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It's Fun to Play at the YMCA

John Ostuni, who has been a member of the YMCA club for eight years works out on one of the new pieces of exercise equipment at the center's renovated Lee Circle location.

It's been 150 years since the Young Men's Club of America opened its doors in New Orleans, and since that November day in 1852, the organization has worked to make its moniker nonapplicable -- over the years, it has come to embrace young girls, women and families as well as males.

The YMCA that has inhabited a building on Lee Circle since 1931 is celebrating its heritage with a facelift and improved facilities for its members. Workers are putting on the finishing coats of paint in offices, but facilities such as the exercise and weight rooms are already completed and outfitted with new machines and tools. Other things also have changed. The entrance to the YMCA now is accessible through the members' parking lot on the corner of Camp and St. Joseph streets, and the front of the building facing Lee Circle now houses a new hotel.

"At one time we occupied three-fourths of the block," says YMCA Executive Director Rooney Caldwell. "Now it's about half a block, but we've made good use of the space we have." Members are working out on all-new exercise and Nautilus equipment, and there's a separate weight room, heated indoor pool and running/walking track, a full-size basketball court, numerous classes and team-sport leagues at the 45,000-square-foot facility.

"Mainly the renovation was updating equipment, rearranging some things and putting on a new coat of paint," says Health and Fitness Director Mike Johnson. Some of the moves will make classes and workouts more comfortable for members, such as moving the spinning bikes into a climate-controlled racquetball court and finding an air-conditioned space for aerobics classes. All those improvements, plus the fact that the YMCA offers an indoor pool and tracks, are helping to draw new members. "The only other place in the Central Business District with an indoor pool is the New Orleans Athletic Center (in the French Quarter), and farther away, the Jewish Community Center (Uptown)," Johnson says.

The new year also brings other improvements, such as a full-time fitness trainer in the weight room, year-round swimming lessons, a kids summer camp, and memberships that include a personalized fitness program (with four free personal fitness trainer sessions), no fees for classes; there's even financial assistance for those who need help with the cost.

"That's what makes us different," says Caldwell. "We'll work with them. It's part of our philosophy: spirit, mind and body. Another thing that makes us different is that you sign no contract with us. You can cancel with a 30-day notice."

Body & Soul Workout

Mixing Kundalini and Ashtanga-based yoga methods, instructor Adam Koffman is offering a new kind of yoga experience to beginning and intermediate students. Koffman, who spent the past five years teaching yoga in New York and Los Angeles, recently opened Elysee Yoga Studio (2116 Burgundy St., 388-0511) in the Faubourg Marigny.

"My unique style has proven to be highly effective for beginning and intermediate students," Koffman says. "I moved to New Orleans to pursue my dream to help others achieve a more holistic and healthy lifestyle." He does that, he says, by combining invigorating yoga poses with powerful breathing exercises and a comfortable environment. Students practice the discipline in an intimate setting with hardwood floors, burning candles, essential oils and sensual music.

The studio at the corner of Burgundy and Elysian Fields offers evening classes Monday through Thursday and a morning class on Saturday, but also provides private yoga instruction as well as massage therapy.

Sex 2002

Ochsner Clinic Foundation (1514 Jefferson Hwy., 842-1234) is offering a free seminar about contemporary sexuality at 10 a.m. Jan. 19 at Monroe Hall.

Psychiatrist and international lecturer Dr. Domeena C. Renshaw will address "Sexuality 2002" as part of the annual Gene Usdin, MD, Distinguished Visiting Lectureship in Psychiatry, followed by a discussion about sexuality in the new millennium.

Renshaw, a professor of psychiatry at Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine in Illinois, is a prolific educator, lecturing to professional and educational groups here and abroad and writing more than 300 published articles and three books.

The lecture is free and open to the public, but registration is required. Call 842-6807.

Intensifying the Beat

New Orleans Musicians Clinic (NOMC), now in its fourth year of providing medical services to uninsured and underinsured musicians, is expanding its services to include dental care as well as increased outreach programs.

Musician patients now can receive dental care at the LSU School of Dentistry through grants provided by the Pierre Fourchard Foundation, Orthodontic of America, Musicares, and the Sweet Relief Foundation. The services were added in response to medical research linking periodontal disease with an increased risk of heart disease, lung illnesses and diabetes. For appointments, NOMC patients should call 412-1111.

The clinic currently is offering flu shots to musicians for $5 each through February by calling 412-1111 and asking for a "nurse only" appointment.

NOMC has treated more than 700 people since it was started in 1998 to improve the health of the city's musician community.

Open Adoptions

During the month of January, couples interested in the open adoption of a child can apply through Caring Alternatives, Volunteers of America's (VOA) maternity and adoption program.

Application requests are being accepted by VOA, a United Way agency, through Jan. 31 by calling 836-8702 or (800) 535-9646. To qualify, prospective parents must be 27 to 40 years old, married for at least three years and have no more than one child. In addition to helping match babies with parents, Caring Alternatives provides couples with services ranging from counseling and legal help to follow-up and medical support. The 50-year-old VOA program specializes in open adoptions in which birth parents have an ongoing relationship with the adoptive parents and the child.

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