ST. LOUIS (AP) _ Mantras and the lotus position are fine, but if you really want to relax and forget your troubles, try juggling.

That advice was heard more than once here as 1,000 of the nation's best jugglers gathered Thursday for a weeklong convention at which they'll discuss the fine points of keeping balls, bowling pins and flaming torches in the air.

''I highly recommend it,'' said Brian Rohlfing of St. Louis. ''If I'm stressed-out or worried or whatever, I grab a couple of rings and it focuses my energy and my breathing gets better.''

Michael Bruneau, a professional from Houston, said juggling definitely can be spiritual.

''At one point I was considering writing a book about Zen and the art of juggling, it's that sort of experience,'' he said.

At least one juggler disagrees.

''It's not relaxing for me,'' said 18-year-old Anthony Gatto of Las Vegas, who juggles 10 balls or eight clubs at a time in his casino show there. ''When you get that many things going, it's not meditation. It's frustration.''

Gatto took a break from the show to attend the International Jugglers Association's convention at Washington University.

The group began 47 years ago as a spinoff of the International Brotherhood of Magicians. It has 3,000 members in 21 countries. Association officials say about 1 million Americans do some juggling.

The convention's workshop topics include safety with torches, math and juggling, and five balls the easy way.

A representative from the Guinness Book of World Records is on hand to witness record attempts at esoteric events such as the 100-meter joggle (running while juggling).

Distance jogglers can compete in the mile, 5-kilometer and mile relay Saturday. Obstacle course joggling is also scheduled.

The association's members include a team of jogglers who have run a mile relay in under four minutes and a joggler who ran a mile in 4:43 while keeping three balls going. Gatto can run the 100-meter dash in 13 seconds while juggling.

Those in the know call juggling ''object manipulation'' and there's almost no limit to the number of objects enterprising jugglers can manipulate, including cigar boxes, hats, plates - even rubber chickens.

Especially rubber chickens. These days it's more profitable to be a juggler with a shtick.

''Juggling to me is a vehicle to achieve belly laughter,'' said Dale Jones of suburban St. Louis, who claims to be the world's only professional one- handed juggler. ''I do impressions and tricks, too.''

Jones, 35, lost the use of his left arm in a childhood fall from a jungle gym. Using his right arm, head, legs and other body parts, he can juggle five balls at a time.

He hopes to hit the big time with an act in which he juggles and eats a head of lettuce. Not the kind of juggling Sunday night TV viewers are used to seeing.

''Ed Sullivan is gone. ... There are no more six-minute shows set to music,'' Jones said. ''It's a good time.''