Essentrics and Classical Stretch Review

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PM Bottom Line: the Essentrics stretching program has greatly improved my life! My chronic issues are no longer chronic. I am not joking at all when I tell you I have said prayers of thanksgiving for finding this. Sample the program with some free mini workout clips here:  http://essentrics.com/media.html

 

I am feeling “los años,” as hubby and I say. I’m not that old, but some past injuries have recently re-asserted themselves as dull and lingering aches and pains. And last spring my foot was really bugging me. Soon, stepping out of bed in the morning was not just painful, but comical, as I would opt to hop to the bathroom. Yes, plantar fasciitis. It’s no fun. After much denial, I put my beloved Jazzercise membership on hold indefinitely, in hopes of babying my foot and allowing it time to heal. My summer had me staying back at the campsite during family hikes and sitting when I could during other events.

 

I decided I would stretch and I searched for a stretching program. (I am not really interested in yoga. I have done it in the past and I admit that I love “aerial” or “anti-gravity” yoga, but not the price.)  I wanted something I could manage at home. I turned to the google machine and eventually found Essentrics, also called Classical Stretch in the past. It is a program developed by Miranda Esmonde-White, who hails from Canada. Here is a definition from http://essentrics.com/about.html
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Essentrics Workout:
  1. A dynamic workout based on the theories of Miranda Esmonde-White that simultaneously lengthens and strengthens every muscle in the body, resulting in greater joint mobility and lean, long muscles.
  2. A full-body technique that works through the muscle chains, liberating and empowering the muscles, relieving them from tension in the process.
  3. A completely original workout that draws on the flowing movements of tai chi which create health and balance, the strengthening theories behind ballet which create long, lean, flexible muscles and the healing principles of physiotherapy which create a pain free body.
There are three basic types of muscles contractions and Essentrics is loosely based on the concept of eccentric muscle contractions.
Medical Definition: Eccentric training is defined as active contraction of a muscle occurring simultaneously with lengthening of the muscle.
  ++++++++++++++++++++++++

 

Before I proceed, let me touch on fitness and productivity. If you feel better, you’re more productive! But fitness can take so. much. time. It can. I love me some Jazzercise. But an hour long class really takes 2 hours from my day, when you consider donning the appropriate gear, driving there and back and then the actual class. That does NOT factor in the need to shower after, should you need to be presentable to anyone who isn’t bound to you by vows or blood. So, when you total the time and money involved with movement with the time and money involved with preparing quality food, being productive when it comes to fitness and health ain’t cheap. But it’s necessary. OK, back to Essentrics.

 

Esmonde-White has written a few books on her approach to movement. I’ve read both but am sure I’d do a poor job of summarizing her life’s work in this short post. What stood out to me at first were some of the testimonials, how the workouts are gentle, how she is a proponent of relaxing while moving if you are starting from a place of pain of stiffness, and how she is NOT a proponent of static stretches and holding poses. I also loved that she has a $15 per month streaming subscription, so I could try it for a month and then stop when and if I wanted to. But I have NOT wanted to. I have continued this program and as I publish this, am in my sixth month. After about three weeks I knew Essentrics was making a difference in my body.

 

The short story is that this program has helped me recover from plantar fasciitis and return to Jazzercise and just walking. AND has greatly reduced the SI/hip pain I’ve struggled with. I go to bed and wake up with my body feeling GREAT. I mean GREAT. I FORGOT how comfortable I can be. I have been getting help from an awesome physical therapist who is also a massage therapist.  She is well worth what she charges, but I’m happy that I will be cutting my appointments with her in HALF. And I credit Essentrics with making that possible.
Here are some other points about Essentrics/Classical Stretch, in no particular order.
+ short at 23 minutes for most. That’s manageable! That fits in with any other program. There ARE longer workouts. I do them occasionally. But mostly I stick with the 23 minute workouts to keep me feeling good. And I wear embarrassing clothes and no shoes. And I may sometimes choose a workout I know doesn’t make me sweat too much. So then it’s actually just a half hour of time from my day!
+ each session works entire body. Even at 23 minutes, your entire body is worked. This is one of Esmonde-White’s premises: that you must work the entire body to keep everything in balance.
+ a given for many of you, but easy to access from anywhere. I usually take the ipad and stream the workouts.
+ easy to adapt. If I need to take it easy, I can find a workout I know will be easier on me. Or I can take almost any workout and do it with relaxed muscles and still get benefit. Or, if I want a challenging workout, I can find one that focuses on strengthening and push myself.
+ no specialized equipment. Floor workouts might be helped by a mat and “barre” workouts by a chair. There are all-standing workouts which need nothing more than your body.
+ combines tai chi, ballet, and yoga-like moves. There are elements of several different disciplines used. Elements. Inspiration. You might find familiarity in there.
+ some elements of T-tapp, which I’ve “taken with me” when travelling. I have used the very basic T-tapp workout on and off over the years to help my back feel better and to stay on track when travelling. The arm exercises, in particular, remind me of T-tapp, as do a few others.
+ small space. You ARE moving, but you don’t need a huge space. I sometimes workout in my bedroom and sometimes in the living room.
+ great scenery. She’s usually on a beach or near tropical plants. I appreciate that.
+ Esmonde-White is “that PBS stretch lady,” as my husband said when I showed him what I was going to be trying out. So you might be able to find her on your local pbs station for free!
+ more body awareness. OK, I’m going to try to describe what I mean. I have pretty good body awareness when it comes to movement, picking up dance routines, awareness of where I am in space, etc. This program has made me conscious of muscle chains, as she calls them, and new ways to move that affect muscles in different ways and places than I had realized before. Basically, stretches that I didn’t think would affect my problem areas at ALL are now my go-to moves.
+ cheater moves. If I don’t get in a workout in a few days, I can tell. I try not to go too long without doing a session. I try to at least do a few moves each day. I’ve learned several stretches that REALLY help me feel better and seem to put me in alignment.

 

The one con? I haven’t dropped 20 pounds from just stretching. But I didn’t expect to! I only mean to say don’t ask me about weight loss. But feel free to ask me how great I feel, about recovering from plantar fasciitis or about which essentrics workouts I particularly love!

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7 comments

  1. This is a great post and summary of the wonderful benefits from Essentrics/Classical Stretch. I love it too, and have the books, a few DVDs, and a group of friends who love it too. We used get together to watch the DVDs and have some fun while exercising.
    Now, I’ve decided to go for the Level 1 Certification and my group is now my ‘practice’ class until I’m ready to actually start teaching the Apprentice classes. I have a lot of stuff to memorize first.
    It’s so wonderful to hear from people who have experienced pain relief as a result of this program. Keep going!
    Cheers from Napanee, ON, Canada.

  2. Hi,
    Did you have to do the plantars and sciatica workouts to relieve those specific pains or just doing all of the workouts helped in those areas? If so, which helped most with SI? (I currently have Sacroilitis/Sciatica issues) thank a God, at present my plantars is not active, BUT I never want it again! Lastly, how do you get past all that doggone talking? Miranda is really too chatty for me!😀
    Many thanks!

    1. Hi Char! I did do the PF workouts a tiny bit more than the others at first, but overall – no. I came to realize that all of the workouts are full body workouts and were helping me. The PF workouts did show me which moves might be most helpful to me and I could focus on those when they occurred in the other workouts. My husband and I chuckle at Miranda sometimes! And then quote her later in the day. I will say that I did listen to her in the workouts targeting my trouble spots to see what I could learn.

      I did not do any SI specific workout. But over time I have learned which muscles I need to target to keep me feeling good and they at not the ones I ever would have guessed! And those moves are in each workout. Thanks for reading and good luck!

  3. I ordered a whole season of DVDs and also record the program from PBS for variety. They are great workouts and as you say, use the whole body. I can feel it if I miss a few days. I’m 66 and was in pretty good shape with just some stiffness now and then. I have to agree with a previous comment though, about the chat through the whole thing. If the chat was in regard to the specific exercise being done, fine. Much of the time it’s about the overall benefit of the program, which we already know. Also, it’s very hard to track what she’s doing sometimes as when you’re bent over , she’ll change positions and not let you know. Her people with her sometimes also have difficulty following her. This happens in EVERY segment. I’ve seen this comment over and over. You’d think she’d get the message.

    1. Yes, BUT the pros far outweigh the cons! So I just try to smile through it. I will share, as an update, that I am doing the stretching less but still consistently. I’m a little busier, yes, BUT I’m overall feeling better so it’s not as VITAL as before. I think that’s another testament to the effectiveness of the program. Thanks for sharing, Diane. I’m glad you’re getting benefits and feeling good!

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