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Gearing up your health with Gyrotonic®

Updated: Jan 8

Gyrotonic® is the new kid on the fitness block that is starting to gain recognition, and celebrities are lending their name to it. Is this just another trend or is it here to stay?

Ask around your circle of friends and many hit the gym, or do Pilates or yoga to keep trim and supple.

Gyrotonic is a lesser known exercise regime compared to Pilates or yoga, but it is starting to gain a following. For Yann Tyng, our Content Writer based in Spain, any kind of body movement experience is worth a try. So she decided to jump into Gyrotonic and see what it's all about.

And as luck would have it, there is a Gyrotonic centre just a hop and a skip from where she lives, poetically called The Garden founded by Flavia Abbadessa, and if that's not enough of a coincidence, the founder of Gyrotonic, Juliu Horvath first sowed the seeds of this method in 1977, so Gyrotonic is as old as Yann Tyng is! And...he is a Romanian-born Hungarian, and Yann Tyng has been learning, believe it or not, Hungarian for the past three years! That's a magic number three as a very clear sign she needs to try this out!

So what exactly is Gyrotonic?

One cannot be faulted for thinking it's a mispronunciation of the very much more popular gin and tonic, but do take note of this name as it is starting to gain a foothold in the fitness world. Famous celebrities such as Tiger Woods, Shaquilile O'Neal, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow do it too, so you can be sure the rest of us are sure to follow.

Yann Tyng spoke to her Gyrotonic instructor, Estefania, to understand more about this somewhat new exercise method. "To put it in layman's terms, Gyrotonic is a form of exercise performed on specialised instruments and whose movements are based on dance, yoga, swimming and taichi." The fact that it is performed on machines makes it a close cousin of Pilates, but they have very distinct ways of moving. "An easy way to make the distinction is Pilates movements tend to be more linear and two-dimensional, while Gyrotonic favours more circular and three-dimensional movements."

As a classical ballet dancer and teacher, Estefania fell in love with Gyrotonic the first time she tried it, and it has helped to launch her professional career on a new track as a Gyrotonic instructor. What she appreciates about this exercise technique is how the instruments guide your movements but do not limit them.

"Gyrotonic is still relatively new in Spain unfortunately, and not many people know much about it. When I tell my friends and family about what I am doing, I need to give quite a bit of detail for them to understand what Gyrotonic is about. To be honest, I don't actually mind as I love speaking about Gyrotonic! It's something I'm wild about and I think everyone should try it at least once!"

Why do Gyrotonic?

Estefania has seen many clients walk in with different physical ailments, the most common being back pain issues. What Gyrotonic does is to create more space in the joints and vertebrae, toning and creating more mobility in the muscles. Many of us have sedentary jobs that involve tapping away in front of a screen and sometimes it feels like we are all eyeballs and fingers and nothing more. Few are conscious about their sitting posture and even if we tried to keep a good posture upright, it is many hours frozen in a seated position, leading to many cases of back pain.

"Gyrotonic addresses precisely this issue, strengthening the deeper muscles of the body, giving more mobility and space to the vertebrae." In a way that is similar to how practitioners of Pilates feel, Gyrotonic also helps you feel taller and longer.

Some benefits of Gyrotonic:

  • stimulates the nervous system

  • improves circulation

  • tones the muscles

  • improves balance

  • improves coordination and agility

  • increases spinal mobility

  • builds body awareness

  • increases range of motion

Estefania enthuses, "What is especially attractive about Gyrotonic is how it helps you to tone your muscles without bulking it up. The emphasis is very much on creating space so you build your muscles without depriving it of its flexibility. Your muscles are trained to have both strength and mobility. Chunky muscles that are stiff are as ineffective as incredibly flexible muscles that have no tone to hold you up. Gyrotonic emphasises finding that balance between the two."

What are the challenges?

Coordination is a tricky one to face in Gyrotonic. The movements of the exercises are circular, continuous and harmonious, seemingly without a beginning and an end. It takes a bit of time to get all your body parts in tune with one another so the movements are not jerky or broken.

It is rather hypnotic to watch a Gyrotonic session in progress! The movements look beautiful and fluid and even though the exercises are not done to music, it feels like a way of dancing. For beginners, getting a grasp of this sense of movement takes a bit of time, but it is a wonderful feeling in the body when you finally make sense of it!

If it's any motivation to some of you, Estefania's youngest student is only 13 and she has much older clients in their 70s as well. So really, Gyrotonic can be done by anyone.

What's with all the machines?

Those who do Pilates will know, there are different apparatus for each exercise to focus on different physical objectives. Gyrotonic has its own unique range of instruments as well. For Estefania, her favourite is the Pulley Tower, which is the most versatile and complete instrument that allows one to work on all the muscle groups and is an instrument that everyone can benefit from using.

Instructors will choose the most relevant exercises for you on each instrument to work on a specific movement, sequence or body part. Get into your back bends on the Archway or work on the flexibility in your feet with some jumping exercises lying down on the Jumping-Stretching Board. The instruments can be adjusted to fit different body types and they are mostly made of wood, which gives the entire space an earthy, natural and organic feel.

Photos: Beatrice Colombo Serri, Uxio da Vila, Flavia Abbadessa, The Garden, Madrid

How do I get started?

Just jump in! Certified instructors at any of the official Gyrotonic centres know the set of rules and techniques and the relevant sequence of exercises to help a beginner start to feel the movements of Gyrotonic and slowly begin to integrate everything as they progress through the levels. A good instructor assesses your physical condition each session and can adapt the exercises taking into account what you want to achieve and any injuries or health issues you may have.

Find a Gyrotonic centre here, and ask for a trial class. You can just wear comfortable exercise clothes like for other activities like Pilates or yoga. You won't need your trainers as the exercises are done barefoot (have your socks on if your toes get chilly!).

See here for a list of Gyrotonic centres in NSW Australia.

Centres offer private or group sessions depending on your needs. Unfortunately if you are looking for something that is more 'portable', Gyrotonic won't work as you'll need to have an arsenal of all their machines in your home or holiday spot to be able to do it online!

Try at least one class so your body can decide for itself how Gyrotonic feels on it!

The future of Gyrotonic

Is this just another fitness fashion trend? Estefania is optimistic about the future of Gyrotonic. "Increasingly there are more people curious and interested in trying Gyrotonic in Spain, especially those who have had just one session notice they feel taller!" That is certainly a great boost to keep people wanting to return for another session!

Perhaps Gyrotonic will go on a similar path to Pilates. Once people know about it and feel the benefits themselves, others will start to follow suit. The world is big enough to accommodate different fitness styles.

What do clients say about Gyrotonic?

Paloma has been doing Gyrotonic for a year and a half at The Garden in Madrid, Spain. And she absolutely loves it. So far, it has been the only physical exercise she has done that has helped her to get rid of her back pain.

As a ballet student of Estefania, she was eager to try after hearing her teacher talk about it. A big motivation for her to give it a go was her back pain. She has been through endless rounds of tests with doctors and they have found nothing wrong. All she was told was to do exercises to strengthen her back. Gyrotonic is very much related to dance, and having her ballet teacher as her Gyrotonic instructor as well was just too much of a good thing to pass up!

"I noticed a clear improvement in my back pain!"

Having tried Pilates before, Paloma found the style a tad too monotonous, whereas Gyrotonic has more organic movements and adapts better to each body. Most importantly, it focuses precisely on what Paloma needed i.e. strengthen her back muscles and create more flexibility in her spine. Paloma does Gyrotonic once a week (each session lasts one hour) and she has noticed a marked improvement in the health and flexibility in her spine. It's not easy creating this flexibility, space and openness in the upper body and Gyrotonic has helped her to achieve that.

Estefania guiding Paloma on a back exercise on the Archway.

"The different instruments add variety to the exercises and are a great help."

Paloma loves working out on the different instruments, especially on the Archway. It is helping her to work on her back bends and increasing her spinal flexibility. One of her objectives is to increase her flexibility even more so that it is as perceptible from the outside as what she feels on the inside. "I know I have improved and I really feel the stretch in a back bend, but it does not look like much from the outside!" The Jumping-Stretching Board also helps her with her leg splits. The Gyrotonic instrument is a big help and each instrument works on very specific objectives e.g. getting a deeper twist in the spine, opening up the upper body, stretching the psoas etc. And they are really great fun!

Gyrotonic is great fun when you do it with others! Estefania takes Paloma and Yanntyng through a series of exercises on the Pulley Tower.

"Gyrotonic helps you work on body consciousness."

"I remember very clearly I felt 2cm taller after my very first Gyrotonic class!" Paloma knew she simply had to return for another session. She started her first year of Gyrotonic doing private classes with Estefania, and she recognises the benefits of having private attention. Gyrotonic is rather special in the sense that you need a level of body awareness and consciousness to be able to execute the movements. While it does adapt itself to all kinds of bodies, you still need to be able to understand how your different body parts are moving in space in relation to one another.

"Get yourself a good instructor."

If you're thinking of starting Gyrotonic, get yourself a good Gyrotonic instructor who is:

  • patient

  • knows and understands the client well

  • takes into consideration the client's limits

  • knows when to push and how fast to go

  • clear at explaining exercises and positions

  • good with analogies to help clients visualise the movements

"Everyone should do Gyrotonic!"

Gyrotonic requires the use of instruments, so that in itself means the sessions tend to be pricier than say, an average yoga class. For those who are able to afford it, it is worth a try. Paloma has been raving about Gyrotonic ever since she started, and anyone who has a business or does marketing knows, word of mouth is still the best, especially when you are a walking example of success as is the case of Paloma. Gyrotonic has made her back very happy!

Paloma has also gotten more than just the obvious physical benefits from Gyrotonic. And she fully recommends this to the young and old, to dancers, to sports people...anyone!

"Gyrotonic gives me a sense of peace. We work a lot with the breath as well like in yoga, and it has improved my mood too. When I know I have a Gyrotonic class coming up it puts me in a happy mood and the best thing is I leave the class feeling even happier! It's just an overall good feeling with great vibes!"

Congratulations to Paloma on her success in her Gyrotonic experience!

If it feels good, do it!

And what has Yann Tyng to say about her Gyrotonic experience?

"Ballet has been and always will be my first love, so I'm all for anything that complements ballet, be it yoga, Pilates or Gyrotonic. The instructor is key, and I gave up Pilates because I never found an instructor who was as skilled as the one I had when I started. Both yoga and Gyrotonics are a great complement for my ballet classes right now, and I feel safe with my instructors. I admit I'm a scaredy-cat with the Gyrotonic instruments, but like some things in life, once you get to know them better they're not that terrifying. It helps to adopt an attitude of play in Gyrotonic and have some fun with the instruments. I enjoy the organic, flowing movements in Gyrotonic and how they expand the body and create a sense of space around you. At the end of the day, any 'investment' in one's health is always worth it. My body is my ultimate authority in deciding on an exercise regime. If it makes your body happy, do it!"

If you're looking for more fitness regime options, read Yann Tyng's article here about ballet classes for adult learners!



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