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Utahns find training in off-beat places

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Pepper peers through wild charcoal bangs, his tongue dangling from what appears to be a smile.

"C'mon, Pepper," says Lynne Carver, attempting to coax the 125-pound curly canine onto a styling table about 3 feet off the ground.

But Pepper, his panting muted by roaring hair dryers at Shear Elegance Academy of Pet Styling, doesn't budge. So school director Carver and husband Raleigh Plesko lift him onto the platform. The Bouvier de Flandres expresses his thanks with a kiss up Carver's face, nearly knocking her over.

Meanwhile, student Pam Jacob is in the other room, bathing Lucy, and wearing a good portion of the soap and water intended for the Wheaten Terrier pup. Daniel Musante, an Argentina native who's in Orem training to open his own pet-grooming shop in Buenos Aires, trims the hair between Toby's poodle paws while Carver offers tips.

From fur styling to feng shui, education continues outside of the traditional desk-and-chairs setting for Utah adults.

Some are receiving artistic or technical training for jobs. Some are looking at a second or third career, maybe as a bartender or private investigator. And some want to learn a new trade or activity — paragliding, anyone? — just for the fun of it.

The schools can be pricey: Carver's students might pay just over $5,000 for equipment, books and tuition for four months' worth of classes. Then again, they're getting instruction from a world-renowned pet stylist and five-year member of the prestigious Groom Team USA.

Here is a glimpse of some other unusual Utah schools.

Feng shui, literally meaning wind and water, is the ancient Chinese study of the natural environment used to ensure rulers' wealth, health and power.

Today, it is used to optimize energies in a home, office, or other environments, based on Yin and Yang, balancing of the five elements (fire, earth, metal, water and wood), and other theories.

Feng shui enthusiasts can sign up for a five-day core training course through the Feng Shui Training Center. Courses to become a feng shui practitioner are held anywhere from Snowbird to University of Nevada-Las Vegas.

Students pay about $1,200 to examine and arrange floor plans, learn to identify geographic stress zones that create volatile energy pockets — places where you don't want to put your bed, for instance — or how to avoid placing sitting energy in the path of a poison arrow, created by sharp corners.

In-depth knowledge-seekers commit nine months to an intense mentoring program, and can become masters after about three years of practice.

"In this kind of work, you have to do it to learn it," Stasney said.

Such a hands-on learning philosophy is at work in most of Utah's off-the-beaten path schools. Inner Technologies Hypnotherapy School, in fact, turns students into full-on participants.

Rocky Mountain Bartending Academy students lounge around their laboratory — a mock bar complete with thumping music, tall stools and an array of pretend potions — before class begins, laughing about a recent night out.

Three trickle colored water into glasses, then pour the contents into a one-ounce cup, a check for accuracy.

"When are we going to learn to throw the bottles?" a student quips, alluding to the 1988 Tom Cruise movie, "Cocktail."

Another props her head in her hands, poring over flash cards breaking down 100 cocktails and other tips she'll need as a bartender.

"Do we have to memorize all these, really?" she asks academy part-owner and general manager Shawn Fox.

Oh yes, Fox says. And then some. All in a two- to 3 1/2-week course training them to land jobs at a restaurant, nightclub, hotel lounge or poolside cabana.

What size glass goes with which? Lemon or lime garnish? Ice first or last?

They paid about $300 to learn those answers, Utah laws and the hospitality patrons expect from the man, or woman, in charge. An academy test, plus the TIP, or Training for Intervention Procedures, certification exam, top the course.

"There's a responsibility to all this," Fox says.

Other schools also offer certification training, often a student's ticket to a new career, and in just a few days.

"Some people just want a piece of paper to get their business license," said Sharon Stasney, president of the Feng Shui Training Center, a traveling school.

At the South Salt Lake school, five women and a man sit in a semi-circle, eyes closed, and let Lyn Behm guide them into trance.

They breathe deeply. Feel the weight of their bodies against their chairs. Walk down a mental staircase to deep relaxation.

Behm's words resemble prayer. He reminds the group, all students of Inner Technologies Hypnotherapy School, of the love surrounding them. How they will attract financial abundance and satisfaction from helping others as future hypnotherapists.

"You are the light of the world," says Behm, former owner of Eastern Onion singing telegrams, his words lilting above soothing piano strains from a CD player nearby.

Hypnotherapy uses hypnosis to relax the body and conscious mind, leaving the subconscious awake and receptive to suggestion, in order to help clients improve some part of their lives. Some clients might want to help the body heal or halt bad habits. As school owner Jackie Sharp, Behm's wife, puts it: "Stop-smoking clients will pay the rent."

Students seeking master certification in hypnotherapy pay about $3,100 for the 250 hours of instruction, which include ethics and trance management, and often, students putting each other in trance. Prices differ with other certification levels, which start at 50 hours to become a hypnotist.

Students might want to become hypnotherapists, where they might earn $75 per client session. Some might want to host a hypnotism stage show. Others may want to improve sales skills in the business world — hypnotherapy techniques, after all, are rooted in the same persuasive language as business.

Mastering the techniques is a lot of work, and students let that be known. Sharp can't help but agree.

"It is so much work," she says, "to be the driver of your own brain."

E-MAIL: jtcook@desnews.com