Less pain, more gain: The healing power of Gyrotonic
Have you noticed strange wood and metal machines popping up in fitness studios near you? If not, you will. The exercise is called Gyrotonic, or Gyrokinesis if you practice on a mat or chair, and it is steadily gaining popularity with more than 1,400 studios worldwide.
What is it?
Gyrotonic and Gyrokinesis were created more than 25 years ago by Juliu Horvath, a professional ballet dancer who was searching for a way to heal himself from career-ending torn Achilles tendon and herniated disk. It is based on the principals of gymnastics, swimming, ballet and yoga.
Gyrotonic is a low-impact workout that strengthens and lengthens your muscles. You are also enhancing your flexibility and aligning your body in a calm, sometimes meditative state. It targets major muscle groups, increasing range of motion and developing coordination, while strengthening ligaments and all attachments. This makes Gyrotonic the ideal workout for everyone, regardless of age or athletic ability.
The machines at Gyrotonic studios—like Body Evolutions in Manhattan’s East Village—may look a little frightening at first with their various straps, pulleys and handles, but they’re friendlier to your body than the weight machines at the gym. In Gyrotonic practice, there are no weights to lift and the machines have just enough resistance that Billy Macagnone, founder and co-owner of Body Evolutions, describes as feeling like “going through liquid honey.” So you won’t find any heavy lifting, grunting or ear-thumping music in a Gyrotonic studio.
What do you do on these contraptions?
Unlike your typical workout, Gyrtonic moves the body three-dimensionally based on the seven types of spinal movement: bending forward, extending backward, arching to the left and right side, twisting left and right, and moving in a circular pattern.
Macagnone explained that your spine is the basis for everything. Once your spine is properly aligned, your appendages will follow. See his explanation of the physics behind Gyrotonic and a quick demo:
The circular, spiraling and undulating movements in Gyrtonic exercise helps realign your body and prevent injury from occurring. Each machine serves as a guide for you in order to perfect your form. And because there are so many exercises you can do on each machine, every class feels fresh and new.
“As you grow older, your body reflects that,” Macagnone explained. “We erase the tape and get your body back to square one.”
Renee Linnell, co-owner of Body Evolutions is an ex-professional dancer who discovered Gyrotonic while she was searching for ways to heal injuries sustained from dancing, surfing, snowboarding and martial arts.
“I’ve literally seen bodies change,” she said. “I took three classes and I was shocked.”
Macagnone has 27 years of intensive training in Martial Arts and currently holds the rank of Kyoshi (5th degree black belt). At age 50, he feels he’s at the top of his game and he attributes it to Gyrotonic. Macagnone also instructs at the World Seido Karate Organization and is a certified Sivananda Yoga instructor and an AFFA certified personal trainer.
“[Gyrotonic] is a unique way to draw from the well, no matter how old you are,” he said.
Slideshow: The Gyrotonic Machines
The Pulley Tower
For beginners of Gyrotonic the tower is the foundation. At Body Evolutions, this is the first machine you work on. The handle unit and pulley tower features even, constant resistance as you arch and curl your spine while your legs, arms or hands are strapped in.
The Leg Extension
More than 30 unique exercises can be performed on the leg tower. This machine allows you to strengthen your legs in a circular motion, not just back and forth. This prevents injury of the knee and even lengthens your legs!
The Jumping Stretching Board
This is the torso-lengthener. It combines elements of gymnastics parallel bars, pulley systems and has various sliding, rotating panels. It is known to increase pelvic mobility, among other benefits.
According to Gyrotonic.com, “Horvath developed the movements that one can perform on the Gyrotoner so that various muscle groups, tendons and ligaments in the spine, arms, hips, legs and ankles, among other body parts, could be strengthened and stretched simultaneously while the user consciously engages breathing patterns when executing the movements.” Photo via Maringyrotonic.com.
You get to go upside down on the archway! Due to its ladder shape, you can stretch, strengthen and lengthen certain muscle groups that would otherwise be prone to injury.
Billy Macagnone, co-owner of Body Evolutions, NYC
Billy Macagnone, founder and co-owner of Body Evolutions discusses the importance of Gyrotonic. See our video of Billy here.