Fitness From The Field: Gyrotonics
The Rural Intelligence region offers a plethora of fitness and healing modalities, but it can be hard to know which is the one that fits your needs, your body type and your schedule. Enter Paula Boyajian, a yoga instructor certified in Interdisciplinary Yoga and Yoga for the Special Child, who has taken on the role of RI’s fitness contributor to sleuth out the details of the many health and wellness options in our area.
Did you send your taxes? Why won’t ma tell me when she’s sick? Will the wallpaper my puppy ate make him ill? This was my state of mind as I drove to a Gyrotonics session. Little did I know that Gyrotonics would replace my jumbled thoughts with those of butterflies and taffy and a feeling of strength and poise. But the West Stockbridge studio name — Bella Grazie — should have given it away.
What Is It?
The Gyrokinesis Method was developed by professional dancer Juliu Horvath who had to stop dancing due to severe injuries, but never stopped seeking relief from his pain. Drawing upon principles of dance, swimming, yoga, tai chi and gymnastics, he developed continuous, flowing movements and paired them with specific breathing patterns. He also designed equipment to provide support and resistance while allowing for those continual movements.
Although the use of specialized equipment may be bring to mind Pilates, the intention is quite different. In Gyrotonics, there’s no specific amount of repetitions; instead, every movement and every class is controlled by the mover’s needs and comfort level. This is why Gytronics is taught one-on-one.
I began my session seated, with Instructor Donna Rainone helping me discover a neutral pelvis — the “seed center” in Gyrotonics. This term applies not just to a tangible place but to a helpful and delightful image. When a seed is planted, opposing energy is generated — roots stabilize and buds blooms upward. If we can exemplify this idea, we will be stable while moving unencumbered.
The seated movements Donna and I performed worked the upper and lower body and can be practiced at home. When we got to the pulley tower, movements became more specific but felt grander. As Donna says, “There’s a lot of drama in Gyrotonics.” But at its core, it’s about developing functional fitness throughout the entire body in a harmonious way. Donna likens it to a calligraphy artist “perfecting one circle with harmonious movements.”
Because Gyrotonics is highly individualized, goals vary, but benefits remain the same: decompressed joints, increased circulation, cardiovascular stimulation, lymphatic cleansing, spinal mobilization, greater balance and improved coordination. Weights on the tower develop tone, but Donna clarifies that this is unlike other weight machines. “Instead of thinking, ‘how much can I lift?’ think about the amount you need to move with ease.” So, you may not be huffing and puffing as you finish a Gyrotonics session, but that’s actually one of the benefits — a feeling of grace and subtle, personal power.
It was developed from a need to relieve pain, so it makes sense that Gyrotonics is not only accessible, but valuable, to everyone and anyone. You may push the exercise envelope daily but want a new challenge, or maybe you have serious mobility issues — Donna’s is prepared for it all, saying, “It’s about how much you can move even while seated.” She takes your comfort and safety to heart. In fact, I only got on the tower after Donna demonstrated movements and adjusted it for my body. And watching her was a treat; she embodied control and grace — much like that small but powerful seed settling into the earth and blossoming beautifully.
Donna is a Certified Gyrotonics and Pilates Instructor and former director of movement therapy at Canyon Ranch. As I walked along the stone path to the studio, the door opened and there she stood, smiling. She showed me around the lovely studio, discussed Gyrotonics, my health and my hip replacements. During the session, she modified patterns keeping in mind hip precautions that I forgot about. She also offered hands-on assistance that released pressure from my herniated disc and guided my arms so they felt like butterfly wings — or as Donna says, “Like taffy being pulled on a machine.”
The studio is situated behind a private home and in front of a lake. Eye-catching tapestries, Indian statues and fresh flowers are gracious touches among the immaculate Gyrotonics and Pilates equipment.
Private sessions are $70.
6 Albany Road, West Stockbridge, MA
A second Pilates-focused studio is set to open on Christian Hill Road, Great Barrington in May.
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