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Take a deep breath
Yoga classes see increased enrollment

BUFORD - It's safe to say a vast majority of Americans are feeling stressed these days. Whether it's worrying about job security or a diminished 401(k) or a home not being worth what you thought it was, everyone can relate to the ongoing, great recession.

For three days this past week, about 50 people made their way to the Bogan Park Community Recreation Center to help alleviate some of that stress by practicing meditation and yoga. The draw was an international yoga master who blessed Gwinnett with his presence.

Sponsored by the Gwinnett County Parks and Recreation Department, each night the yogi demonstrated how to find inner peace and manage the intricacies of daily life.

Paramhans Swami Maheshwarananda - aka Swamiji - has been spreading the benefits of yoga and meditation since moving to Europe from his native India in 1972.

"Teaching yoga is one of the greatest things you can do because you are giving," Swamiji said. "And you make people happy and healthy."

Because of the many problems people face in the modern world due to stress, bad habits and an unnatural way of living, Swamiji developed a comprehensive system based on traditional yoga, meditation and the demands of modern life called Yoga in Daily Life. That system today operates more than 3,000 nonprofit centers in 26 countries around the globe.

The Atlanta location, which has been in existence for about 10 years, is in Buford, at a tiny studio on Hamilton Mill Road.

One of the "disciples" at the Buford location, and also one of six yoga teachers there, is Darka Krsmanovic, also known as seva devi, which means she's devoted to "selfless service."

Unlike the economy, which in a recession is shrinking, the Buford center has been seeing more and more people come in lately to sign up for twice weekly, three-month-long classes where everybody starts at Level 1, she said. Because of increased demand, a Saturday class is also available at a Jimmy Carter Boulevard location.

"I think people are realizing the need for deeper connections within themselves and for something that will give them more than just fun," Krsmanovic said. "Practicing yoga is a joy, but it's also something you need to be disciplined about."

Buford resident Jean Middleton is a self-professed workaholic for Cisco Systems in Lawrenceville. She said she discovered Yoga in Daily Life about 18 months ago and is not even sure why or how.

"I'm not sure what it exactly was," Middleton said. "I think there was a need in my life that was not being met, a balance that I didn't feel. And I just happened upon it by doing a quick search," she said. "At first I thought I was looking for exercise, just to get some relief and balance. But what I found instead was a holistic approach to mind, body and spirit. It's been a real blessing."

Middleton's married and her children are grown and now live out of the area. She said she's found a new extended family through Yoga in the Daily Life.

"I discovered much more than I was looking more," Middleton said. "It's a community. It truly is. And it amazes me that it's just hidden here in Buford," she said. "It's clearly holistic."

As for the master himself, Swamiji said it's never too late to start practicing yoga, and that the benefits can be realized by everyone at all ages. He said he once even taught a woman who practiced yoga until she was 109-years-old.

"If you would like to lead a life relaxed without stress and healthy, to feel inside a communication with yourself, that you can understand your family and the world, then that is what I'd tell people they are missing by not practicing yoga," he said.