yogalife – july 2013 – going gyro

Gyrotonic is taking America by storm, but what is it? Find out how this unique training method works your body in ways that no other workout can

Gyrotonic is a unique system of exercise that incorporates movement principles from yoga, dance, gymnastics, swimming and t’ai chi. Central to gyrotonic is the Gyrotonic Expansion System, or GXS, a specially designed wooden machine with rotational discs and weighted pulleys that allow the user to strengthen their muscles using flowing, circular movements.

The word ‘gyrotonic’ comes from the words ‘gyro’, which means spiral or circle, and ‘tonic’, which means to tone or invigorate. While most other exercise is performed as linear, static, strengthening or flexibility, the Gyrotonic Expansion System, created by Julio Horvarth, is a balance of all this and more. The exercises simultaneously stretch and strengthen muscles and connective tissues in and around the joints of the body.

What the expert says…

Sara Simmons is a certified Pilates, gyrotonic and gyrokinesis teacher and personal trainer. “After teaching Pilates and personal training for several years, I felt like I needed to add something a little different,” she says. “Gyrotonic was definitely different and unlike any other type of exercise I had done, yet so familiar. The fluid, spiralling, undulating movements were exactly what my runner, triathlete body needed, not to mention the mind, body and spiritual connection it provided. Gyrotonic exercises are organic and natural in their movement.

“Gyrotonic may resemble Pilates,” Sara says, “but it is much more like yoga in its origin and breathing techniques. Pilates followers often make the mistake of thinking it’s the same and then find it difficult to master the breathing, which is specific to each particular movement pattern.

“The Machine facilitates your movements,” she continues, “but it makes you do the work, not the other way around.”

Individuals who are used to working in linear movements are often surprised by how little control they have of their bodies in this way, so you need to be consistent with your sessions to see the benefits. Once a week is good, but twice a week is preferable.

“Gyrotonic is a complete system of exercising. It articulates your joints, improves the flow of energy through the body, stimulates acupressure points, builds stamina and strength, and improves health,” Sara explains.

A gyrotonic workout begins by opening and relaxing the body, then progresses into deeper stretches while building supportive strength to eliminate old patterns, break through stiffness and rigidity, and prevent injuries. It builds core strength, improves flexibility and teaches you to move in a healthy and effective way.

Yogalife trial session

To warm up, Sara took the Yogalife team through some movements at the base of the spine and then progressed to the arms, neck and shoulders in wave-like motions. Pulleys with straps were attached to our feet as our legs were stretched and strengthened, while at the same time encouraging movement in the abdominal muscles.

The session then focused on strengthening the back and abdominal muscles and opening up the hips. Scissor kicks, breaststroke motion and butterfly pose in circles were among the exercises we did on our backs with 15kg weights. Attention was given to the energy flow from the pelvis to the heels (just like yoga) to ensure the use of hamstrings and abs, rather than the thighs and lower back.

Each session is a balancing of the whole body: muscles, joints, bones and internal organs. Body awareness improves and areas of tension soften. Muscular contraction, extension, flexibility and coordination increase.

Gyrotonic may have originated as a way of helping dancers, it is beneficial for almost anyone, including children, gym junkies, those with arthritis and individuals seeking rehabilitation from hip and knee reconstructions.

The Benefits:

Improves Posture

Sports medics have attributed a more upright and elegant posture to the continuous involvement of the supportive muscles as they are strengthened and stretched.

Minimal Stress on Joints

Gyrotonic is beneficial for anyone suffering joint pain because there is no impact.

Leads to Better Coordination

The major muscle groups work together as well as interdependently, which leads to increased coordination with more efficient muscle recruitment.

Lifts your Spirits

Fans attribute increased energy and raised spirits to the circular, spiralling motions and specific individual breathing patterns, which help relax tight muscles and stiff joints.

Gives you Full Spinal Mobility

Gyrotonic movements free the spine to move in all directions, improving back suppleness.

Final Verdict

Connecting with your body is crucial to getting the most out of gyrotonic,yet establishing a state of active relaxation can be hard, especially when you are concentrating on mastering new body skills.

At times you do feel silly, unless you’ve got good coordination, and picking up the different circular movements can be a bit like rubbing your stomach while patting your head. Give yourself time to see your body change as you learn the moves.

To book a private with Sara Simmons contact The Hundred Pilates Studio.

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