Relatively new to “the scene”, Gyrokinesis is quickly gaining popularity not only among dancers, but among athletes, people in need of rehabilitation from injuries, and the general population as well. Developed by Juliu Horvath, Gyrokinesis is based on a philosophy that the body has its own natural path of energy, and through direction, we can use our breath to open the pathways. This therapeutic practice focuses on rhythmic, fluid movements vs. rigorous stretching to encourage the muscles to release tension in their own time. Through three-dimensional movements encouraging spirals and circles, the exercises are designed to loosen the joints, create flexibility in the muscle fibers, and increase core strength.
Juliu Horvath was born and raised in Romania. While growing up he participated heavily in sports including rowing, swimming, and gymnastics. At the age of 19, he became interested in classical ballet, and by his 20th birthday he was performing principle rolls with the Romanian State Opera. In the early 1970’s, Horvath found himself in New York City. After doing everything in his power to survive, as well as still trying to dance and audition, he was finally noticed by someone in the New York City Opera and was hired right away. In 1977, while dancing for Houston Ballet, Horvath ruptured his Achilles tendon and damaged a spinal disc. These injuries brought his dancing career to an immediate halt.
After his injury, Juliu Horvath moved to the Virgin Islands and built himself a secluded home in the mountains, where he immersed himselfin an intense study of yoga. During this time, Horvath’s research led him to a deeper understanding of the inner workings of the body, and he designed a practice called “Yoga for Dancers”. This more advanced level of yoga that incorporates core-strengthening ideas from Pilates, flexibility, grace from dance, fluidity from swimming, and energy from Tai Chi is what has developed into Gyrokinesis.
In the early 1980’s, Horvath returned to New York City and began teaching “Yoga for Dancers” at “Steps on Broadway”. After he developed a considerable following, he opened “White Cloud Studio” in 1982. In just 30 years, studios offering Gyrokinesis or Gyrotonics have increased from 1 to over 2,000 in locations all over the world.
Gyrotonics is Gyrokinesis but performed on the Gyrotonic Expansion System or the Pulley Tower Equipment. The name evolved from the Greek terms “gyro“ meaning circling and “tonic“ meaning stretch. "I found two ball bearing plates from old swivel chairs in trash on the street, brought them back to my studio and immediately saw six exercises so clearly-and that was how the Gyrotonic Expansion System was born," he is quoted explaining the conception of the machine (“Head in the Clouds” by Andrea Shapiro). Goals of the machine are to intensify the Gyrokinesis exercises (which are done on the floor or a chair), to produce smooth and fluid movements, build strength, flexibility, coordination, and to elongate the spine. Also, due to the synchronization of the exercises with corresponding breath patterns, it enhances aerobic and cardiovascular stimulation throughout the body, improving neuro-muscular rejuvenation. It was also important to Horvath that the positions flow in and out of each other to eliminate a beginning and ending. To achieve these goals, the Pulley Tower System is made up of a bench with handle units for hands and feet, wheels, and a tower with pulley cables vs. spring based equipment. Other specialized parts of the machine include the jumping stretch board, the gyro toner, the ladder, and the leg extension unit. Any additional weight used is for assistance rather then weight training to encourage development of a more fluid and weightless experience- similar to being in water. It has also been described as “doing a modern dance class sitting down”. The machine is intended for everyone an is adjustable to ensure its usable for all body types. It is used by children and elderly people and is found in dance, Pilates, and yoga studios along with rehabilitation centers, and sports training facilities.
During the course of my research, I read two studies that I found particularly interesting in regards to Gyrotonics and health improvement. The first study was titled “Gyrotonic Expansion System Improves Core Stability and Pain Scores in Persons with Lower Back Pain”. The study was performed by Sandra L. Portal-Andreu MS, Monique Mokha PhD ATC, and Ann Gibson PhD, from the Department of Sport and Exercise Sciences at Barry University in Miami Shores, Florida. The main goal of the study was to track the effect of Gyrotonic training on core stability and pain levels in persons with low back pain. Six qualified individuals participated in an eight week Gyrotonic program and were compared to a control group of persons who also experienced low back pain. After the study, test results showed that the six individuals who participated in the Gyrotonic program showed ‘significant improvements in core stability’, and were experiencing less lower back pain. The conclusion of the study was that Gyrotonic training is a viable method in improving lower back pain and increasing core strength.
The second study was “A Clinical Study for Gyrotonic Expansion Program for the Treatment of Scoliosis”. It was performed by Sook Hyang Yoon from Myong Ji University in Korea. The study begins by explaining that scoliosis is an abnormality of the spine, a lateral curve and twist of the spine, making movement difficult and possibly life threatening due to the pressing down of organs and the heart. In Korea, equal emphasis is placed on early detection of scoliosis as the treatment of it. Yoon worked with five females ranging from the ages of 12-29 who were all diagnosed with scoliosis. At the beginning of the study, X-ray’s were taken as well as measurements of the curves in the spine caused by the scoliosis. The first, or primary curve is considered vertebrae T6-T12 and the secondary curve is T12-L4. For six months the five females had a specific 60-minute workout with the Gyrotonic Expansion System, and they could choose how often they executed the workout. At the end of the six months, another X-ray was taken with measurements of the primary and secondary curves, as well as how many times each participant did the workout. Results of the study showed that the Gyrotonic Expansion System was effective in the improvement of the five females scoliosis, however the researcher feels that it is necessary more studies are done in the future to track the long-term effects of continuous use of the Gyronotics Expansion System.
By Shelby Terrell
Photos from: www.trainingstudiomadrid.com