What The Heck Is Gyrotonic®? And How Can It Help Your Yoga Practice?

If you’ve ever taken class with Gina, you know that her transitions and energetic cues are as artful as they are sensible. Below is a piece she wrote on the influence Gyrotonic has had on her yoga practice and teaching.

Circles. Spirals. Undulations. Wow!

The first time I was introduced to Gyrotonic was back in my professional dance days. In my youth, dance was an artistic pursuit that required a disciplined practice of taking class, rehearsing and performing. Like in all practices, the journey of refining and embodying my craft required perseverance and intense study. Often times it was grueling, showing up day after day, but it was a labor of love to train my body towards both precision and freedom.

When we devote ourselves to a discipline of any kind, whether it’s our vocation, a hobby, or our yoga practice, we enter into the intricate domain of our own individual learning process. In this process, we often find ourselves vacillating between the expansiveness of our potential and the reality of our current abilities. We must remain diligent, and endure coming face to face with limitations in order to discover new ways of approaching things. Thankfully, with a sense of openness, we can encounter unexpected breakthroughs from sources we might not have anticipated. For me, Gyrotonic was just the new approach I had been searching for. It took me out of the context of dance, and gave me a new avenue to understanding the biomechanics of the body. I began to discover an internal power and strength that originated more organically, rather than from a superficial muscular effort. This was a freedom like no other I had experienced, and seemingly with greater ease. How cool is that?!

 Gyrotonic is a holistic movement system that supports the opening of energy pathways by stimulating the nervous system, increasing range of motion, and improving strength and movement efficiency. It was inspired by the universal principles of yoga and was initially called “Yoga for Dancers.” Like yoga, Gyrotonic follows the idea that the human body is designed to work as one harmonious system. It helps facilitate awareness of the mind/body connection and how movement is directly inspired through breath.

How can the principles of Gyrotonic help your yoga practice?  One of the things I find important in my own practice is moving strategically through space from point A to point B. Can I carefully exit a pose just as mindfully as when I enter a pose? Can I find a way to move intelligently, taking care that my joint spaces are open as I move through different shapes? This is important no matter what style of yoga you practice, but even more so if you enjoy flow classes (or, if you enjoy being able to get in and out of your car for that matter!). Some of the most common challenges I observe in a yoga class are in the transitions between poses. Often times this is where injury can occur. We often don’t have a clear understanding of the pathway that leads to the full expression of the pose, even if it’s a modified version of the shape. We tend to be so focused on the outcome that we forget to investigate all the places in between. Gyrotonic supports how to safely move through a complete range of motion from beginning to end, and clearly helps guide the body through sensory feedback. This helps to re-educate the mind and body on a neuromuscular level through fluid and continual movement.

In addition to inspiring me as a yoga student, there are many ways Gyrotonic has inspired me as a yoga teacher. One of the foundational elements of Gyrotonic I encourage students to explore is the energetic principle of the spiral. By working with circular movement qualities in different poses, we begin to promote more balanced length in the spine and other joint spaces. For instance, imagine the winding shape of a spiral in revolved side angle pose. Students often times over compensate by tightening their leg muscles to support the twist of the spine. The result can be a disconnect between the lower body to the torso, and an imbalance in how much the spine is twisting in relationship to the shoulders. This can cause the twist to be exaggerated in one area of the spine, and over time can compromise the spinal discs. A spiral, however, has equal forces moving continually in opposite directions without end. If we apply this energy from the heel of the back leg through the spine and beyond the crown of the head, we can experience more balanced length through the entire pose. We also begin embodying the pose energetically rather than through muscular effort.  

It is said by many a wise teacher that movement is the manifestation of life. Can we move with fluidity, ease, and precision? In essence, it is in how we move, that we care for that life and find freedom. I love seeing the connections between different modalities. Whether it’s yoga’s downward facing dog or an arch/curl in Gyrotonic, each has a unique path toward a common discovery. How each informs the other is what inspires me both as a student and teacher. Come join me in circles and spirals and get a taste of Gyrotonic in your yoga! You just might encounter an unexpected breakthrough.

Gina’s class schedule:

Tuesdays: 12pm-1:30pm All Levels Hatha Flow @ 855 N Failing St

Thursdays: 12pm-1:30pm All Levels Hatha Flow @ 855 N Failing St

Saturday 10:30am- 11:45pm Vinyasa Flow @855 N Failing St

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