Relaxation in Essentrics is a very powerful technique that can be used for more than just its healing benefits.
In a recent Live Teacher Training in Colorado, we used this technique to the point of exhaustion and many of the instructors were very surprised and excited with the results. They all struggled to relax their tight muscles and some were sweating and out of breath trying to do so. With each breath of relaxation, the muscles let go and allowed the joints to increase their mobility—far more than if they had forced themselves with a contracted muscle. Essentially, when a muscle contracts, it shortens and pulls the bones together (which also restricts movement.) It seemed like much more work for the brain to relax the muscle and it appeared that there was much more activity happening in the muscle fibres, which could lead to a whole new level of strengthening.
We used this technique with a variety of exercises including figure 8s, and seated stretches (with the legs extended in front) and they noticed almost immediate changes to the shapes of their bodies. Some of the instructors with tight shoulders noticed their posture open and their shoulders become more slender and far more mobile. After sitting on the floor with their arms above their heads for about 30 minutes and doing various relaxation and lengthening exercises—one instructor stood up and everyone noticed she looked much thinner. She had previously expressed having difficulty losing weight from her stomach (as many of us do!) as a result of two back-to-back caesareans. All of a sudden, she was able to engage her core muscles to pull her stomach in completely. We were all so shocked and couldn’t believe it when she walked in the next morning looking even better than the day before!
As a society, we’re programmed to think that if we work fast and hard, we will see the results quicker—and unfortunately, we don’t take time to relax and breathe. It does take time and a lot of thought to relax, but the more you remind yourself and your students, the faster you will see the changes happen.
TEACHING TIPS: ESSENTRICS AGING BACKWARDS
– #1 – Ask if they have any injuries, pain, past surgeries, etc., if they do other activities / sports, if they haven’t worked out in years (make sure not to make them feel bad about that if that’s the case!)—necessary to get an idea of their lifestyle and ability. That will help you cue certain people during certain exercises: you got their information, the next step is using it accordingly!
– I always tell them that every class will be different—to work according to how they are feeling “today.” Teaching body awareness is at the forefront of success.
– Ask them if the volume of your music is OK.
– Create a welcoming, safe environment. Tell people to speak up during class / come talk to you after class if they are not sure, etc. Check in with how they are feeling throughout. At the following class, check in with them again! You want to know how they were doing in the days following your class. That will help you gauge how they should be working and how you should / could be guiding them.
– Tell them not to worry about doing it perfectly and not to worry about what their neighbor looks like: “enjoy yourself, move, relax, BREATHE!” (many people hold their breath without even realizing it. I remind my clients throughout which also serves as a reminder for myself!) – Have them take a mat (or two) if that makes the standing portion more comfortable (at a certain age you start to lose those fatty pads under your feet) and stand close to a barre / chair / post if they might want help with their balance (depending on your class set up).
– “Go at your own pace” —I say that before each class, during the warm-up right until the end: “if a slower pace feels better for you, slow down, do less…” Remind them to take breaks, grab a sip of water, shake out…
– When heading to the floor, remind them to take their time! Getting mats and settling down on the floor takes a little longer than other groups. Again, they may use more than one mat if that makes it more comfortable. Make sure to have blocks or extra rolled pillows for under their heads or small of their back. They may not know how to use them correctly so demonstrate—look around and take initiative in terms of who you think would benefit from that extra help.
Next edition: the various clienteles you may have and how to respect their individual needs
We are so excited to see the amazing support and initiative offered by instructors worldwide on our Instructor Facebook page. We love to see contributions from other instructors at various levels of training doing their best to provide answers to any questions or concerns from others. From exam tips and music suggestions to legal issues and modifications, we are so lucky to have everyone’s input and personal feedback on these topics!
A truly great example of Essentrics instructors collaborating to help students!
We’ve had some amazing testimonials from all types of students from Aging Backwards to athletes who love the Essentrics footwork exercises. Feet are our foundation and should never be neglected. Try these great songs to get those feet moving!
– Squash Lunges: C’mon Honey by Girls Guns and Glory, OR Good With The Bad by Samsaya (Severina Gates, Boston)
– Foot Work: Kanske Är Jag Kär I Dig by Jens Lekman (upbeat), OR Hover I by Andrew Bird (slower), depending on the clientele and class.
– Give Me One Reason to Stay Here by Tracy Chapman (Gail Garceau, Montreal)
– Harvest Moon by Neil Young (Miranda Esmonde-White, Montreal)
Severina Gates became attracted to Essentrics after recovering from surgery in 2009. She appreciated the gentle nature of the program and enjoyed the familiar lengthened and energized feeling she felt from when she was a ballet dancer. She incorporated Essentrics into her training when she undertook a coast-to-coast walk across England, and credits the program for strengthening her ankles and legs for the 300km journey across varied terrain.
As many instructors have done when they realised there were no live classes in their area—Severina decided she would introduce Essentrics to Massachusetts in 2011. She now teaches in Cambridge and Arlington (just north of Boston) and looks forward to begin offering classes in Harvard Square this summer through the Cambridge Center for Adult Education. She has a variety of clientele and has recently incorporated Aging Backwards classes after being flooded with emails since the airing of the Aging Backwards special on PBS in December. Her new class addition is excellent for beginners and sedentary people who are intimidated to try a regular class and has derived many new committed clients who strive to stay mobile as they age.
Severina looks forward to completing her 4 Levels of certification and hopes to eventually work with universities, athletes, performers and even musicians who have unbalanced bodies from playing instruments everyday. Essentrics is for everybody!