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Thursday, Oct. 30, 2003 02:20 pm

Know how to breathe? Think again.

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Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

In 1999, Dr. Padma Talchekar, a pediatrician, injured the cartilage in her knees while exercising at a gym. When she returned to her native India months later for a visit, she was still in pain. A friend encouraged her to take part in a stress-relief program being offered in Bangalore. The course taught breathing techniques designed to reduce anxiety and pain.

"After the first session, I felt a kind of tingling throughout my body, and the pain in my knees was completely gone," Talchekar recalls. "My body felt light and cleansed. Beyond that, I learned some helpful breathing techniques which I still practice everyday."

It was a revelation for Talchekar, a medical doctor who up until then hadn't given alternative healing practices much thought. She since has become a leading promoter of the program, which is being offered in Springfield starting next week. Sponsored by the Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Art of Living Foundation, the 18-hour course will be taught by Priti Mathur, a volunteer from Maryland. Components of the four-session program include meditation techniques and mental exercises, yoga, "emotional cleansing" and a breathing technique called the "Sudarshan Kriya."

Art of Living Foundation was launched in 1982 by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, a native of Bangalore. The tax-exempt organization operates several charities, including Care for Children/Dollar A Day, that support education programs for rural Indian children.

The "Art of Living" course is offered Fri-Mon, Nov. 7-10, at the Prevention First building, 2800 Montvale Dr. The cost is $250. To register, e-mail springfieldaol@yahoo.com. For more information, call 217-854-8053 or 217-726-9679