When I was in my mid-twenties, I was constantly getting injured doing basic things like standing up in a bus or walking and stepping up onto a curb. I started struggling at work (I was a software developer) from repetitive strain injuries. I wasn’t exercising at this point. Stress and other factors caused my health to worsen, which made my body feel like it was falling apart from the inside out. I was very fatigued, in chronic pain, my muscles were weak & tight. I was also suffering from anxiety, as well as undiagnosed stomach issues and autoimmune conditions. 

Pilates was recommended to me for strengthening my core and protecting my joints from hypermobility. I motivated myself to get stronger using Pilates with a promise. Even though I struggled to walk, get out of a chair, or roll over in bed, I decided that one day I’d be strong enough to try challenging, acrobatic moves I was in awe of. Many months later, when I was fitter & healthier, I kept my promise and signed up for aerial arts classes. My aerial coach had us do Essentrics (plies & arm pumps) as part of our physical conditioning. These simple exercises made us sweat from the effort which blew my mind. I fell in love with Essentrics that instant in a way that I never did with Pilates! 

I started teaching apprentice Essentrics in 2018 at a Pilates studio in East Toronto, where I was teaching Pilates & stability ball classes. When my health relapsed, I tried to continue teaching from my home studio in Scarborough but found it disrupted my family’s privacy. When head office allowed virtual classes during the pandemic, I became hopeful. By this point I’d given up on my Essentrics instructor dreams as I didn’t have the stamina to travel or teach a lot of in-person classes. In November 2020 I restarted my small group Essentrics classes virtually. My previous students eagerly joined me on Zoom and since then I’ve been happily teaching online!

I teach ‘Aging Backwards’ classes that are 30-45 minutes. This is less draining for me and easier for my clients to stick to during a busy workday. I mostly teach people who are 40+ with bad shoulders, necks, etc. who fear hurting themselves with exercise. They need a slower class so they can stretch, sweat and get stronger without feeling beat up afterwards. Over time, they lose their fear of re-injury and move more confidently in our classes. They start exercising outside of class (often with Essentrics TV) which is exciting for me! I appreciate being able to infuse my own personality into an Essentrics class. This helps my students achieve their goals without taking me or themselves too seriously.  I’m known for using funny alignment cues and imagery, often by accident. For example, during shoulder blasts, I might tell them to imagine they’re ripping open a bag of their favorite snack while hungry! This makes them laugh as they contract their muscles correctly.

Even though it had helped me get back fit enough to dance on a trapeze, I didn’t feel compelled to tell people about the magic of Pilates. Essentrics made me feel differently. It had relieved my chronic shoulder pain when nothing else worked. I couldn’t wait to tell everyone, and I shared with so much passion that people were intrigued to hear more! I’m grateful that I’ve been able to introduce Essentrics to my family. It feels satisfying to know I’ve played a part in helping my loved ones feel healthier.”

-Harjit Naghra

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