Essentrics Workout Class of 2012

Sahra Esmonde-White
Year Released: 2012

Categories: Athletic Stretch , Total Body Workouts

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This DVD presents a one-hour total body Essentrics workout.

The workout is led by Sahra Esmonde-White, instructing live. She is accompanied by two cast members, Shana and Erica, who are also Essentrics instructors. Sahra doesn’t use “left/right” instruction so mirror cueing is not an issue. Modifications are sometimes suggested by Sahra but seldom demonstrated. That said, I do believe that this workout is appropriate for almost any fitness level (but also see my comments below).

The setting is similar to earlier Essentrics productions – a vacant office building with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over downtown Montreal. Luckily there is less window glare this time and you can see the cast clearly. I like the music in this one, although I am hard-pressed to describe it – let’s just say it is a nice change from the usual workout DVD techno-beat.

Essentrics is an offshoot of Classical Stretch, a long-running television program available on many PBS stations (although, alas, not my local affiliate). Both were created by Sahra’s mother, Miranda Esmonde-White. Besides thoroughly stretching the body, both programs emphasize moves that strengthen the muscle while it is in an eccentric or elongated position, as opposed to traditional weight training which strengthens a muscle in the contracted position. The Essentrics/CS approach strengthens muscle without bulk, but also balances out the body and helps keep it limber. The programs’ devotees range from professional and Olympic athletes to people coping with a wide variety of physical limitations.

There is occasional VF debate about what (if anything) makes Essentrics different from Classical Stretch. For myself, except for the difference in instructors and settings, I consider them the same program.

It can be a bit difficult at first for a newbie to follow an Essentrics or Classical Stretch workout, as some of the movements flow into one another and often incorporate positions or exercises not seen elsewhere. However, once over the learning curve, it is much easier to recognize the elements of the Essentrics/CS repertoire and to consequently intensify the effort applied (although Sahra also notes the moves remain beneficial if done with less intensity).

Essentrics Class of 2012 is chaptered into Standing, Floor, and Barre sections, as well as a “Play All.” Sahra uses a chair for the barre section. The chair back is used for balance, and the seat of the chair for resting the foot during stretches. A mat for floor work is the only other equipment needed for this workout. Essentrics workouts are done barefoot.

Class of 2012 breaks down as follows. Although the entire workout is just over an hour (61 minutes), it is easy to create a shorter workout using the chapters.

Standing (28.5 minutes):
Sahra starts off with a warm-up incorporating relaxed side-to-side touches and arm swings. She then moves into flowing back and torso stretches, which segue into windmills. Next are plies, which are held while Sahra leads us through a variety of upper body moves. A short arm exercise section follows. Front and side leg raises are next, and more windmills follow. The standing section concludes with bicycles, hip cleaners, and stretches for the calf and quad.

Floor (21 minutes):
Floor work begins with crunch variations, including hip raises, bicycles. Then it is on to side-lying leg work. In CS/Essentrics special attention is paid to pulling out the leg before lifting it, which really ups the intensity! Sahra unintentionally varies the routine slightly on each side, but both sides are equally worked. Supine and seated stretches open up the hips.

Barre (11 minutes):
This section uses a chair (Sahra notes that they use barres in her studio). After a set of rear leg lifts with bent, then straight, leg, Sahra rests the foot on the chair seat for a series of hip, hamstring and quad stretches.

Bottom Line:
This is a very nice entry in the CS/Essentrics line-up. Sahra is a pleasant, graceful instructor who cues well and provides good form pointers. Speaking personally, I find the Classical Stretch/Essentrics canon has become more and more an integral part of my own fitness routine. When I do CS/Essentrics regularly, I feel fewer aches and pains, my posture is better, my balance improved, my stomach is flatter and my joints are happier. These DVDs are the best solution I know to avoid what a fellow VFer calls “stiff old lady syndrome!”

Essentrics workouts can be purchased at and The DVDs can also be found at Amazon and other online sites, but usually at inflated prices. YouTube clips of Essentrics DVDs, along with some stand-alone mini workouts, are available at

Instructor Comments:
Sahra is the daughter of Miranda Esmonde-White, who created both Classical Stretch and Essentrics (although Sahra has taken over the Essentrics brand). Sahra was involved behind the scenes with Classical Stretch for years, appearing as a cast member in some CS television episodes, before she became the face of Essentrics. While her mother can be chatty and easily distracted when leading workouts, Sahra is more focused in her approach, which might work better for any exercisers who get frustrated with Miranda's quirkiness.