We Tried a Gyrotonic Class at Dynamic Body

Writer Lillian Stone took her hunched shoulders to Dynamic Body in search of some spinal TLC via the Gyrotonic Method.

DISCLAIMER: The information in this article was fact checked and accurate at press time, but 417 Magazine cannot guarantee its accuracy indefinitely.

Instructor Sarah Simpson shows Lillian Stone how to stretch her spine on the Gyrotonic Pulley Tower.

I’m a huncher. As a member of the working population, I spend most of my existence hunched at a desk. I tend to lean slightly to the left, which leaves me with searing shoulder pain at the end of a full workday. When I heard about the Gyrotonic Method, a wellness and healing phenomenon popular with celebrities and athletes, I was intrigued. Could this fix my shoulder woes? I headed to Dynamic Body to find out.

The Gyrotonic Method was developed by Romanian dancer Juliu Horvath in the 1970s. Horvath began practicing yoga when his career was cut short by debilitating injuries. He spent six years on the island of St. Thomas studying yoga and meditation and fine-tuning what he called “yoga for dancers,” which became the Gyrokinesis Method. He then developed the Gyrotonic method, which combines Gyrokinesis principles with specialized equipment.

Dynamic Body is the only studio in Springfield offering Gyrotonic classes. Because of the specialized nature of Gyrotonic classes, sessions are either private or in small groups. I scored a private session with instructor Sarah Simpson. Simpson is a Gyrotonic and Gyrokinesis trainer and certified teacher trainer. If anyone could answer my hunched prayers, she could.

According to Simpson, the best candidate for a Gyrotonic class is someone interested in “living to their highest potential.” That could be a professional athlete, someone in need of rehabilitation from injury—or a hunched soul like me. She walked me through Dynamic Body’s airy, sunny Gyrotonic studio before sitting me down to assess my physical woes. I relayed my shoulder pain, my creaky hips and my impossible hamstrings. She used that information to tailor my session. 
We used three pieces of equipment in the hour-long class: the Gyrotonic Pulley Tower, the Jumping-Stretching Board and the Gyrotonic Archway. It’s important to note that Gyrotonic equipment isn’t your standard workout equipment. It’s handmade in Germany and customizable based on a student’s needs.
We started on the tower. Simpson had me place both hands on two rotating levers at the end of the machine, manipulating my spine and my sit bones as I moved the levers in circles. It was almost like rowing sideways. Then, Simpson had me lie on my back as she clipped my feet into two stirrups attached to a cable system. She had me lift and lower my legs, swinging them in slow circles to increase my range of motion and stretch my hamstrings. After we finished the tower exercises, Simpson had me walk across the floor. After only 15 minutes on the machine, my gait was steadier and springier and my shoulders sat lower. The hunch was disappearing.
Simpson then walked me through a series of exercises on the Jumping-Stretching Board. The board looks like a treadmill with two tracks for sliding boards, gears and skates. Simpson showed me how students can place their feet on the skates for assisted lunges and leg stretches. She also had me kneel over the track, pushing the sliding boards and gears for a deep spinal stretch.

We ended our class on the Gyrotonic Archway. The archway has wooden rungs lining the sides, almost like reverse monkey bars. Simpson had me stand in the middle of the archway, raising my arms to grip one rung. She guided me through another spinal stretch, showing me how to bend my knees and roll my spine while holding the rung. I planted my feet and moved my hands down one side of the archway, moving to lower rungs to stretch different parts of my spine. It was the perfect way to decompress after an energizing session.

According to Simpson, the benefits of the method are myriad. Over time, students can enjoy improved circulation, increased functional strength and more. I didn’t work up a sweat during my session, but I did leave feeling strangely light, loose and ready to take on my afternoon. After one Gyrotonic class, I can safely say there’s hope for us hunchers.

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