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GYROKINESIS® Exercise

Movement for a new millennium.

By Rosalind Gray Davis on Aug 31, 2007

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.”

Resources

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, www.gyrotonic.com, [email protected]
.com.

•Cori Doetzer, The Root Awakening, 207 Meadowridge Acres Rd., Milford, Pennsylvania 18337, (570) 828-9804, www.rootawaken.com.

•Lisa Marie Goodwin, White Crane
Movement Arts, 4143 Glencoe Ave.,
Marina del Rey California 90292,
(310) 821-7200, www.white-crane.net.

•Billy Macagnone, Body Evolution
Studio, 221 2nd Ave. New York City, New York 10003, (212) 228-4202, www.bodyevolutions.com.

•Magali Messac, Gyrotonic Seattle,
7409 Greenwood Ave. N., Ste. C, Seattle, Washington 98103, (206) 784-7895, www.gyrotonicseattle.com.

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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