Depak Chopra wants to beam himself into your living room. He’ll be there to help you meditate, or improve your breathing techniques, or understand your relationship to the universe.
The technology is almost there. Perhaps in two years, he predicts, a person in China will be able to project Chopra’s hologram into that person’s own house. Lately, Chopra has become deeply immersed in the worlds of augmented and virtual reality, looking for ways to increase the power of his message and the size of his audience.
One of the world’s most famous proponents of integrative medicine is also determined to diversify his reach—and he’s hoping his latest partnership with UC San Diego will help him accomplish this goal. The project is called the UC Wellbeing Channel, and it will air on University of California Television (UCTV), the UC system’s television service managed by UC San Diego Extension.
“I think we can reach millions of people if not tens of millions of people,” said the 68-year-old co-founder of the Carlsbad-based Chopra Center. “Usually what happens within academia stays within academia. With UCTV, we can take academia to the world.”
Starting this fall, the channel will air a steady stream of interviews with leading experts, from the UC San Diego School of Medicine and elsewhere, on topics ranging from neuroplasticity to yoga to nutrition to personal relationships. Chopra will conduct some of the interviews himself.
The partnership also involves the company Jiyo, a wellbeing website and smartphone app that will promote the new UCTV channel. Dr. Paul Mills, a professor of Family Medicine and Public Health and director of the Center of Excellence for Research and Teaching in Integrative Health at UC San Diego School of Medicine, serves as the channel’s director, overseeing content. The Center of Excellence, working closely with the UC San Diego Center for Integrative Medicine, is a hub for research excellence and collaboration in integrative health within UC San Diego and across the greater San Diego region.
“Whether it’s meditating or practicing yoga or managing stress and nutrition, there is infinitude of content out there,” Mills said. “We’re identifying experts in these different domains and bringing them together under one heading, one roof. The new channel will curate existing UC content relevant to wellbeing as well as partner with other institutions and experts for content to offer viewers an unparalleled resource of knowledge and inspiration to support their own wellbeing.”
For Chopra, the calculus is simple: joining forces with UC San Diego gives him access to the university’s deep pool of knowledge and talent while providing UC San Diego with all the benefits that come with exposure to Chopra’s global following.
“I think the more collaborative we can be, the better for all of us,” Chopra said. “We have a huge resource at UC San Diego and UCTV for bringing some of the academic experts and their knowledge to a broader audience that would really benefit from any insight into health, into wellbeing, and into longevity backed by credible research and academic authority.”
The UC Wellbeing Channel is just the latest of Chopra’s affiliations with UC San Diego School of Medicine. This past spring, he became a full professor. In recent years, he’s also provided training and given lectures about wellbeing to some of the school’s students and staff. Lately, he’s been offering tips to faculty about how to avoid burnout in the medical profession.
In May, Bess H. Marcus, chair of the university’s Department of Family Medicine and Public Health, announced that the school has “also been working on concepts of wellbeing surrounding our new Institute for Public Health” and “will be lecturing in the new course on Integrative Medicine and Public Health being developed for the Bachelor of Science and Public Health.”
The partnership comes as many of Chopra’s insights—documented in his best-selling books and popularized by celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey—are gaining more credence within the medical profession. Chopra, for instance, was an early proponent of mindfulness, a method of using positive thoughts and other techniques to make your brain function in a healthier way. The benefits of mindfulness are now widely accepted within medical and academic circles.
Programming on the UC Wellbeing Channel, which can be found on cable and online, will include discussions with several prominent faculty members at UC San Diego School of Medicine, including Dr. William Mobley, chair of the Department of Neurosciences and one of the world’s leading experts in Alzheimer’s disease and Down syndrome, and Rob Knight, a pediatrics professor and one of the world’s top experts in microbiomes. The channel will also include content from numerous other faculty across the UC campus system, including UC San Francisco and UCLA wellbeing and integrative medicine programs.
The channel debuted on the web with a 40-minute Chopra lecture titled, appropriately, “A Guided Meditation for the University of California Community.”
In the lecture, Chopra calls meditation “the most effective technique for stress management” and, among other things, offers some tips on good ways to meditate. Attaining self-reflection through meditation, for instance, involves closing your eyes and asking yourself questions such as, “Who am I?” and “What am I grateful for?” and then noting the sensations, images, feelings, and thoughts that enter your mind spontaneously.
“I like to think of stress as similar to surfing,” he says in the lecture. “If you’re a good surfer, then every wave is exhilaration. If you’re not prepared, then every wave is disaster.”
These techniques and analogies will sound familiar to Chopra’s devotees, of which there are many. He estimates he reaches an audience of roughly 15 million people through social-media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
That list of platforms now includes Jiyo. The website and smartphone app analyze data from your various devices and then offer tips on sleep, nutrition, personal growth, exercise, and relationships. These tips come in the form of videos, articles, social-media posts, and other formats. Some of UCTV’s content will be distributed to the world through Jiyo.
Chopra calls the app “your personal wellbeing coach, or as I like to say, your better half.”
Poonacha Machaiah, who co-founded Jiyo with Chopra and serves as its chief executive officer, said the purpose is to “democratize health and wellness.”
“It’s like an Instagram or Facebook for wellbeing,” Machaiah said.
It is Chopra’s willingness to embrace new technologies, from social media to virtual reality, that has helped make him such a famous figure.
“Over the last 30 years, I’ve been very active in social media and media in general,” Chopra says. “I feel we are now in a position to take the amazing work that has been happening in academia out to the world. And UCTV is the best way to do that.”