by Rosalind Gray Davis on Sep 01, 2007

Inner IDEA

Movement for a new millennium.

Soft-spoken but with adynamic, powerful, almost lyrical undertone, Juliu Horvath, creator and founder of Gyrokinesis exercise and the Gyrotonic Expansion System®, begins instructing his Level 1 Gyrokinesis class: “Sit up straight; gather your energies, straight but soft, so that your spine is like a child’s, slightly wobbling, so the flesh of your body can relax on the top of your bones. Enter into your bone structure, close your eyes for a moment, and just feel that everywhere your bones are completely, completely resting, hanging practically, relaxing. Try to carry this relaxation throughout the whole system so all the movements, especially in the beginning, should be soft but concrete, firm a little bit, but still very soft. Now come out of it, and keep this mood while you begin to awaken your senses. . . .”

Gyrokinesis exercise is the 65-year-old Hungarian-born Horvath’s first love, which he created more than 25 years ago after injuring himself as a professional ballet dancer. It is a total-body conditioning and balancing system of movement that encourages the spine and joints to stay open and strong. The work stimulates the anatomy’s major organ systems and incorporates special breathing techniques, particular to each group of exercises within the methodology. Fluidity of motion while performing the moves is also a key premise.

The system’s unique movement signature is “three-dimensional, using gentle repetitive circling, spiraling and undulating exercises in a set rhythm,” says master trainer Magali Messac of Gyrotonic Seattle, a former principal ballerina for American Ballet Theatre. “Most importantly, an energetic polarity is encouraged by simultaneously reaching in opposite directions, creating both internal balance and support. Through the constant ebb-and-flow and push-and-pull movements, connective tissues are prompted to maintain their suppleness.”

In the past, Gyrokinesis has been described as embracing the basic principles of yoga, swimming, dance, tai chi and gymnastics, but Horvath says his system has evolved owing to many years of experimentation and intense study. As he puts it, “People will experience the same benefits from Gyrokinesis and Gyrotonic as they do from these other modalities, but my work is not derived from these other systems.”

Advocates of the method maintain that regular practice fosters increased mobility, assists the body’s regenerative capacity and opens energetic pathways, increasing blood flow and oxygenation. The result, they say, is a renewed sense of vitality and well-being.

“Your body is basically a repository for the physical and emotional trauma that you have been through in your life. It records this information internally, like a videotape; what Gyrokinesis does is erase that tape,” says Billy Macagnone, master trainer and owner of Body Evolution studio in New York City. “[With practice,] the body will regenerate and reorganize after pain and injury or from incorrect or [insufficient] movement. The benefit of the work, bottom line, is a new home for your body.”

Three Key Principles
The Gyrokinesis methodology incorporates many varied concepts, but three key principles are important to consider, according to the master trainers interviewed for this article.

1. Narrowing of the Pelvis. This principle, which applies in all positions (sitting, standing and lying down), facilitates the creation of space between the vertebrae. In a contrasting movement (i.e., a movement in which parts of the body simultaneously reach in opposite directions), the body’s energy spreads upward to elevate the spine while, at the same time, the legs and feet connect to the ground, spreading energy downward. Between these two contrasting motions, the pelvis must be properly positioned in order to provide spinal support, and narrowing accomplishes that. Physical therapist and master trainer Johannes Randolf of Linz, Austria, describes the technique this way: “A basis for all the work, it is a unique type of muscle engagement that incorporates among [other areas] the pelvic floor (without “just” squeezing), the transverse muscle and the oblique muscles. If one does [narrowing] correctly, the spine will automatically be lengthened and the disks supported. Many of my patients/clients move in a small range and build up the deep inner muscles that support the spine’s movements right at the joints. Through that training, the deep inner stability gets better very quickly.”

2. The Fifth Line. What Horvath calls the principle of the Fifth Line is not considered an anatomical reference, but rather a way to integrate the body's own internal energetic support into the exercise experience. "It can be compared to central currents of electricity that move through the spine, the arms and the legs. This energy can enter and exit freely, and clients are taught to reach from their center, through these energetic lines, while performing Gyrokinesis movements," explains Matt Aversa, vice president and chief operating officer of Gyrotonic and Gyrokinesis International Headquarters.

Master trainer Lisa Marie Goodwin of White Crane Movement Arts in Marina del Rey, California, links her description of the Fifth Line to Narrowing of the Pelvis: "The . . . Fifth Line through the legs represents the direction of forces of energy executed down and out from the Narrowing of the Pelvis. If you simply think of four lines on the leg being the anterior, posterior, medial and lateral, then the Fifth Line would be the center. One may like to think of it as the energy of the bone marrow extending out from the lower back through the heels. The Fifth Line is really not only a straight line of energy; it's more of a continual flow, whether it is in the form of an arch, a side bend or a forward bend. We want to be working through the Fifth Line of our spine, and limbs, at all times."

3. The Seed Center. Goodwin believes that the third principle, the Seed Center, is organically linked to Horvath's other two axioms and that all three are designed to work together. "The Seed Center, or yolk center, is that place of germination where the life force begins. It starts from the energy body and moves into the physical or anatomical body," she says. Aversa describes it as "the engine of the organism, where the body's energy is activated, where one's strength and vitality originate. In Gyrokinesis we begin moving from that place to awaken this vitality and release blocked or dormant energy." Working from the Seed Center, according to Goodwin, allows students to connect with the moves on a deeper level.

Class Content and Structure
Instruction is offered at all levels, beginner to advanced, with classes lasting approximately 90 minutes. During each session, the entire body is taken through seven types of spinal movement: bending forward, extending backward, side-arching left and right, twisting left and right, and moving in a circular pattern. Classes begin on low, padded stools, either 16 or 20 inches tall; continue on the floor; and finish with participants standing. Exercises follow a special sequence that naturally divides the class into three sections: preparation; "the main part" (as Horvath calls it); and ending.

Preparation. As you would expect, the purpose of this section is to open up and prepare the body. The exercise sequence presented is called "awakening of the senses" and is designed to create a passageway for energy to begin flowing within the body and to facilitate the release of toxins. Also called an "energy wash," the process uses self-massage of the eyes, ears, feet and organs to stimulate the body and prepare it for more vigorous movement.

The Main Part. This section includes five of the seven movement sequences. It begins with the "spinal-motion" series, during which participants arch, curl, twist, side-shift and undulate the spine while sitting on the Gyrokinesis stool. Each maneuver has its own unique, gentle breathing pattern. "Everything begins and ends with the movement of the spine. It is the conductor. The energy is found at the base and must rise up and down to stimulate the vertebrae," says Macagnone.

Then comes the "connecting" series, which is performed on the floor. Various exercises link the upper and lower anatomy through the body's Seed Center. The movements are more intense, and the breathing is more specific and rhythmic. The "hip and knee mobilization" series follows; also done on the floor, this sequence encourages rotation and articulation of the knee and hip joints.

The "back-strengthening" series is next. This family of rigorous arching movements, executed with the front of the pelvis on the floor, involves lifting the arms and legs off the floor in various combinations. "In this position you are strengthening the lower back and sacrum and achieving more length in the torso by reaching arms in front and legs behind," explains Macagnone.

The last series in the main part consists of the "abdominal" exercises, performed on the floor. These moves are described as "intense" because they marry a special squeezing breath with dynamic exercises such as leg pumps, alternating leg lifts and lateral as well as circular movements targeting the entire abdominal structure.

Ending. This final section, also called "unwinding," is "for the purpose of returning to an upright posture and, through oscillating movements, to subtly 'imprint' the experience [of the class] on an energetic basis," says Messac. Performed standing, the ending series is an inward journey of observation and meditation, designed to restore balance to the body. Participants twirl, shift from side to side, and walk in small figure-eight patterns. As the sequence progresses, people are asked, with eyes closed, to visualize making figure eights on the ceiling: "I suggest clients imagine that they are a pencil standing on their eraser. The pencil point is making figure eights on the ceiling. The entire body then begins to let go, to sway, responding to all the energy that has been moving through the spine for the past hour and a half," explains master trainer Cori Doetzer of Root Awakening in Mil- ford, Pennsylvania. Class ends with a few quiet moments of breathing and/or meditation.

An Exercise System for Everyone
Gyrokinesis can be adapted for a broad range of clients, from the super-athlete to the physically compromised or disabled person. "In a rehabilitation setting," says Messac, who has been working with the system since 1983, "the movements need to be kept simple, accessible, with [multiple gentle] repetitions just below the range at which the person experiences restriction, so as to gently encourage the injured area to open up and strengthen without causing aggravation. The goal is really the same for anyone, even a super-athlete. The person is challenged with more and more complex, vigorous and sophisticated movements, studying them in ever-increasing depth."

Randolf, who like Messac works with clients at every fitness level, believes that flexibility creates stability and that an athlete can gain stability, core strength and range of motion by practicing Gyrokinesis." Athletes will get new movement experiences, which will enrich their potential, because our bodies learn through variation. They will have more possibilities to choose from and be able to make small corrections within their movements in order to be more successful at their sport," he says.

After more than 25 years, Gyrokinesis continues to grow worldwide and evolve as a system largely because of Horvath's hands-on involvement at every level. Based on the methodology's strong foundation, he plans to develop additional specialized programs, such as Gyrokinesis for the mature population and for the therapeutic environment. "I am also looking forward to reintroducing Gyrotonic Level 3 for those students who have studied with me for many years. They will be the models for this highly advanced version of Gyrokinesis," he says.

Disciples of the work believe that, in this complex world, Gyrokinesis—as well as the Gyrotonic Expansion System—is (for some) and should be (for others) an important component of everyday life on many levels—physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Enthusiastic about the system's future, as are all of Horvath's master trainers, Macagnone summarizes his feelings: "The work is being used now by Olympic athletes, the ordinary citizen and the elderly, and I truly believe that you will soon see it being performed everywhere from hospitals and rehabilitation centers to gyms and athletic training facilities. What the computer has done for the evolution of technology, Gyrotonic and Gyrokinesis are doing for the evolution of the human body."

The following master trainers and Gyrotonic Expansion System officers can be consulted for further information regarding the Gyrokinesis certification/ training process or general questions about the methodology:

• Matt Aversa, vice president and chief operating officer, Gyrotonic International Headquarters,
134 Dingmans Ct., Dingmans Ferry, Pennsylvania 18328, (570) 828-0003,, info@gyrotonic .com.
•Cori Doetzer, The Root Awakening, 207 Meadowridge Acres Rd., Milford, Pennsylvania 18337, (570) 828-9804,
•Lisa Marie Goodwin, White Crane Movement Arts, 4143 Glencoe Ave., Marina del Rey California 90292, (310) 821-7200,
•Billy Macagnone, Body Evolution Studio, 221 2nd Ave. New York City, New York 10003, (212) 228-4202,
•Magali Messac, Gyrotonic Seattle, 7409 Greenwood Ave. N., Ste. C, Seattle, Washington 98103, (206) 784-7895,

Rosalind Gray Davis, an award-winning journalist, author and media consultant, is a student of the Gyrotonic Expansion System and a certified Pilates instructor. She has written for a number of major U.S. publications and taught college journalism.

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About the Author

Rosalind Gray Davis

Rosalind Gray Davis IDEA Author/Presenter

Rosalind Gray Davis is a dynamic and creative author and highly regarded health, fitness and wellness industry expert, having published numerous articles in well known national periodicals. She penned the critically acclaimed book Puccini & The Girl, along with musicologlist Annie J. Randall. It is the first book to explore Italian opera composer Giacomo Puccini’s most unique work, La Fanciulla del West (The Girl of the Golden West), to which World famous Musicologist Philip Gossett said, “the book will forever change how we think abut Puccini’s American opera.” The director of the Met Opera Archives says, “this brilliantly researched volume will help Fanciulla find its rightful place in the operatic repertory.” As a sought after Communications Consultant, Ms. Gray Davis has provided dynamic marketing, public relations consulting, and writing expertise for numerous high profile international, national, and local companies that include McDonald’s, IDEA Health & Fitness Association, DavisElen Advertising, Chiat/Day Advertising, McGraw-Hill School Systems, Shea/Campbell, Inc., and the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s volunteer department. In this role, she has been credited with developing “cause marketing” programs prior to their mainstream adoption by companies as part of their regular marketing strategies. She has served as President and Founding Partner of Gelman & Gray Communications, Incorporated, and Executive Vice President and Founder of Bob Thomas & Associates, Incorporated. Her early career history includes work as a Guest Lecturer at the University of Southern California, Senior News Writer and Producer at KCBS Television, Associate Professor of Upper Division Broadcast Journalism at California State University, and Assistant to the Managing Editor at Psychology Today Magazine. Ms. Gray Davis’ received her Bachelor of Arts in Contemporary American History and Journalism and worked toward a Master’s Degree in American History at the University of California at Los Angeles. She is a Certified Pilates Instructor, and has expanded her well-rounded knowledge of health and wellness through participation in numerous classes, seminars, and workshops in the fitness field. Her broad based expertise has resulted in her selection to several prestigious community and industry based leadership roles, including Contributing Editor of IDEA Pilates Today, IDEA Heath & Fitness Association, board member and selected author for the Carmel Author’s Table and Board of Directors for the Carmel Bach Festival.