BODY WATCH : INDULGENCES : Relieve Stress, Improve Attitude . . . and Never Give Up on Love


We were up before dawn drinking coffee, feeling the usual stress but uncharacteristically glum. We didn't have a Valentine.

We were the perfect candidate to try "Dixie's Carter's Yoga for You Unworkout II" ($19.98), since the exercise video promised "to reduce your stress and refresh your attitude" while toning the body. We sat on the living room floor, next to the two cats, and watched for 50 minutes. Turns out, we loved that tape. For one thing, there was a blessed absence of some overeager spring chicken bouncing all over the place and blasting us with a rah-rah routine.

"My video is designed to be a friendly reach from me, not a class, not a superior teacher who is better than somebody else. I hate exercise," said Carter, 55, formerly of "Designing Women."

The program starts with a 20-minute matutinal routine. "If you do it even three times a week it helps," Carter said.

Then there's another 20 minutes' worth for the evening. "I do it to go to sleep. Sometimes when you're very tired and you can't get to sleep, it helps you to go to sleep. You don't have to do both of those (routines) every day to stay in shape. Yoga is a forgiving form of fitness."

The tape concludes with 10 minutes of meditative time.

"The meditation was chancy because it's unashamedly sweet," Carter said. It worked for us; we were cheered.

There is something else about Carter's "unworkout" approach that's appealing: Not one word was mentioned about steel or hard muscles. "I don't have that thing about having to have rock-hard muscles. I don't want to do that to myself," she said. Her husband, actor Hal Holbrook, would just as soon she didn't either. Said Carter: "Hal likes to hug and squeeze me when I'm soft. I try to stay in shape--to have a shape--but the hard body? I don't aspire to it."

Carter advises from the get go to watch the tape all the way through before launching into the exercises and then do only what you can comfortably without maiming yourself.

We didn't listen and were promptly stuck on the floor with legs splayed out in a curious upside-down bug sprawl. We imagined that the cats were crying, "Our meal ticket. What's become of our meal ticket?" while we struggled to sit upright.

We mentioned that particular yoga position to Carter. "Your skin creeps down over your thighs. It wants to get down to the floor. It's really a challenge," she said with a laugh.

As for our lack of the Valentine this year, Carter said not to give up.

"I believe in love and finding your true love, and I believe it can happen even if it seems like it can't. Even after I'd given up . . . I wasn't going to try that anymore and get my heart broken, and then lo and behold out pops Hal," Carter said. (They celebrate their 11th anniversary in May.)

"Both of us were divorced twice and (thought) we weren't willing to go through it again. We're in love romantically, but when we get mad and pout for maybe an hour . . . we call each other up because we can't stand to be at odds. Don't ever think it's too late to find your true love because it isn't. And be a true and loving friend to yourself."

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