The Odd Sway of Gyrotonic

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My spine is a sail, arched out and full with wind. I stretch and strain, chin up, head held high. My muscles loosen. Vertebrae crack. I am a jellyfish in the sea.

Thus starts my story in today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune, where I look into Gyrokinesis and Gyrotonic, two obscure yoga-influenced workout techniques developed by a Hungarian dancer in the 1980s.

Often compared to Pilates, the Gyrotonic methodology employs specialized and strange-looking exercise equipment to guide and position participants through a series of circular and spinning moves.

Gyrokinesis, a yogalike practice of fluid, choreographed moves, is the machine-free root discipline from which Gyrotonic evolved. Combined, the stretching, straining, spine-spiraling workouts can stimulate a full-body rousing akin to wringing out a towel.

“There is something primal about the movements,” said Susan Gaines, an apprentice instructor at Awaken Pilates in Minneapolis. “You activate parts of the body not normally used.”

Last week, I stepped outside of my fitness box to take two private Gyrotonic sessions at Awaken Pilates. Both hourlong lessons followed a similar structure, starting with the sit-down stretching of Gyrokinesis in front of a mirror.

Gaines, 45, is also a weight lifter and third-degree black belt in tae kwon do. She emphasized a follow-the-leader visualization approach, offering analogies, but saying little about technique as we reached high and stretched.

“I want you to imagine a light on your chest,” she said, arching her back, arms limp. “Push your sternum toward the ceiling.”

My back muscles slowly loosened as my bones clicked and shuffled along my spine. Gaines guided me through spiraling stanzas. My core tightened and released.

I am a jellyfish, I thought, shutting my eyes. I am seaweed. My spine is a sail.

Go here to see the full, strange story: https://www.startribune.com/1244/story/1547865.html



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