Contributing writer Beth Oldfield, Essentrics Level 4 Instructor
An excellent fitness program has staying power. Essentrics and Classical Stretch have continued to grow in popularity over the last 20+ years because participants have experienced successful and tangible results. Since creating her unique workout in the late 1990’s, Miranda Esmonde-White has remained true to her original purpose: helping people rebalance their bodies with exercises that are pain-free and effective. While many fitness fads have faded into memory, Miranda’s program continues to change lives for the better and has managed to stand the test of time within an ever-evolving fitness industry.
Back in 2004, Canadian Living Magazine asked Miranda to create a workout for their readers. Written by Ylva Van Buuren, this vintage article titled “Stretch Your Way to Great Health” contains 4 key factors highlighting the credibility of Miranda’s program and why fans of Essentrics remain deeply devoted and passionate about this workout.
CONNECTIVE TISSUE & FASCIA
In the article, Miranda mentions connective tissue and fascia – topics which weren’t being widely discussed in the fitness industry back in 2004. Classical Stretch was ahead of its time because Miranda knew what many didn’t – real gains in flexibility could only be achieved once the fascia and connective tissue (the ligaments, tendons, and tissue that surround every bone, muscle, and cell in the body) were properly hydrated and unglued. Today, we know that we can positively impact all the systems of the body (including muscular, cardiovascular, lymphatic, nervous and skeletal) by moving in specific ways to manipulate the fascia and connective tissue. These unique trademark exercises are found in every routine, and students of Essentrics quickly feel the benefits, relieving any tightness and making activities of daily life more enjoyable.
NO PAIN – EVER
Miranda describes her program as “stretching in motion” and she suggests that participants let the “motion guide their body.” This concept of tuning in to how our body feels during class used to be limited to the old attitude of “no pain, no gain.” Miranda was paving the way for a new form of fitness that sought to inform and educate people: that while discomfort can be a sign of growth, pain should always be avoided, and that moving in a kinder and more effective way will improve our health. Experts in the industry know this to be true today, which lends credibility to Miranda and her vision that began over twenty years ago!
A SAFE AND BALANCED WORKOUT
The workout that Miranda designed in 2004 is based on the same principles and follows the same format that current Essentrics instructors use today. This longevity highlights the integrity of Miranda’s program and proves the sustainability of this workout. No matter where you take an Essentrics class, you can be assured that the quality of the product will be the same.
Safety is of utmost importance and in this routine from the past, Miranda explains how people must position themselves (their feet, knees and back) to avoid injury. Very often, group fitness instructors from other disciplines rush this aspect of training, with the assumption that participants know how to position themselves already. In an Essentrics workout, every sequence begins with clear instructions on proper alignment to keep the joints safe, and imagery is used throughout to explain the level of intensity that should be used during the movements. For example, when describing one of her popular exercises called “The Bell Ringer,” she says, “Reach up and hold onto an imaginary rope with both hands and pull it as if ringing a bell. Imagine that you’re being suspended from the bell rope, and you’re being pulled up as you pull down with your arms.” Cues like these eliminate guess work and give each student the information they need to do the exercise correctly while ensuring safe alignment.
EVERY MOVEMENT HAS A PURPOSE
The goal of each Essentrics and Classical Stretch routine is clearly conveyed at the beginning of each workout and the goal of each individual sequence within the routine is highlighted. In the 2004 routine, Miranda explains that “The Bell Ringer” sequence is designed to work the abdominals and stretch the lower back, the “Push, Pull, Lift and Open” sequence strengthens the torso and improves posture, and the “Hamstring Stretch” sequence is designed to relieve back pain. In other fitness programs, participants are often left wondering why they are doing certain exercises. Miranda teaches instructors of Essentrics to explain the purpose and benefits of each movement; these cues inspire students to do their best and help them achieve success.
WHAT OTHERS HAVE TO SAY
Student testimonials give credit to the effectiveness of Essentrics and Classical Stretch. Many of these testimonials are included on the Essentrics website and in the instructor training manuals.
Consider Nadia J.’s story from January 2008 and how the program helped her lose 10 pounds, relieving her back pain:
“Dear Miranda, I discovered your program on PBS about 15 months ago when I couldn’t sleep because of fibromyalgia. I decided to get up and do some of the stretches and IMMEDIATELY felt better. I was shocked and thrilled. I ordered three DVDs. I started doing the first program and was shocked again by how fast my body improved and how great I felt in every way. I became concerned when after about 6 weeks of doing the program, I suddenly, in a matter of 3 days dropped 10 pounds while eating normally. I went to the doctor to make sure all was well. It was and she told me it was more than likely the exercising had changed my metabolism! The weight has stayed off and I am working on getting down to my ideal weight. Even if I have a bad day, I can still do the back pain relief exercises and sometimes more. It is so wonderful to have a way to control the pain without having to go to a doctor all the time! I know this is no surprise to you but I have been amazed at the relief I get and the strength and flexibility that I have gained too!”
Sheila D.’s letter to Miranda from January 2011 speaks volumes in helping her feel better and avoid surgery:
“I am inspired to write to you this morning, after doing my daily routine. I am in the middle of my success story. I am 64 years old and have been doing Classical Stretch on and off for about 5 years. I average about 5 days a week…. I am stronger, my breathing is better, and I have more endurance, energy and strength when lifting my grandchildren. Because I feel better, my outlook is more positive. I have no pain in the shoulder I injured, and I am thankful that I did not have the surgery that the doctors recommended.”
The fact that Miranda’s workouts are still around – and more popular than they were in 2004 – is a testament to their effectiveness.
Season 14 of Classical Stretch launches March 1st on PBS, and is currently available on DVD and Streaming.