By James Wallace Harris, Thursday, August 11, 2016
Update: 1/3/19. I did the Miranda Esmonde-White exercises all year during 2018 and it's made a significant difference in reducing the pain in my back. Systematic stretching does wonders.
Last year I discovered Miranda Esmonde-White on a special for PBS, based on her book, Aging Backwards: Reverse the Aging Process and Look 10 Years Younger in 30 Minutes a Day. You can watch Esmonde-White lecture about aging backward here. Esmonde-White focuses on how a loss of muscle mass affects us as we age, claiming if we start stretching we can reverse the aging process. (If we don’t wait too late.) As we age, we shrink and begin to hunch over. If we start stretching before that process has gone too far, we can reverse it. Just watch her lecture. Esmonde-White was born in 1949 and is two years older than I am. She’s tall, agile, bendy, balanced and graceful. She looks and moves like a much younger person.
I was quite impressed with her PBS special and ordered three copies of Classical Stretch – The Esmonde Technique: Core Workout for Christmas presents. Two were for friends who never exercise, and one for Annie, who’s addicted to it. She loved the video and regularly uses it. My two friends who never exercises, and who will remain anonymous, never used their DVDs. But testimonials from Annie are making them reconsider. And now that I’ve started with the exercises, they are worried its catching.
I recently went off my diet. I lose discipline now and then, and binge on unhealthy food. I quickly gained five pounds, started skipping some of my daily physical therapy exercises, and my back went out. I immediately returned to my diet and exercise routine, and slowly started turning things around. But while this was happening, I decided to try the Classical Stretch program. I figured I could use some extra help. The Core Workout I bought my friends was 55 minutes and wanted something shorter to do before PT. I researched on Amazon and found Classical Stretch – The Esmonde Technique: Complete Season 10 – Strength and Flexibility. Thirty 23-minute lessons. I thought $70 was kind of expensive for a 4-DVD set since for $65 I can buy the entire three seasons of Star Trek original series on Blu-ray. But what sold me were the customer reviews that claimed it help their backs. $70 is not much compared to doctor visits.
I’ve never liked going to the gym, and especially disliked exercise classes like yoga, even though I like the concept of yoga. What I like about Classical Stretch is Miranda Esmonde-White has designed a workout that’s appealing to the aging me that requires no extra equipment, special clothes, and can be done practically anywhere and anytime. She claims we have 650 muscles and we need to systematically stretch them. I’m just starting out with this workout but I can already feel the difference. My back recovered in days, much faster than usual. And the rest of me feels different too. Moving around is easier. I notice my body much less. That might not mean much to someone who is young, but getting older is all about noticing the body.
Don’t let me mislead you. These exercises are easy to try, but hard to follow exactly like Esmonde-White. I think it’s going to be a while before I’m doing them right. I feel like a gorilla taking ballet lessons. The daily lessons are varied, and I assume after weeks or months, I’ll memorize them and won’t need the videos. Click on the image of the back of the video box below. It lists all the thirty lessons.
I’ve always wondered why classes for aerobics, yoga, or Pilates were mostly filled by women. Now I know. This kind of exercising is like learning to dance. Most women I know love dancing. Guys generally don’t. I’ve always felt completely inept and foolish trying to dance. I’m doing these exercises alone, and I don’t even worry about what I look like, or that I’m not doing them perfectly – I just keep doing them. The 23 minutes goes by pretty fast. It’s not an aerobic workout, but I get a bit winded. Esmonde-White is right, these stretches make you feel younger – or at least looser. Whenever my back goes out, it feels like I age ten years. So when my back feels better, I feel younger.
I’m hoping if I make these exercises a permanent routine, I’ll actually rejuvenate. I limit my activities now because of my back problems. I’m faithful again to my plant-based diet and losing weight. I hope between weight loss and these exercises I’ll feel young enough to want to travel, or just be more active.
[click on covers to enlarge]