The other day someone asked me how long I’ve been practicing Essentrics for. When I finally answered, I was taken aback by the fact that I took my first Essentrics class 8 years ago. Wow! As I’ve said before, I’m so happy to have this practice in my life. It’s become a part of me that I know I won’t be able to let go of. It helps me get through my day with ease, gives me courage to use my body in new and old ways (hello cartwheels!), and has made me steadily more in tune with my body.
I’ve wanted to write this post for some time to give you, the reader, a perspective on how my body and my life have changed with the help of this program. It can be daunting trying something new for the first time, or even deciding to commit to something, though I think that decision comes from an unspoken agreement between you and your body that you’ve found something that your body craves, needs, and can’t live without. For me, that thing is Essentrics, and I want to share my story with you.
WHY I STARTED PRACTICING
There are a lot of factors that come into play when we talk about movement - age, activity level, injury and limitation, and more. I want you to know, off the bat, that though I may have started practicing Essentrics partly for fun, I also knew my body was far too restricted, flexibility and stability-wise. I needed a gentle form of exercise that was going to improve my posture (I was hunched over at my desk too much and my back was always tight), give me energy (I was falling asleep at my desk after lunch), and improve upon my level of athleticism (I hadn’t yet started regularly practicing yoga or cycling, all I was doing was walking and I was unfit).
Though I took my first class in 2011, I didn’t start regularly practicing until 2014. That first class had me intrigued, though I couldn’t continue due to schedule limitations. A few years later, I was fortunate enough to have a weekly class taught in the fitness centre at my office building. I really enjoyed that first class back in 2011, so when I saw that it was being offered at work I couldn’t not sign up. I became a regular student, practicing once a week at the gym and taking semi-regular classes from the same instructor at other studios. I immediately started seeing improvements and felt amazing after each class. I started to understand that this was something my body couldn’t live without.
IMPROVEMENTS TO MY BODY
When I was a regular student, my regular teacher (now an industry mentor and friend) was always my cheerleader. Along the way, she’d comment on my flexibility, changes to my body shape, and my improving practice. Changes didn’t happen over night, though. I’d been practicing with her for a couple months before we both started really noticing a shift. What was happening was my body was responding quickly and significantly to the program, even though I was only practicing 1-2 hours per week. Yowza! My muscles were lengthening, my posture was improving, I was certainly getting stronger, and as a bonus my weight was dropping to a more healthy level.
I can’t attribute all the changes to Essentrics, as I was also practicing yoga 2-4 times per week and in the thick of overhauling my diet to a much healthier regiment. However, I do know that it played a big part in just a few short months. But dammit if it wasn’t hard work. The program itself isn’t overly strenuous. It’s low impact with high yield, but it takes a lot of rewiring and reworking of the brain and body to get used to a new way of moving. Many students see immediate results that, with regularity, turn into life-altering changes. Sometimes it’s ridding a body of nagging arthritic pain, other times it’s as seemingly simple as giving a person more energy and confidence in their body. I was the latter.
I’d become complacent in my relationship and in my desk job, not actively moving my body to stay healthy. I couldn’t move the same way I used to and I was only 30. I was tired of going to the osteopath and having them tell me I have the body of an 80 year old. Clearly, I had some work to do! I wasn’t in it to lose weight, but knew that was a side effect of exercise. I just knew I felt like a shell of my former self and for once and that there had to be a way back to feeling great. I was ready to really take care of myself physically, which, in turn, helped me emotionally and mentally, as well.
Remember that industry mentor of mine? One day, she talked me into becoming an instructor. It didn’t take much to convince me and I wasn’t nervous to teach. I’d seen the positive effects it had had on my life, so I took the next natural step in helping to broaden the community and my own practice in Toronto.
I hear a lot of stories, especially from people who’ve chosen to become instructors, about how this program has changed, and in some cases, saved their lives. The program hooks you. Once you start to see shifts in your body, sometimes unimaginable ones, you want to know how it works and you want to spread the good word. Hence, my purchasing the Level 1 instructor’s manual back in the summer of 2015.
My intention was to learn and train while also in school for holistic nutrition, though that didn’t pan out well. School took precedence and was very intense, so I continued to practice Essentrics on my own time without forcing myself to blow through the instructor material. Although, it did help my physical practice to start understanding the mechanics behind the program, while at the same time learning about the body more intensely at school. Everything went hand-in-hand, which for me was very important. I’d chosen to redirect my life, to adopt an overall healthier lifestyle, which included both what I was eating and how I was moving.
At the time, learning on my own time was enough for me. A couple years later, though, in the fall of 2017, I dove back into it. I’d been practicing Essentrics via the online video subscription, but that wasn’t enough for me. I was stepping into entrepreneurship and wanted to take Essentrics along with me on the journey. I dove back into my apprentice teaching hours, went nose deep into the material, and recruited all my friends to take classes from me. It came back like riding a bike. Since then, I’ve received both my Level 1 and Level 2 certifications, attended two more live teacher training workshops (my first being back in the fall of 2015), and taught in the two largest cities in Canada, now making Toronto my home in which to help grow this practice and community.
Teaching has been eye-opening and extremely humbling. Every time I think I have things nailed down, I find another aspect to focus on. From learning the material of the pre-choreographed workouts and teaching groups or individuals, to selecting music and reading my audience, all the way to marketing classes and helping students achieve their goals, teaching is hard! Ultimately, it is equally as rewarding, which is why I do it.
In time, I’ll work toward my Level 3 and 4 certifications, but I’m really enjoying where I’m at right now, looping back through the material when needed and letting my students teach me as much as I’m teaching them.
WHAT I FOUND MOST CHALLENGING
Both as a student and as an instructor, the most challenging thing is has been adapting to moving in a completely new way. As a student, it took a long time to translate the instructor’s cues and generate the proper movements with my body. It’s equally as challenging on the flip side of that as instructor, having to find the right words that help students initiate those movements on their own.
While training and learning this program, it takes a lot of mental work to grasp the way your body should be moving and where you should be feeling your movements throughout your body. Because Essentrics is a full body workout, you’re always either moving your entire body at once or using it in its entirety in some form or another. The work never stops and it takes time to comprehend what the program’s trying to achieve and how to do it.
There’s a lot of cueing, too. The instructor never stops talking during a workout, dictating movements (which change rapidly), notions of where you’ll feel a stretch in your body (which take time to identify), and reminding you to breathe and watch your alignment (always). It can be a lot to take in as a student and a lot to remember as an instructor, but I tell ya…it’s worth the challenge!
MY BIGGEST TAKEAWAYS
Before trying Essentrics, I didn’t know what I was missing. Now, if I skip it I feel awful. My body knows. It’s constant work to try to stay limber, strong, and energized, but hey, that’s life and anything worth having doesn’t come easy. I will say that it does get easier the more I learn and practice. Again, like anything in life. To this end, my biggest takeaway is being able to recognize that my body responds to what I’m doing when I do or don’t practice in a deeper way.
I said above that I’m now more body aware than before. That means many things, but to me, it specifically pinpoints how I want to move on any given day in order to make myself feel better. It allows me to recognize when something is unsafe to do physically, and understand how to correct what I’m doing to make it safe or not do it at all. I can feel the details of my muscles in all areas of my body - along my spine, down my hamstrings, through my fingers and hands, and into my neck and head - identifying more specifically which ones are tense and how to move to make them feel better. I listen to my body and appreciate all that it does for me, including helping it stay strong and agile.
I know Essentrics isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay. In the same vein, everyone who does try it gets into it for different reasons. My biggest piece of advice to you is to identify why you’re exercising and to select a form of movement best suited to your needs. You may need to try a few things before that happens, but you’ll have a lot of fun along the way! Health goals can be achieved in a variety of ways, but the most important thing is that you enjoy what you’re doing. The benefits will follow.
As I say in the title, this is a journey. A never-ending one, at that. One that I’m really proud of and eager to continue. Along the way, my life and career have taken many paths, but one thing remains…I can’t let go of Essentrics!