What is GYROTONIC®?
When I first heard a colleague talk about gyrotonic about 4 years ago, I was like “GYRO WHAT? To me it sounded like some form of geriatric exercise, so I asked her more about this type of exercise and she gave me the low down. ‘Gyro’ in greek actually means spiral or circle, and tonic means tone or invigorate. I then decided to sign up for some classes to check it out. I walked into a studio in Boston and to my surprise, I stumbled upon a small room with about 7 of these large pieces of equipment. All of the gyrotonic towers were intriguing to me, as they are handcrafted, and each one looks like a unique, wooden masterpiece. Growing up, I was a competitive swimmer and ended my career in college. I was always looking for an exercise similar to swimming where I would not have to jump in a freezing cold pool and expose myself to chlorine. When I started my first session with gyrotonic, I knew I had to become a certified instructor. Not only was I so happy to have found a fluid and rhythmical movement that reminded me of swimming, but I also really enjoyed having a one-on-one session where my super knowledgeable instructor had all eyes on me. If I did something wrong or engaged a muscle incorrectly, she was able to modify the exercise for me. I was coming back from a right hip injury, and gyrotonic was the best way I could have eased back into safe exercising because of the personalized treatment.
**Photo taken at GYROTONIC® Boston Central
EVERYONE is familiar with pilates and its popularity in the exercise world, however not many people are familiar with gyrotonic. As a gyrotonic instructor, I am often asked the question “What is gyrotonic?” and “How does it differ from pilates?” Gyrotonic is a unique movement method that incorporates simultaneous lengthening and strengthening of muscles. It helps to stimulate circulation and improve joint mobility and coordination. Gyrotonic exercise includes spiraling, circular movements, and more rhythmical movements, making it feel more like dancing, swimming, yoga, and Tai Chi. Most conventional strengthening regimens are more linear or isolated movements that do not include functional everyday movements. As humans, we do not move in a single plane, so it is important to do strengthening and exercise in more of a circular plane in order for it to carry over to activities of daily living. The whole idea of gyrotonic is to strengthen/stabilize muscles while lengthening the muscles and allowing the joint to move through a natural range of motion without compressing the joint.
Finally, special attention is focused on spinal motions to increase mobility and stability of the spine and pelvis. We, myself included, are so used to sitting all day long, whether it be in the car or at work. With prolonged sitting, we lose the mobility in our spines. This rigidity in our spines can cause a forward head and rounded shoulder position, and in turn can displace the center of gravity, and cause the pelvis to work extra hard to maintain an upright position.
Specialized Equipment: The gyrotonic expansion system is a pulley tower that provides smooth, even support and resistance. There is also an adjustable bench and rotating handle unit that can be adjusted to fit individual body types. The gyrotonic tower supports the natural range of motion of joints and allows for functional three dimensional movement.
GYROTONIC® and persistent pain: It is often difficult finding a form of exercise that allows movement and release of endorphins, especially when you are experiencing pain. Gyrotonic is a specifically gentle form of exercise similar to yoga, however, the equipment allows you to take away some of the effects of gravity and allows you to experience less impact. The equipment also adapts to your body so that you can be as comfortable as possible doing the gentle motions.
Exercises: Here are some basic exercises that incorporate the gyrotonic principles without use of the gyrotonic expansion system. These are simple exercises to do while at your work desk and will help to improve sitting posture. Take note that these exercises should be done without any pain. If you experience any pain, please stop the exercise.
Step 1 – Finding your sit bones:
This simple exercise is REALLY important in order to find a “balanced” or more upright sitting posture. Sitting in a firm chair, make sure you have your feet supported by the floor about hip distance apart. Take your hands and place your palms face up underneath the bony part of your bottom. As you do this, see if you are shifting your weight to one side more than the other. You should feel equal pressure in both of your hands. If you are leaning to one side, shift your weight and find that nice balanced position.
Upright Seated Posture Poor Seated Posture
Step 2 – Seated Figure 8:
This is a great exercise for releasing tension in the pelvis/hips/low back. This aids as a gentle hip/back stretch by incorporating sitting posture and balance. It also helps to improve postural support and balance, which is SO important when sitting at a desk all day. Start by finding your sit bones and feel your feet grounded on the floor about hips distance apart. Maintaining a neutral spine, start by shifting your torso forward so that you have more weight on the front of your sit bones/thighs. Then, shift your weight over to your right sit bone and then back onto your right posterior sit bone or your right buttocks muscle. Next, allow your weight to come forward through the center and then repeat on the left side. You want to think of making a circle around each sit bone so that it makes a figure 8 shape. Here is a video to better help guide the exercise.
Step 3 – Spinal Motions on Chair: This exercise helps improve mobility in the spine.
Arch/Curl: Maintaining a seated position like the above exercises, lift your chest toward the ceiling and open your palms so that they face forward. Come back to neutral and then go into the curl. Curl: Tuck your chin and curl your upper back and lower. Try to maintain an elongated spine reaching through the top of your head. Try to prevent too much hunching or collapsing by vacuuming your lower belly towards your spine in order to prevent any compression in your spine. Repeat this arch and curl motion 5 times.
Seated Arch Seated Curl
Side Arch: Start in a neutral spine with arms by your side. Slowly, side bend your torso to the left, keeping your palms facing forward. Do not compress your left side, instead think of the left side bending but also elongating and maintaining space in the left hip. Come back to neutral and repeat on the right side. Perform this exercise 5 times on each side.
Right Side Arch Left Side Arch
Spiral (rotation): start in a neutral spine and rotate body to the left. An emphasis of the rotation should be placed through the rib cage. Come back to neutral and then switch sides, rotating to the right side. Repeat exercise 5 times on each side.
Right Spiral Left Spiral
Wave: Start in a neutral spine position and spread feet a little further than hip distance. Lift spine into arch position and then slowly bend forward at the hips. Once you get closer to your thighs, start to tuck your tailbone and curl your low back. Think of the curl starting from the lowest part of your back and then ending with a tuck of the chin. This should create a wave-like appearance and it feels wonderful!
Want to give it a try? Here is how to find a gyrotonic studio near you!