If the tranquil setting of La Quinta Resort and Club just outside of Palm Springs wasn’t enough to help 500 participants of the 2008 Inner IDEA® Conference (September 11-14) gather some personal calm and solidify their vision of purpose in the wellness industry, the curriculum of this mind-body-spirit-focused conference surely did the trick.

Set at the foot of the Santa Rosa Mountains in the Coachella Valley, this lush desert oasis was once a home away from Hollywood for movie stars and other glitterati from the late 1920s onward. The classic California design of the place still oozes charm. With 52 pools dotted around the grounds and private, Spanish-tiled casitas instead of traditional hotel rooms, it was once again the perfect backdrop for IDEA’s mind-body-spirit educational experience.

“The Inner IDEA conference is the place to be for those of us who are leaders in the health/wellness, mind-body-spirit profession,” said Laura Sari Geduldig, owner of Go There Coaching in Northern California. “In only 3-Âœ days I gained invaluable knowledge through the seminars and important networking connections with so many other like-minded participants. But Inner IDEA was so much more than ‘professional development’ for me. I am the mother of two young boys and run my own private practice as a life and wellness coach. My life is full everyday. I registered for Inner IDEA hoping that beyond the professional learning I would also have a little getaway from all of the pressures of my life. What I experienced was so much more than a simple few days away at a conference. Inner IDEA was deeply rejuvenating.

“The personal connections with the other participants and teachers touched me most deeply,” she continued. It was so much fun to be with a whole conference of people who are as passionate about health, wellness and the mind-body-spirit connection as I am! I came away with a renewed sense of self and a deeper commitment to my personal health and well-being, which is crucial to me not only as a coach for others but for my own life.”

Opening Ceremony & Keynote Presentation
A very special guest was introduced to help set the intention for the conference. Swami Veda Bharti, who had traveled halfway across the world from India, ascended the stage in his beautiful orange-sherbet colored robes, a gorgeous contrast to his dark honeyed skin and white hair. Swami Bharti is the spiritual director of Sadhana Mandir Ashram in Rishikesh, India. He has lectured, taught meditation and yoga philosophy since the age of 9.

The Swami led the group in a short, powerful meditation. He told us that whatever we do repeatedly with the mind will become the mind’s habit—that meditating like this could help us to rediscover its original calm nature. He paid homage to the September 11 victims (it was the 7th anniversary of the terror at the World Trade Center Towers) and honored those who are trying to spread peace of mind on the planet.

As he wound up the mediation, the Swami provided attendees with a suggestion for the weekend: “Use this time fruitfully for forming two internal habits: 1. Keep your forehead relaxed; 2. Whenever you have 3 minutes, give yourself the time to create the breath flow as you think about the deity or people you may hold sacred in your life. Form the habit of the calm mind stream.”

After the meditation, Inner IDEA co-creator Peter Davis welcomed the delegates and focused on the next few days, suggesting that attendees absorb the forthcoming experience with a child’s sense of wonder and without judgment.

After a heartwarming speech by Frank Iszak, one of the 2008 Inner IDEA Inspiration Award Recipients (please see Sidebar), Dr. Patrick Gentempo delivered his keynote address.

Gentempo, a world-renowned speaker, successful chiropractor and a highly visible personality in alternative health care circles, started by asking the group to be introspective and try to understand why we all came to the conference. Were we here for what he calls a “Jacuzzi experience”—wherein the bubbles swirl around our bodies and make us feel good temporarily—or were we here for a “pivotal experience”—one that changes your life forever? "Over the next few days you have the opportunity to have a pivotal experience…not necessarily about you but about who you serve and how you impact your communities."

He went on to describe that people today are not just sick in the allopathic sense, they are sick with “experience,” which turns to disease. “Our work is cut out for us. It is significant,” he assessed. In order for wellness professionals to have an impact on such sickness, we first must fully grasp our individual purpose and be on a path free of impediments that throw us into survival mode and keep us off purpose. “If you’re part of the problem—constantly in survival mode—you can’t be part of the solution. If you’re constantly in survival mode, you can’t develop purpose.”

Mindful Education
With 150 sessions over 3 days, the program was rich and diverse. Attendees had the opportunity to try almost any variation of Pilates they desired (taught by some of the most respected instructors in the industry), as well as a wide selection of yoga, mind-body research, coaching, mindfulness and meditation classes, nutrition, Nia® and GYROTONIC® exercise.

Following is a sampling of highlights.

  • The Labyrinth: A Meditation Walk, Phyllis Pilgrim. Attendees walked and meditated upon a replica of the 12th Century Labyrinth at the Chartres Cathedral in France. It’s a huge circle, about 40-50 feet across with convoluted pathways that participants wound around into the middle, or heart center. Once there, Pilgrim reminded the group, clustered in a tight rosette, that although we all experienced this walk individually, that we were now joined to “feel the powerful ethos of the group—of the shared experience.” She coached us to take the first step away from center and into our future “knowing our purpose.”
  • Integrative Fitness: The New Science of BodyMind Fitness, Pamela Peeke, MD, MPH, FACP. Peeke defined this simply as the optimal functioning of the mind-body-spirit loop. She pointed out peer-reviewed science that proves that neuropeptides in our bodies are altered by physical activity. Our bodies are altered and adapted over time (it takes 6-12 weeks depending on the individual, but it can be done). Medicate With Movement! is her battle cry. “It’s not the strongest who survive; it’s not the smartest who survive, it’s those who can adapt who survive," she taught. “When you are conceived you are hardwired to adapt and adjust which translates to survival. Inability to adapt and adjust leads to paralysis, which leads to self-destruction—your default. This is the most important thing you can teach your clients. This is the core of Integrative Fitness." You can read a full feature article Peeke wrote on Integrative Fitness in the IDEA Library.
  • Shakti™, Lawrence Biscontini, MA. This non-purist, mind-body approach fuses fitness-choreographed applications of yoga, Feldenkrais®, GYROTONIC®, Nia®, Pilates and tai chi—all with inspiring non-traditional body-mind music. Biscontini, who created this fusion form, taught superbly with non-verbal cuing (it’s taught in silence) and his usual brand of calm, graceful energy. Perfect for the new or easily intimidated participant, as it’s easy to follow and very uplifting.
  • Self-Mastery through Raja Yoga, Mehrad Nazari, PhD. This all-inclusive style of yoga combined the flowing physical postures utilizing the breath, the yoga philosophy and the psychological aspects of each pose. Although there was a stage set up, Nazari preferred to walk the floor near attendees so he could easily fine tune movements and croon philisophy to them. For instance: "When perfecting the stillness, it’s equally challenging to harness the mind. The active mind wants to move on. Use the silence as a source of sound. Strengthen both aspects of yourself equally. The power is in the stillness."
  • In Why Invert? Face Your Fear of Falling, Stacy McCarthy demonstrated her SSA (sensitivity, stabilization and assist) technique for partner assisting on a handstand, among many other moves. There was more at work here than just handstands. Inversion can be a mirror for personal transformation and can deepen your sense of self. Turning upside down lifts one’s energy and creates a being of lightness. On the emotional and psychic level, inversions throw new light on old patterns of behavior.
  • Cathleen Murakami helped students harness the energy centers of their bodies in Chakra-lates. Utilizing Pilates movements, sound, breath and visualization, students recharged, realigned and strengthened their chakras, even as they honed their teaching skills and ideas.
  • Elizabeth Larkham emphasized career and business planning in Balanced Body University: Creating Your Career Map as a Mind-Body Professional. She told the intimate group of attendees that they need to get a 10-year plan—fully inclusive of their business model—in place if they hope to achieve success.
  • Ralph LaForge, PhD, captured the history of mind-body research from the 1920s forward in his session Top 10 Mind-Body Research Trials: Lessons Learned. Four of the 10 researchers he talked about had won Nobel Prizes for their groundbreaking work, much of which laid the foundation for today’s ongoing research in the field.
  • STOTT PILATES® Ball Challenge with PJ O’Clair gave attendees a dimension of freedom, movement and creativity away from Pilates apparatus that seemed refreshing for all. O’Clair infused her considerable anatomical and biomechanical knowledge to make every movement with the stability ball meaningful, while layering an exercise physiology refresher course over the curriculum.
  • If you’ve never seen Rael Isacowitz, MA, teach, slip into one of his classrooms sometime for a real treat. (see video from this course Pilates, Biomechanics and Reality). This articulate, passionate man teaches with classic iron fist in a velvet glove style. He’s determined that students will “get it” and will persist until they do. He urged students to maintain open minds and approach Pilates from different perspectives to try and understand better what clients are experiencing.
  • Peter Reding explored the possibilities of using "Inspired Learning" techniques in his course How to Become an Absolutely Brilliant Facilitator (Part I). Using positive teaching techniques is far more effective than criticism, which only slows down the learning process, he said. "I believe as human beings we want to learn, but what kind of environment are we creating? By praising students and their knowing that they won’t be criticized, they become more adventuresome, creative, exploring and risk taking. [Being positive] will not only help you to retain students, it will generate word-of-mouth excitement for what you’re doing. Students will bring others back."
  • In The New Balance, Wellcoaches® founder Margaret Moore explored new fundamentals in life balance. Her message: There is more to balance than meets the eye. There are dimensions such as alone time, relating time, inner and outer focus, intense flow and recovery, positive and negative emotions, movement and rest. Attendees were encouraged to identify and explore non-traditional areas in which they need focus and balance.
  • Larry Cammarata, PhD, capped things off with Deep Relaxation through Autogenic Training. Autogenic training, a self-generating method of training your body and mind to respond quickly to your own verbal suggestions to relax—is the oldest Western method for inducing self-regulation. It was developed by a German scientist in the early 1920s and includes six standard exercises: heaviness, warmth, heart, respiration, abdominal warmth and forehead cooling. Cammarata provided a sample 20-minute training as part of the course.
  • Nia® classes were packed, so creators Debbie Rosas and Carlos Rosas had a full schedule on this, the 25th anniversary celebration of their creative, expressive dance brainchild. The scheduled included a new Nia class titled Awakening the Sacred Athlete Within. This wasn’t necessarily about being an athlete in the literal sense, but about the fact that we’re all athletes in this game called life. From the physical to the intellectual to the spiritual, we have many daily opportunities to recognize and celebrate the sacred moments that construct the quilts of our lives. Contrary to what you might think, the sacred moments aren’t the ones when we score goals or get past the competition to win the race or the contract, they are the moments when we’re off balance, when we fall and when we get beat. They’re sacred because when you recognize them, you also recognize the gift of being able to improve, grow and get better. There was a lot of joy unleashed in this particular class.
  • The Future of Pilates panel discussion was as fascinating as it was lively. Facilitated by Kathy Corey, the panel of Isacowitz, John Garey and Mari Windsor discussed everything from whether Pilates and the fitness industry are a good match to whether there should be a single organization or governing body that establishes and oversees standards for the industry (and everything in-between). It was two hours of passionate, from-the-gut discussion that shed tremendous light on the modern-day leaders who are as determined to respect and preserve the integrity of the work as they are the legacy of Joseph Pilates, "the elders," and the teaching lineage. Corey, who kept things focused and on track summarized it neatly by saying, "The essence of the work does not lie in just teaching the exercises, but to know how to make these exercises appropriate for the individual body. The passion for the work sets it apart. We shouldn’t all teach the same way, but we should all teach with the passion, joy and respect for the basic principles." IDEA will do a feature article modeled from the panel discussion in the near future.
  • Lorna Francis, PhD, spoke about Awakened Presence in both her lunchtime talk and in a much longer presentation on the regular schedule. In her words, Awakened Presence (also known as awareness, consciousness, beingness) can be defined as liberation from the sense of self. The most significant quality that points to the nature of awakened presence is the loss or the dissolving of the sense of self, which in turn results in a sense of connectedness or oneness to everything; a sense that all is unfolding perfectly; a sense of stillness and effortlessness; a sense of the ordinary being extraordinary.
  • The trio of Kathy Corey, Michael Fritzke and Tom Voogt. demonstrated and discussed the variations of exercises in the Pilates repertoire in Embracing the Differences on the Reformer. "There is no right answer or wrong answer to the way you teach. It’s all experiential," Corey said. See related video for a wonderful video discussion among the three as they taught.

Beyond Education
Outside of the classroom, attendees found deeper meaning to their chosen profession and a stronger connection to each other and the outside world. “The experience I had at Inner IDEA gives me hope that our world can become a more positive, happy and loving place,” said Tiger Martin, a Pilates instructor and personal trainer from Pasadena, California. “As instructors we are one spearhead that can make an immediate difference through mind, body and spirit work with our clients.

“I left Inner IDEA feeling educated and supported with any future needs or questions I might have. I personally connected with over a dozen people with whom I will keep in touch to share professional wins and lessons learned—which is invaluable to me. The presenters were humble, kind and helping. And I know any presenter would be happy to help me with words of wisdom and the exact help I might need in my quest to serve my clients.”

For more insight about the conference, be sure to access the event blogs, photographs and videos. There’s so much more to share!

Sandy Todd Webster is the editor in chief of IDEA’s publications.

2008 Inner IDEA Inspiration Award Recipients: Frank & Serpil Iszak, Silver Age Yoga
During the event’s opening ceremonies, Inner IDEA co-creator Kathie Davis introduced this year’s Inner IDEA Inspiration Award recipients, Frank and Serpil Iszak, founders of Silver Age Yoga. Their organization provides yoga to seniors for free, a philanthropic activity that gives Frank, who accepted the award, the glow of those true "givers" you may have encountered in your life.

"When a blind person comes up with wobbling arms and hugs you; when a tear rolls down a craggy face in appreciation; when a smile comes to a face that hasn’t seen one in a long time; or when a man gets out of a wheelchair to come and do a downward dog…those are the rewards that you cannot find or buy. They are priceless," he said. "There is a proverb that says ‘Change 1,000 lives.’ you may think that sounds like a lot,” Frank said, “but remember what Confucius said: ‘To walk 1,000 steps you just have to take one.’ Start by changing one life…it may even be your own you start with."

Many Thanks to Inner IDEA’s Visionary Sponsors
Inner IDEA is grateful for the support of the following Visionary Sponsors:

Balanced Body®

Gaiam®

GYROTONIC®

Nia®

Peak Pilates®

STOTT PILATES®