind and body is what makes us conscious of what we eat and drink, take time out of our schedule to meditate, or rise with the sun for spirit-lifting yoga—and now you can get all this relaxation and inner peace in fabulous Las Vegas! Sure Sin City might not seem like the place to go when you want to focus on a better you, but the Stay Well Rooms, Meetings and Programs at the MGM Grand are designed with wellness and mental and spiritual health in mind in partnership with Delos Living and Dr. Deepak Chopra.
Vegas might be synonymous with nightlife, gambling and everything else that gave Sodom and Gomorra its appeal, but it’s also one of the biggest meeting locales in the world, which means lots of busy schedules, late hours and a mediocre diet. Having partnered with the MGM Grand in 2012, Delos Living has been serving an entire floor of the MGM Grand with its Stay Well Rooms for the past two years, and now they’re rolling out meeting rooms with a focus on wellness. But Stay Well Meetings won’t be all business: there’s morning yoga, meditation breaks, aromatherapy, air purification and a menu of dining options that include Cleveland Clinic-approved, heart-healthy entrees. During the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Stay Well Meetings at MGM Grand we sat down with Dr. Chopra to find out what wellness means to him, how he and Delos hope to improve your quality of life and why, of all places, they chose Vegas to do it.
Just sitting down in the Stay Well Meeting rooms is an experience, with ambient lighting, plushy, ergonomic chairs and the light fragrance of aromatherapy will make you forget you’re in a Vegas meeting room and more like you’re sitting down in your home with a group of friends. As Dr. Chopra’s face came on the screen in the background, we realized the collaboration between the three companies was more than just adding a well-known face to a brand. “My partnership with Delos goes back five years, before the concept actually started to evolve—the idea to create an environment that would restore well-being through the five senses, through proper nutrition, water, light, food, ergonomics, comfort, fitness—putting it all together and making it practical,” Dr. Chopra explained. “At that time I was talking a lot in the green movement, which had become kind of activist, and I had been saying to the activists, ‘how do we become what you want to see out there’ so Delos came at the right time.”
For both Dr. Chopra and Delos, their first and foremost priority was wellness; they share a belief that the body needs to be nurtured and cared for from the inside out to make improvements in one’s life. While most people can be mindful of their heath through proper nutrition and exercise, the two focus on the part most of us are unable to improve on our own—the unseen scientific and spiritual aspects of wellness—and they’re using biogenetics to achieve it. “Where we are going now, the research I am doing, is in the area of what we call epigenetics: how does the environment and your interaction with the environment, influence the activity of your genes,” Dr. Chopra says. “So it’s not just the genes that you’re born with, but the ones that get activated that make a difference between health and well-being.” For a doctor of both Eastern and Western medicine, he blends the two ideologies together seamlessly; pointing out that one directly affects the other and showcasing how his research might improve the quality of life.
“So this is where the science comes in now, modern science. There are three new areas in biology that are almost less than a decade old: one is epigenetics, the fact that your genes are not your destiny, how you use them is your destiny, the second is neuroplasticity, how sensory stimulation and habits of thinking and behavior and emotions influence the very structure of your brain, and the third, which is even more interesting, is what is called the microbiomes, 90 percent of your body’s DNA is actually from microbes, from bacteria,” he begins. “They’re all over your skin, your nasal passages, everywhere, and the DNA of this microbiome, it cross-talks with human DNA with only one purpose: to restore well-being. And what influences the microbiome? The same things that we were talking about: sleep, stress management, exercise, breathing, quality of breath, quality of water, food that doesn’t contain toxic chemicals or petroleum products… so that’s a big interest of mine right now. We’re collaborating with scientists from six universities to do the research on epigenetics and microbiome—in fact we’ve got a big study going on right now.”
As Dr. Chopra speaks it’s clear that more went into the Stay Well programs than an automatic blackout curtain and a cool bathroom light. Both the MGM Grand hotel rooms and meeting rooms are equipped with over 20 health and wellness features that range from improving your quality of sleep to hypoallergenic concerns. Circadian lighting throughout the rooms assist in the regulation of melatonin production and improves sleeping patterns with cycles of warm, white light for rest and blue lighting for increased energy and jetlag reduction. Well Shield, a coating that breaks down bacteria, virus and volatile organic compounds, is applied to all high-touch areas, added water purification is present for all in-room water, and even individual air purification systems reduce allergens, toxins and pathogens for improved air quality and breathing. “Everything that goes in the rooms is already well researched—circadian lighting, biophilia, air purification, even the flooring and the comfort of the furniture—all of that is researched,” Dr. Chopra adds.
But for all its scientific features, and evidence–based improvements on a person’s overall well-being, why of all places would they choose to begin their journey in Las Vegas—a city known for its aversion to health? “Vegas has probably the most conventions and meeting of any city on the planet, not just national meetings, but international meetings, so it’s a great location,” Dr. Chopra begins. “Vegas also has maximum diversity, you know people call it Sin City, but it also is the entertainment city of the world.” And admittedly, he has a point. Aside from the occasional glass of champagne, my personal visits to Vegas are filled with Cirque du’Soleil shows and trying the newest foodie restaurant on the strip. “This morning I wanted a yoga teacher at 5:30 AM and I was able to get one in my room to give me a private lesson,” he confides. “So Vegas offers everything. It’s literally very multicultural, very international; it’s a great place to bring this to because, as I said, it offers everything else.”
Aside from the Vegas locale, we couldn’t help but notice the significant amount of technology in use in the Stay Well programs—dawn-simulating alarm clocks, electromagnetic field shielding, even accompanying wellness software apps from the Cleveland Clinic—something that Dr. Chopra normally suggests we turn off when focusing on our inner well-being. “Technology is neutral. It’s neither good nor bad. Technology’s technology so you should think of it as neutral number one, number two, as unstoppable—you can’t stop technology, it’s the next phase of human evolution. Now are we going to use it to our advantage or disadvantage? If technology rules your life than it will ruin your life… but if you use it selectively, technology is the best blessing in the world. I mean I’m wearing all kind of wearables right now—right now I’m wearing a FitBit and heart [monitor], but I’m also wearing other stuff that I can’t show you because I’d have to be nude,” he laughs. “[These] measure my heart rate, my heart rate variability, it picks up my brainwaves, sleep patterns, etc., and I’m trying to aggregate all this into technology that actually helps you and guides you in the direction of well-being.”
While tech is by no means foreign to me (or most Millennials), everything in the MGM Grand Stay Well hotel and meeting rooms was easy enough that even my technologically-inept mother could have handled it. It was integrated, seamless and with the touch of a button (or your phone if you chose to use the in-room app) lighting would change, shades would draw, dawn would wake you up or the room would fill with aromatherapy fragrances. “You can use the technology to have something called Dawn Simulation, you know about that? It’s supposed to be very soft, did you hear the birds?” Dr. Chopra asked excitedly as we discussed the in-room features. I told him that I hadn’t and instead had heard a soft static. “They’re birds! You are so alienated from the natural environment!” he laughed. (Admittedly the next night I turned the volume up and they were indeed birds.) “You can use your iPhone to have those blackout drapes and everything else that you want to do. I think technology is the best way to accelerate emotional wellness. Technology will help you extend your body. You use technology, don’t let technology use you.”
Even with dawn simulators and lights that actually put you to sleep, some of the best features of the room were low tech. The menu for both the hotel rooms and meeting rooms is designed by the Cleveland Clinic for optimum health, but even with all those low calories and good-for-you cholesterols, the selection doesn’t skimp on flavor. My suggestion is to try the Stay Well menu cheesecake—it tastes every bit as delicious as its fatty counterpart. Another personal favorite was the Vitamin C-infused shower which will leave your skin and hair feeling softer than you can imagine. While all in-room water is filtered to Stay Well standards, the shower is doubled-filtered and pushed through a device on the showerhead that deposits Vitamin C into the water. But the absolute best thing about the room was undoubtedly the bed. I have never such a great nights rest in a hotel as I did in the MGM Grand Stay Well rooms. Maybe it was the cushy pillows or a combination of wellness features taking effect, but I haven’t woken up that well rested in quite a while.
Returning to his research, Dr. Chopra points out that while the Stay Well rooms have over 20 healthy amenities, his Delos home has over 50, all in testing phases that that he hopes he can bring to the public sooner rather than later. In combination with the biogenetics and microbes that the two companies are working on, he’s also focusing on his own research and recently began a study that he hopes can greatly improve the quality of life worldwide. “Outside of Delos, my center, we are doing a study called Self-Directed Biological Transformation Initiative S.B.T.I. … we’re putting batches of 25 people through a one week program to reverse their biological markers of aging, and looking at everything from inflammation to gene expression,” he explains. “We have reason to believe we can dramatically change cell biology, cell markers of inflammation, cell markers of homeostasis or self-regulation, cell markers of heart health, that at the epigenetic level, brain health, Alzheimer’s, diabetes—that’s our research right now; that’s going on at the moment. Our studies show that even two-three days will make a big difference in people if they use the technologies, but as I’m saying, that’s a different research effort—the practical application could be awhile.”
While both brands are looking to introduce these features to the entirety of MGM, before creating entire Stay Well hotels, their end goal is to improve the quality of life worldwide, not just those visiting Sin City for a quick business trip. “Where we want to go forward with this is actually make it even more precise, get the research even more substantiated, particularly as it pertains to epigenetics and then use this as a trend. So ultimately as a physician, which is what my background is, I’d like to see it in hospitals because right now hospitals are more dangerous than prisons as environments. Ultimately these technologies will go into hospitals.” He adds quietly, “I have learned that people everywhere actually have the same aspirations: they want to be healthy, they want to be happy, they want to have a good social support system, they want to live in a community that’s safe, they want to have a life which has meaning and purpose and they want their children to get the best education. It’s universal, wherever you go; if you went to Gaza you’d hear the same things. So what I’ve learned, which is most important, is that we’re using old methodologies to solve conflict in the world, and if you really want a more peaceful, just, sustainable, healthier world, we need to increase people’s capacity for health and well-being.”