For Pilates instructors looking to branch out into another movement method—or add variety to their studio offerings—the GYROTONIC EXPANSION SYSTEM® has become a popular choice. If you have yet to try it or are curious about learning more, read on.
Gyrotonic is a method of movement and an exercise system developed starting in the 1980s by Juliu Horvath. As with so many types of movement work, Gyrotonic was invented as a way to heal its founder’s own injuries. As a dancer, Horvath herniated three discs and suffered knee, shoulder and ankle injuries. He tried to rehab himself using Hatha yoga, which he felt injured him further. It was at this point that Horvath invented Gyrotonic intuitively by following what he refers to as “internal movement.” His pain diminished, and he lives a healthy, relatively pain-free life today.
According to the GYROTONIC® Web site, “GYROTONIC® methodology allows users to stretch and strengthen muscles, while simultaneously stimulating and strengthening connective tissues in and around the joints of the body. These exercises are synchronized with corresponding breathing patterns, thus enhancing aerobic and cardiovascular stimulation and promoting neuro-muscular rejuvenation.” The Gyrotonic® equipment, designed by Horvath, uses a series of hand-and foot-operated pulleys and weights to move the joints and limbs in (mostly) circular patterns, designed to create “openness” in the body. When performing the exercises, the influence of yoga on the system is obvious, and the pulleys and straps somehow manage to give the feeling of swimming without water. The “feeling” of doing Gyrotonic is often compared to dance and tai chi as well.
The most noted difference between Pilates and Gyrotonic is the idea of “linear” versus “circular” movement. While both Pilates and Gyrotonic involve all sorts of movement, Gyrotonic focuses more heavily on circular, spiraling movement. And unlike the many tangled branches and vines of the Pilates method family tree, Gyrotonic’s founder is still living and sits at the helm of his movement, keeping his training programs close to him with the authority to define his method constantly. Because of this, there is little to no controversy as to what Gyrotonic “is.” It is well organized, with strict trademark usage guidelines. There is only one teacher-training manual, and only about 60 master trainers worldwide. The master trainers have annual or biennial meetings with Horvath himself.
A widely touted and unique benefit of Gyrotonic is its effect on connective tissue. Gyrotonic.com describes the effect as “simultaneously stimulating and strengthening connective tissues in and around the joints of the body.” The Web site also provides a research library full of clinical studies on the positive effects of Gyrotonic.
THE PILATES PERSPECTIVE ON GYROTONIC
Spouses Aline and Bryan Alexander own Albuquerque’s Momentum Studio, the largest (4,000 square feet!) and longest-established Pilates, Gyrotonic and Feldenkrais studio in New Mexico. Momentum Studio also houses a nationally recognized professional teacher training center, training Pilates and Gyrotonic instructors.
Aline is a Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner, a Master Trainer in Gyrotonic and GYROKINESIS® and has full studio certifications in Pilates from Move on Center, Santa Fe and Polestar Neuromuscular Education. She is certified on all of the specialized Gyrotonic equipment and has received advanced training in therapeutic applications of Gyrotonic. With a doctorate in Biomedical Sciences from the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, Bryan is the business manager and oversees the wellness programs at the studio as well as the curriculum for the teacher trainings. In addition to being a Pilates trainer, Bryan is certified in and an Authorized Pre-trainer for Gyrokinesis and Gyrotonic. Both have trained directly with Horvath.
With these impressive resumes, Aline and Bryan were the perfect pair to answer our questions about Gyrotonic and it’s relevance in the Pilates world.
Q: Aline, I understand that you started out teaching Pilates - what made you want to teach Gyrotonic?
Aline: As a Feldenkrais practitioner, I found Gyrotonic complementary to my teaching approach. I consider myself a movement practitioner. My goal is to provide education. Professional experience has taught me to be efficient in choosing which exercise system will educate the client most effectively and attain the client’s goals.
Q: You run both Pilates and Gyrotonic teacher training programs - how does that work? Are they completely separate programs?
Bryan: Yes, our two training programs are separate, but Aline conducts them both. Unlike Pilates, the Gyrotonic educational process is set forth by Gyrotonic headquarters and is strictly regulated. They have learned from the Pilates trademark issues, and they go to great lengths to protect the integrity of the Gyrotonic trademark and quality of the educational process. The curriculum and training track are dictated by Gyrotonic headquarters. There are roughly 60 Master Trainers worldwide, and these are the only people authorized to conduct Gyrotonic trainings.
Aline, as our educational director, offers unique insights and a unique approach to all our training programs because of her background as a Feldenkrais practitioner and a Master Trainer in both Gyrotonic and Pilates. Our philosophy is that the more tools you have in your toolbox, the greater the opportunity is for you to effectively help people meet their goals. Some people respond more quickly to a given system or some people hit a plateau in one system, and by using another methodology, they are able to overcome that plateau.
Q: Do many people complete both programs?
Bryan: Yes. Because we offer both trainings at our studio, often people complete both training programs. When a trainer or potential trainee is able to see how well the two systems work together, they quite often see the benefit in pursuing certification in both methodologies. With that said, this requires some pacing and budgeting of both time and money.
Q: Are all or most of your instructors certified in both Pilates and Gyrotonic?
Bryan: Most but not all.
Q: How does it work in the studio? For example, what proportion of people come in looking for Gyrotonic versus Pilates?
Bryan: We are very fortunate in that we have a roughly equal number of people come in to the studio looking for Pilates or Gyrotonic. This was certainly not the case several years ago. (Many more people came initially for Pilates then decided they wanted to try Gyrotonic). There are three reasons we have seen more people come in asking specifically for Gyrotonic:
1. Gyrotonic is becoming more mainstream and its brand is more established in the general public.
2. We also get a lot of referrals from myofascial specialists/Rolfers, chiropractors and other specialists specifically for Gyrotonic. Because of the diagonal/spiraling nature of the fascial planes (think Tom Meyers Anatomy Trains), the circular/spiraling movements of Gyrotonic are very effective at impacting and releasing the soft tissue.
3. Many clients living here in Albuquerque have family members who do Gyrotonic in another city and refer them to our studio so they can try it. I just got a call yesterday from a woman whose daughter does Gyrotonic in London, and she found our Website for her mother here in Albuquerque.
Q: Do you often mix both into a session?
Bryan: We prefer not to mix the two methods. Like Pilates, the design of the Gyrotonic approach is to have a full-body experience within an approximately 60-minute session. We feel like it dilutes that intent to mix them within the same hour.
Q: Can you give me an example of a type of client you think responds better (physically or mentally) to Gyrotonic than Pilates or vice versa?
Aline: [To put it another way], the strengths found in Pilates include: initial abdominal awareness, for a non-mover the frames of the equipment provide logical guides for the client (i.e. right/left, up/down), for spinal instability the beds are supportive and provide clear body awareness.
Strengths found in Gyrotonic include: muscle balancing for unilateral sports, [it is] helpful in reducing inflammation, and increases range of motion in multiple joints on a systemic level. I have found that certain clients simply “prefer” the exercises and design of the equipment in Pilates or Gyrotonic. Some people like the feeling of the spring resistance in Pilates. Other clients prefer the water-like resistance of Gyrotonic. Also, the framework of Pilates appeals to certain people, while others desire the circles and spirals of Gyrotonic.
Q: What is the goal (or some of the goals) of Gyrotonic work from a practitioner’s perspective? What kinds of changes do clients experience within their bodies with regular practice?
Bryan: We work with everyone from elite athletes to people with severe injuries. With athletes, we can do sports-specific training and injury prevention. There are “therapeutic protocols” for scoliosis, the shoulder girdle and the pelvis. We work with young dancers and athletes as young as 10 years old and we have 70- and 80-year-olds as well.
So, the “goal” depends on the individual’s goal. It may be rehabilitation/therapeutic. It may be sport-specific or it may be general fitness. Many people enjoy strength training without impact or strain in the joints.
Clients experience feeling looser, taller, less tension in the neck, shoulder and low back. They quite often experience very quick relief of low back pain and an increase mobility of the spine. Increased range of motion, increased balance, stress reduction. An overall openness and invigoration of the entire body.
Q: Why should the Pilates community be interested in Gyrotonic?
Bryan: One thing that is really exciting about Gyrotonic is that the founder Juliu Horvath is still alive. Aline and I have had the privilege of working directly with Juliu for many years now, and that has been an extremely valuable experience that we both cherish. The Gyrotonic community is very much like a family. Gyrotonic is continuing to evolve as Juliu invents/creates new apparatus, new exercises, etc.
Aline: I always tell my trainees, “Pilates is here to stay because it works.” The same is true for Gyrotonic. If a trainer or studio owner wants to offer the best approaches that our industry has to offer, then Gyrotonic without a doubt would have to be included on that list.
GETTING CERTIFIED IN GYROTONIC
Structure: A 6-day pre-training must be taken. Within 90 days of taking the pre-training, one must take the 12-day “Foundation Teacher Training Course.” This is followed by an apprenticeship, which includes practice teaching and another 6 days spent with a Master Trainer. This prepares you for the Final Certification. At this time, the Final Certification courses are only conducted in South Beach/Miami, Fla., or southern Germany.
Note from Bryan: Gyrokinesis is the equivalent of Pilates Mat. It is the stool/floor work, and is a completely separate training program (pretraining, foundation course, apprenticeship and certification). Also, there are trainings available in specialized equipment once one is Gyrotonic certified.
Cost: Varies, but it is advisable to budget around $3,000 for the certification start to finish. This includes the fact that each studio can add a studio fee, and most people will have to fly to Florida or Germany to finish the certification.
For more information: www.gyrotonic.com
Nicole Rogers is a Pilates instructor and writer. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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