Stretch it out: Esterlatte class focuses on flexibility

  • Posted: Wednesday, May 15, 2013 1:08 a.m.
JON C. LAKEY / SALISBURY POST Vicki Goughenour takes part in the class lead by Ester Marsh at the J.F. Hurley YMCA. The class has elements of yoga.
JON C. LAKEY / SALISBURY POST Vicki Goughenour takes part in the class lead by Ester Marsh at the J.F. Hurley YMCA. The class has elements of yoga.

SALISBURY — When Ester Marsh started teaching more than 30 years ago, stretching was a natural part of any group exercise class.

“More and more, especially when Jane Fonda came along, people just didn’t feel like they were working if they were stretching,” she said. “They didn’t feel it was very important.”


So, Marsh said she and other instructors started cutting back on the amount of stretching done during class.

“It literally got to the point that if we were lucky we would stretch for 2 minutes because people would walk out if you did it for too long,” she said. “For years we did that.”

Eventually, Marsh worked about 10 minutes worth of stretching back into her fitness classes, but that still wasn’t enough.

“With running and any type of strength training you need a lot more stretching,” she said. “One of the components of fitness is flexibility.”

That’s when Esterlatte was born.

Like the popular BodyFlow workouts, the class combines yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi, but Marsh gives it her own twist by focusing more on the movements and less on breathing.

“Personally, I really noticed that I was getting tighter and I knew I had to stretch, so I started doing my own thing with music I enjoyed,” she said.

When a time slot opened up at the J.F. Hurley Family YMCA three years ago, Marsh decided to share her unique workout.

The benefits

Marsh said the class was immediately a hit because people saw such great improvements in flexibility and balance.

“Some of them can now do daily movements like turning back to grab something from the back seat of their car or leaning down to tie their shoes,” she said.

Martha Jackson said the class has made her “stronger and infinitely more flexible.”

“I like the fact that she repeats each pose three or four times so you have the opportunity to get better,” she said.

Vick Goughenour said she likes that instead of rushing from pose to pose, Marsh allows the class to hold each one.

“We move a little slower, but it’s great for flexibility and balance. It gives you a sense of strength throughout,” she said.

Jackson said she typically brings a towel to class to wipe off sweat, but she doesn’t need one during Esterlatte.

“It’s interesting because I still feel like I work just as hard,” she said.

Goughenour said the class, which is done in a dimly-lit room with music like Simon & Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence,” is also a great workout for the mind.

“It’s very relaxing,” she said.

Marsh said anyone who can stand and get on the floor is capable of doing Esterlatte.

“If something doesn’t feel right, I tell them not to do it because I don’t know what you feel,” she said. “Make it work for you and your body, I’m really a big advocate for that.”

Jackson said Marsh does a good job providing alternative poses and offering tips throughout the class.

“She reads the room and without using your name gives advice to the class that you know is for you,” she said.

Marsh said she changes up her Esterlatte routine about once a month to keep it fresh.

My experience

I’m a yoga girl, so Esterlatte was right up my alley.

I’ve found that the reason I’m so attracted to yoga is for the mind, body connection.

I like the fact that you get a great workout that leaves you feeling relaxed and ready to take on the day.

The good thing about Esterlatte is that nothing seemed too strenuous. If I couldn’t touch my toes while standing, I simply bent my knees.

Just like the women I talked to there, I felt incredibly flexible after leaving the class.

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