Updated: Feb 23
Growing up in Hong Kong in the seventies, my parents valued academics over any kind of sports or artistic pursuits, as is common in most Asian families.
I wasn’t a bad swimmer but I remember coming in dead last by a long way during cross country in PE, so it was a surprise to me years later when I learned to love running,
competing in a few half-marathons and even a triathlon.
While I loved yoga and zumba, I was never inspired to become a fitness instructor until I encountered Essentrics.
Essentrics by Miranda
Essentrics is an exercise form invented by Miranda Esmonde-White that combines elements of tai chi, ballet, and pilates. Her easy simple techniques encourage blood circulation and lubrication of joints and tissues while also employing many of the body’s natural reflexes to promote mobility and strength.
I was struck by Miranda's commitment to the science, partnering with Dr Helene Langevin of the National Center Complementary and Integrative Health. Turns out stretching and toning muscles eccentrically strengthens while also signaling connective tissues to remodel and repair.
Essentrics programs target painful problems like plantar fasciitis, sciatica, frozen shoulder, and so on, at a fraction of the price and pain of physical therapy.
Essentrics has been the top rated fitness program on American public television (aka PBS or the Sesame Street station) for 13 seasons. Miranda also has a number of books and documentary films called Aging Backwards and Forever Painless.
Look so good
Can I be shallow for just a moment here? I’ve always been envious of dancers - they have a grace and elegance of movement that the rest of us never can seem to acquire even after hundreds of hours of cardio, pilates and yoga,
Not that I have a dancer’s body now - far from it lol, but I have seen neck, waist and leg definition that comes partly from focusing on posture, and partly from the eccentric toning that strengthens muscles while also elongating their shape.
I also learned from Miranda (now age 72) that aging happens not just with wrinkled skin and grey hair, but also with stooped posture and stiff movements. Essentrics helps me regain elasticity in my hips, feet and ankles, which allows for a more youthful bounce in the step that I plan to retain for the rest of my life.
20 minutes in bare feet
Before the pandemic, I was teaching Essentrics at the US Consulate here in Hong Kong. The gentle fluid movements are suitable for ages 20s to 80s. Miranda and her team have trained Canadian athletes for the Olympics, and I have taught Essentrics movements to my mother in law who is in a wheelchair and turned ninety this year.
Essentrics classes are most available in North America and Europe, but there are also a number of free videos on YouTube, and you can access their vast online archives for a very affordable subscription rate.
When it comes to a minimum baseline protocol for exercise, it doesn’t get much simpler than 2o minutes in your bare feet at home in front of the computer.
Dr Em is an L3 Essentrics instructor but she receives neither commercial benefit nor financial gain from discussing Miranda Esmonde-White and the Essentrics program. She is just a diehard raving fan.