Video Fitness

Classical Stretch

Miranda Esmonde-White

Recently, I finally tried the Classical Stretch tape. Here are my quick reactions:

This tape is about 50 minutes long. It's not just a stretch tape; it includes strength work that covers many parts of the body (though there's no weights, and very little for the upper body).

It contains three sections: Standing work, floor work, and barre -- well, actually chair -- work. Some of the exercises in the two standing sections remind me of the "ballet" moves in Yoga Booty Ballet. The floor work reminds me a little of that in Kathy's Pilates tape, in that it's more difficult to do than it looks when you preview it. This was not a really intense tape, but parts kicked my b*tt -- although, I must admit, mine is pretty easy to kick.

I didn't finish sore and exhausted, but I did feel delightfully stretched.

The exercises are also more interesting when you do them than when you just look at them. They're not as thoughtfully put together as those in Angles, Lines and Curves, but they're not just bland cookbook moves, either. I'm not the best person to judge safety and form, but I didn't notice any obvious problems.

The music and the outdoor setting are, of course, absolutely wonderful. Miranda is a bit too chatty and a bit too eager to promote her tape as the cure for everything. But one can live with her.

Summary: Classical Stretch is not a tape that will find an easy place in a rotation. But it's good for the same "wild card" slot as Angles, Lines and Curves. Or Yoga Booty Ballet. It's not quite as interesting as those tapes, but there's nothing about Classical Stretch I don't like.

Lenore Levine

This workout is not for me. I am not good with dancy
ballerina stuff. I couldn't finish. She changes moves
quickly and cues badly. It didn't seem to flow in any
organized way. And the constant references to how
"slimming" the workout is made me nuts. I wasn't doing a
stretch video to get slim! She does talk a lot.

The moves reminded me a bit of T-Tapp. Good for balance
and coordination. The legs lifts were tough, but she went
too fast for me.

Instructor comments: She talks a lot. A whole lot.



This video is actually closer to 50 minutes, not 1 hour.

The video begins with an introduction during which Miranda explains why and how she developed her technique. More on that later.

The workout begins with a warm up then segues into standing work for the upper body. Classical Stretch doesnít use weights or pushups for the upper body. Instead, arms are extended out from the shoulder sockets with straight elbows while palms twist up and back, arms are extended shoulder height and then reach behind, arms reach back and up on a diagonal, shoulders are shrugged and then released and other variations. This is not easy and my medial delts are screaming before weíre done. Miranda herself says that these exercises will go from being really, really difficult to just difficult. Itís good to have goals!

After the arm exercises we move onto a few minutes of upper body stretching which she likens to lullabies because of the swaying motion used and the way the arms are held.

Next section is plies and variations thereof to target the butt and the hamstrings. She spends some time talking about proper alignment, but this section doesnít last very long.

Next you grab a chair for modified barre work. (I usually use a dowel and a piano bench.) The barre is primarily used for balance as we do variations on side kicks and some front kicks. It is later used to rest the foot for a series of hamstring stretches.

The floorwork section requires a mat. We start with hip openers, where you open the legs (think Butterfly or Baddha Konasana from yoga) then push down with the elbows onto the knees. Relax, then relax again. Do this two more times and some increases in range of motion should be noticeable. Miranda says at this point this utilizes the PNF principle, but I donít know what PNF stands for.

Onto the sides for legwork. Saddlebags or outer thighs face the ceiling, not the knee. The upper body should either rest on the outstretched arm or be held fully up, not the traditional stance seen for the Pilates Side Series. As with the upper body segment at the beginning, the limb is extended out from the joint with a straight knee (although I believe she advises at one point to bend the knee if you have back problems). In one sequence, the leg is extended out, raised up, lowered, then pulled back in. Little circles follow, then squares, diagonal kicks (think Pendulum on a slight diagonal) and a bunch of others I canít recall.

Abwork is next. Crunches, oblique crunches, bicycles and heel touches are included in this sequence. Nothing very revolutionary here, but she gives fine-tuning tips that make all the difference: tighten the abs before the movement begins, squeeze the glutes and keep looking up at the ceiling. I am not a fan of traditional abwork, but I found that I do get a lot more out of her sequence than other tapes Iíve tried.

The last segment is some twisting followed by stretching with the legs outstretched and the feet both pointed and then flexed.

General Comments: Of the three videos I own (Full Body, Legs and Butt and Arms and Abs), this is the gentlest. It is definitely for the fitness-minded, but I think sheís also trying to be mindful of those who have back pain.

You can see tai chi, yoga, Pilates and ballet influences throughout the workout. Although I havenít used Callanetics or the Lotte Berk Method, this seems similar based on the descriptions. The limb is extended, isometrically held and then moved from the primary joint (hip or shoulder). While muscles are not lengthened, it would be difficult to build any bulk with this strategy because the muscle is almost never concentrically contracted.

Instructor comments: Miranda used to be a ballet dancer in Montreal. She later became an aerobics instructor. She says she developed this technique in part to help with her back pain and that using it returned her body to her original dancerís physique. She consulted with doctors and athletes to make sure that her developments were scientifically correct. She is very charming and for lack of a better word ďcuteĒ.

Deb (aka dnk)


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