By Julie Carmen
How would a middle-aged Pitta Aries from New York with four careers, a family, a mortgage, and college tuitions cross-train? I work as a psychotherapist, yoga therapist, college teacher, and actress. Sitting for more than twelve hours per week during talk therapy is not great for my back. Teaching too many yoga classes per week leaves me feeling depleted. Preparing too many psychology lectures demands excessive computer time. Acting, which I’ve done since I was a teen, can make me feel like I have multiple personalities. For years, I fought the narrative of being someone who couldn’t decide which career to drop until I embraced physical routines that supported all four: I swim, hula-hoop, salsa dance, and do lots of Down Dog, Chair Pose, Warrior, and balance poses.
Physically, swimming manages problems that stem from an old car accident when my head broke the windshield. There is no better exercise that makes the nerve tingling stay away, and the backstroke aligns my spine. After swimming, I can teach yoga without injuring myself, because the core muscles have been awakened. It’s a common problem, that yoga teachers inflame old injuries, especially if they demonstrate a lot. I’ve learned not to teach a style that my own body rebels against.
The stream-of-consciousness thoughts during swimming meditation help process and resolve current issues. Material from clients percolates. Walking in water is an excellent tool for memorization: read a phrase, repeat it in your mind while swimming or striding, and let the natural breath groups support the thoughts. No matter how churned up my nervous system is, it unravels when I swim. Swimming chills Pitta fire. When senses are barraged by too much noise, being underwater reduces the onslaught.
One major benefit to cross-training is less chance of injury, because you’re not doing the same repetitive motion all the time. Because of muscle confusion, your progress doesn’t plateau because your body gets used to the same exercise; therefore, there’s better weight loss and strength-building.
Five questions to help you find your inner cross-trainer:
1. What repetitive movements do you use while working that you need to counterpose when you exercise?
2. What is your posture and breath like while working that you can improve through exercise?
3. What is your sensory experience while working that needs balance through exercise?
4. What physical activity do you love and crave that feels like a treat after work?
5. Can you structure your week to include more of that?
Most people already naturally cross-train. Listen to your innate drive to spend time doing what you love, and follow the intuitive force that keeps you balanced.
Julie Carmen, LMFT, ERYT-500, is associate director of mental health at Yoga Therapy Rx at Loyola Marymount University. For twelve years, she taught yoga at Exhale in Venice, Calif., and to Suzanne Somers privately. Her new Teaching Yoga One on One DVD is available through YogaTalks.com.
PHOTO: ADAM LATHAM