A Common Refrain
There are many stretching programs available. Regardless of the method, most people would say that they feel better after. Essentrics, on the other hand, often elicits a more unique response. Whether they are newbies or a regulars, many people who do Essentrics share this common refrain:
"Essentrics feels like a full body massage."
More precisely, they are referring to the sense of release, looseness, and calm that they feel following an Essentrics workout. So how exactly does it happen?
Working Head to Toe, Systematically
There are many types of full body massage, and most methods would engage the body from head to toe, leaving no muscle behind. This is also what Essentrics does. Regardless of whether it is a full body massage or doing Essentrics, many people are often surprised by how wonderful it feels when their neck, fingers, toes, and feet get engaged, either by the therapist or on their own, with tension released and circulation improved in these extremities. Both Essentrics and full body massage also work the body in a methodical way. This ensures that every part of the body is evenly treated, resulting in a balanced body.
Tissue Manipulation - ALL tissues
Massage manipulates tissues to release tension or pain. These include not only muscles but also connective tissues. People often think of ligaments (which connect bone to bone) and tendons (which connect muscles to bones) yet there's a more prevalent type of connective tissue in our body - fascia. Fascia is an extensive, intricate web of collagen/gel like protein that encases our muscles fibers, muscle bundles, and creates compartments for our organs. Fascia binds our whole body together.
When we are sedentary, fascia dries up, hardens and even adheres. After an injury or surgery, the body also produces more fascia locally at the wound to aid in recovery - think of it as the body's natural "cast" for protection. Lack of proper movements after surgery and injury can harden this cast into scar tissues. Fascia adhesion - especially deep, internal scars - can produce a lot of pain, because muscles around hardened fascia cannot glide normally. Also, fascia is a living matrix, our body's own internet. It relates electrical, cellular, and tissue remodeling signals all through the body. A local scar tissue means a severe traffic jam and chaos. Pain signals may get amplified in loops, while pleasant signals may get zapped.
Both massage and Essentrics work to "unknot" our fascia. While most workout programs emphasize muscles, Essentrics uniquely conditions muscles and fascia (along with joints and bones) evenly when it comes to fitness. This recognition of fascia's role in our health makes it a cousin or even sibling to massage.
If fascia loosening requires movements, then why does Essentrics work better than other workouts, and how exactly does it evoke a massage? Like massage, Essentrics dynamically works our tissues. The kneading and pressing in massage is akin to Essentrics motions because they are both dynamic - flowing, continuous, and often rolling/circular. A massage therapist would apply appropriate pressure to knead and loosen an area repeatedly before continuing to the next. In the same way, there are also ebb and flow motions in Essentrics, and the program doesn't aggressively yank or statically hold our muscles and tissues, but stretch and lengthen progressively in all directions as we stay in motion.
What's more, massage and Essentrics are both technique-based. Just as there are different ways to knead in a massage, there are also varying techniques to manipulate the same tissues when doing a particular Essentrics movement for specific objectives (such as toning, loosening, or lengthening).
Two Sides of the Same Coin
Given their similarities, one can argue that Essentrics and full body massage are two sides of the same coin. While massage calls for the skill of a trained therapist, Essentrics calls for the skill of a trained instructor. What both modalities can achieve is a sense of balance - a feeling of equilibrium that anyone would welcome.