January 25, 2019
Stretch. Reach. As I have said over and over in the past, our bodies are meant to move. Movement can be healing. Movement can be age reversing. We are meant to move within our full range of motion. If we don’t use it, we loose it, and the “aging” process begins. But it can be reversed, one cell at a time, by slowly and consistently moving the body to its full range of motion.
The best part of being an Essentrics instructor has to be the feeback that I get from participants. To hear how a participant feels after just one class. Increased energy, increased mobility, pain slowly going away or completely disappearing… in as short as 4 weeks of taking one class per week. It is a family affair for us. My husband (Martial Artist and works at a desk all day), our teenage daughter (biathlon), our son (college students, not very active), and my Mom (76 years old, walks everyday) all take classes with me at least once a week. It has improved their lives, their sport performance and their postures.
What is stretching?
When we think of stretching we think of increasing the distance between two joints by pulling them apart using their adjoining muscles. In the Essentrics program, we do just that. We pull apart the joints involved exerting an “eccentric” force on the muscles surrounding the joint. The direction/s of the pull depends on the way in which the muscles are arranged around the joint. We want to rebalance the joint, working through the range of motion and stretch the joint, involving all the surrounding muscles..
Common mistake in stretching.
In the Essentrics program, the objective of stretching is to increase the distance between two joints by simultaneously stretching and strengthening the muscles. A common mistake people make in stretching is to “go with the stretch”. By doing so, the length of the muscle stays the same.
For example, in a side lunge with you arm reaching to the ceiling (similar to the featured image of this post) while raised next to your ear, your hip of the leg that is straight, same side as the raised arm, should be kept level with the floor. A common mistake is to raise the hip while bending sideways which releases the stabilized joint, preventing the intended stretch and eliminating the two-directional side stretch we are going for. Meaning there is no change in the length of the muscle fibers that we are actually trying to stretch.
In Essentrics, we use a few techniques to lengthen and strengthen our muscles.
Movement Within a Stretch
Movement Within a Stretch includes a combination of several techniques like “Movement of the Joint” or “Movement within the Joint”. In short, Movement Within a Stretch is moving while stretching. It could include the full circular movement of a joint, or something subtler like a gentle shifting within the stretch. This is the best way to work through a full muscle chain. To avoid imbalances, each muscle must be stretched equally, as with the full muscle chain on either side of that joint. It’s a very efficient technique and it’s the best way to work through a full muscle chain. It’s important to remember that the human body is designed to be in constant motion. When we stop using our full range of movement, we end up with body imbalances, loss in range of motion, stiffness, and start to suffer pain.
“Overextension” is a technique specifically designed for Essentrics. It’s only used when the muscles are warm. In an Overextension we extend a limb and try to pull the joint slightly further than its initial range of motion. It always involves isolating the joint, then adding a slight degree of force from the muscle contraction to overextend the muscle that crosses the joint, with control. It’s important to remember that this degree of force is done with your own muscles and NEVER with external or physical assistance. This is why Overextension in the Essentrics program do not risk injury or instability to your joints. What we are doing is nudging the joint beyond its comfortable stretching point to clean out scar tissue and to encourage an “atrophied” or locked joint back to its original mobility. This is primarily done in the shoulders, hips and thoracic spine.
Overextension for posture
Since almost all our movements in daily life and in sports are forward moving, we end up with tight, weak, unbalanced upper body muscles. This leads to rounded shoulders, poor posture, and chronic neck and shoulder pain. (atrophy, reduced range of motion). The Overextension exercises for the shoulders and upper body will improve flexibility in the shoulders and reverse muscle atrophy resulting in improved posture.
There is only one way to improve and support posture and that is with strong, flexile muscles. This makes Pulling Up one of my favorite Essentrics technique. Every muscle of the spine, from the smallest to the largest, must be engaged in order to Pull Up. Since bones are heavy, and it is the bones that we are lifting as we Pull Up, it takes a lot of strength to do so. When we Pull Up, we are also lengthening and stretching any tight muscles. THIS is why Pulling Up is both strengthening and exhausting. The good news is that with time, the body gains eccentric strength and mobility of the spine. It becomes easier to hold good posture throughout the day than it is to slouch. Pulling Up while raising the arms above the head is the most efficient way to improve posture. Yay for improved posture.
Have you tried it?
These are only a few of the techniques that you will see in an Essentrics class. The only way to truly understand what Essentrics does for the body is to try a class first hand. Try a class near you or go visit Essentrics TV at Essentrics.com. I promise that this is nothing you have ever tried before. And I dare say you will fall in love with it. These techniques rebalances the body leaving you feeling younger, lighter, stronger and energized!
Do you teach Essentrics? Do you participate in Essentrics classes? Share your thoughts and experiences below. I would love to hear from you.
Yours in wellness, Nancy Shimmy www.essentricswithnancy.com This post was inspired by Miranda Esmonde-White’s Essentrics Academy Instructor’s Training. Miranda is the co-founder of Essentrics of which I am a certified Level 3 Instructor at the time of this post. I look up to this amazing woman and all the things that she has gone through in her life. I am thankful that she was able to heal her body and to create the Esmonde technique as a result.