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Stretch your mind and body

An international yoga seminar offers enlightenment about the benefits and religious aspects of the discipline.

By AMY ABBOTT

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 7, 2000


If you think yoga is all about contorting your body into impossible positions, you may want to pop your feet out from behind your head and check out the 10th International Conference on Yoga for Positive Health on Saturday.

Participants can choose several tracks and risk only a twisted tongue from trying to pronounce all the new words.

The University of South Florida's New Center for Positive Health will be sponsoring the event along with Swami Vivekananda, Yoga Anusandhana and Samsthana Research Foundation. The event, originating in India, has been held in several locations around Europe, Tokyo and Australia. The USF conference is the first in the United States.

Ann DeBaldo, director of the center, has attended several conferences overseas and can be credited with bringing the gathering here.

"I talked to the organizers at the last class I was at and convinced them USF would be ideal to hold the conference," DeBaldo said. "We have a lot of people who are interested in yoga in Tampa, and holding the conference here was a direct response to the community at large."

There are two ways to get into the event: the paying way or the free way.

The first choice involves a preconference that begins Saturday and runs through Dec. 15. Since the Nov. 1 early-bird deadline has passed, you would pay either $70 for one day, $140 for two or $350 for all seven days of the preconference.

Registration and a morning yoga session are held at the Holiday Inn on Fowler Avenue at 6:30 a.m. to start the day. After that, you can put away the Spandex, because the classes are mainly for educational purposes.

Changing your religion and translating Hindu scriptures will not be required, either. One class, yoga therapy for diseases, examines the ways yoga can complement modern medicine and prevent disease, and the mental and spiritual effects of yoga.

"The point of the classes is to understand the theology of yoga," DeBaldo said, "to understand the Hindu scriptures which are the origins of yoga. They focus on meditation and yoga's history."

It is all designed to form a solid foundation for a personal yoga experience.

The conference is a $275 intensive course starting at 7 a.m. every day and ending around 10 p.m. It focuses on the medical application of yoga, yoga demonstrations and discussion.

Free evening courses are offered.

Instructors from India, Bahrain and across the United States will be conducting these seminars, but don't think you're getting the watered-down version just because they're free. Studies will be about Hindu scriptures such as the mystic texts, the Upanishads. They will examine sukha and dukha: the concept of happiness according to Vedanta. And the four streams of yoga will be outlined.

The amount of discipline and depth this course will offer is evident in the lineup of instructors and presenters.

They include Dr. H.R. Nagendra, president of the Swami Vivekananda Yoga Research Foundation in Bangalore. He was a NASA research associate and consultant at Harvard University before turning his interests to matters of the spirit. He now focuses on subtle aspects of consciousness through yoga.

So if you're interested in matters of the mind and spirit, you can get your groove on starting this weekend with a little mental bending and stretching.

PREVIEW

What: 10th International Conference on Yoga for Positive Health

Where: University of South Florida's College of Public Health, 12901 Bruce B. Downs Blvd., Tampa, FL 33612.

When: Preconference: Dec. 9-15, 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Conference: Dec. 15, 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Dec. 16, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Dec. 17, 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

How much: $500 for preconference and main conference; some free sessions offered.

Call: (888) 873-2574, then press 2

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