Essentrics: The Revolutionary Art of Aging Backwards
Revolutionary, low-intensity stretching and strengthening exercises can set you on a path to aging backward.
Turn back the hands of time! Aging isn’t all that fun when aches, pains, and brain fog set in. But take heart. Men and women of all ages are discovering a gentle form of exercise that is more effective and less damaging to muscles, joints, and connective tissue than conventional “compression” style workouts. It even helps strengthen and maintain the functioning of brain neurons.
Essentrics is a revolutionary fitness technique that views fitness as the ability to “move freely, live actively and without pain” rather than increase muscle mass, boost speed, or add miles. The goal is creating balance in the body so that one’s muscle strength doesn’t hinder movement, enhancing mobility. The body becomes toned through gentle strengthening and stretching exercises, enabling a full range of motion for muscles and joints. It is exciting news for an aging population and those who suffer from painful conditions that can be improved through these techniques.
Essentrics was created by Miranda Esmonde-White, a Canadian fitness trainer and an esteemed advocate and educator of healthy aging. She is a former professional ballerina with the National Ballet of Canada and had traveled the world dancing with ballet greats Margot Fonteyn, Rudolf Nureyev, Robert Joffrey, and others. A broken foot ended her ballet career when she was only in her early twenties. Esmonde-White followed her entrepreneurial spirit and built her own business making rag dolls, eventually launching her into an executive role at Hasbro, the toymaker conglomerate.
Be Kind to Your Body
Frequent business trips kept her from spending time with her young daughter, so she left the toymaker giant and started a fitness class at a local church that quickly became popular. She then opened a fitness studio in Montreal, where she developed her own techniques for flexibility training. Soon she hired and trained instructors in her unique exercise program. She spent years perfecting her techniques, researching scientific studies, and developing training manuals.
Esmonde-White developed her own brand of exercises, combining her own movements and elements of tai chi, physiotherapy, and ballet. Called Classical Stretch, the technique is a continuous movement that helps relieve pain, increase athletes’ speed, and lengthen full body muscles without weight-bearing exercises. Classical Stretch is easy for anyone to do in only 22 minutes a day. Classical Stretch became so successful; it was turned into a television series on PBS, reaching about 60 percent of the U.S. market. She also completed a textbook and hosted the Classical Stretch DVDs.
Classical Stretch mainly draws a female audience in the 40s to 50s age group. To attract younger audiences, Esmonde-White enlisted the help of her daughter Sahra and developed Essentrics. The technique is a dynamic stretch workout designed for all fitness levels. They came up with a teacher training system that included manuals, DVDs, and distance learning. Essentrics is for any age and gender and helps strengthen and stretch all of the body’s 620 muscles and engages all 360 joints.
Athletes found that the Essentrics technique enhances their performance. Esmonde-White and Sahra became known as biomechanics and stretching trainers and were sought after by professional and Olympic athletes and celebrities.
Essentrics exercises emphasize eccentric movement in which lengthening muscles strengthen the muscular system as opposed to contracting muscles in resistance training or shortening muscles when running. She says in a PBS interview, “This is the way we’ve been training our bodies for hundreds of years. Essentrics is the way we move normally in life.”
The human body is designed to both shorten and lengthen. “A healthy muscle has to be able to move. Concentric training shortens and shortens, compressing the muscles so that after a while, they don’t move as they were designed. They’ll still move a bit, but that’s why people feel tighter if they do a lot of sports because they are compressing, and the muscle length shortens.”
Anytime your body moves, like your baby finger, it needs strength to move it. All movement requires strength. Most people think in order to strengthen, they have to do weights. We are a weight. Our body is a weight, and as we are moving it, we are moving a weight through space. We are always strengthening our body. Any movements we make, we are strengthening.” She says we have been trained to think of strength in very narrow boundaries. Her exercises focus on movements that strengthen the muscles as they were designed to do.
Tailored for All Ages
Every age can benefit from Esmonde-White’s techniques. As we age, our cellular regeneration slows down, and we lose muscle mass, but by doing full-body exercise, a significant amount of muscle cells are maintained. A semi-sedentary individual aged 60 years loses an average of 24.8 percent muscle mass, and at 70 years, 29.67 percent. By learning the body’s aging needs, her tailored workouts can help regenerate cells by activating muscles.
Take, for example, the 60-70 age group; according to her website, Essentrics can help:
- Relieve aches and pains, rebound from past injuries, and help reverse chronic conditions such as back, shoulder, and neck pain, arthritis, bursitis, tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, sciatica, piriformis syndrome.
- Brighten and tighten your skin by improving circulation and flushing toxins.
- Ward off extra weight from a naturally slowing metabolism.
- Strengthen and tone your full muscular structure.
- Forge new neurological connections and strengthen existing connections within the brain, keeping you sharp and improving your memory.
- Lubricate tight fascia and connective tissue.
- Target both small and large joints: keeping your fingers, toes, ankles, and wrists, and all 360 joints mobile, lubricated, and pain-free.
- Increase bone density and help with osteoporosis.
- Improve your balance to live confidently and avoid falls or injury.
Not Slowing Down
Esmonde-White wrote her first book, Aging Backwards: Reverse the Aging Process and Look 10 Years Younger in 30 Minutes a Day. A New York Times bestseller, the book explains her countermeasures for the stiffening and shrinking effects of aging. Her second book, a Nautilus award-winner, Forever Painless, is a guide to ending chronic pain through movement.
Her latest book is Aging Backwards: Fast Track, which spawned a series of award-winning documentaries described on the Essentrics website as “revolutionizing the way we understand the role that our cells, muscles, bones, connective tissue, and joints play in slowing down the aging process.” Aging Backwards: Fast Track has become the quintessential guide on reversing the aging process using six science-based methods. The 30-day Fast Track plan includes strengthening through relaxation, maintaining a healthy brain, and functioning in a pain-free mode.
Esmonde-White continues to refine and explore new techniques and devotes much of her time to writing and training instructors. She also gives lectures, leads teacher training seminars, and hosts retreats. Her daughter Sahra was named a top health expert by Canada’s leading women’s publications, Fashion Magazine and Flare. She received Top Workout awards in Canada and the UK for her DVDs.
Esmonde-White seems to have found the fountain of youth from within. Through simple, proper movements, you can feel youthful and live a healthy, vibrant life no matter what age you are. She says the human body is self-healing, but you need to know how to trigger the correct healing process, and that is what Essentrics does. “The human body is designed to respond. You just have to know how to talk to it,” she says. For more information, visit essentrics.com.
Photos: Miranda Esmonde-White