Grace Under Pressure
excerpt from Newsweek- Wendy Marston
The machine may remind you of a medieval rack, but practitioners of GYROTONIC® say there’s no better exercise for learning to move with elegance and agility.
I suffer from dancer envy. No matter how serene my yoga poses are, or how sculpted my muscles, dancers shame me. It seems like there’s onein every exercise class. Planted smack in front, she moves her limbs with the grace of a broad-winged bird gliding to its destination. Even offstage, this woman’s body is her instrument. Mine is my jalopy.
But help is on the way; an innovative kind of mechanized training known as Gyrotonic. Performed on a contraption called a pulley tower, it is a series of exercises that combine elements not only from dance but also gymnastics, yoga, swimming and tai chi. Practitioners hope that Gyrotonic takes a place next to yoga and Pilates as an exercise method of choice. I knew immediately what I wanted: that tower was my ticket to looking like a dancer.
But first I had some fear to overcome. The metal pulley tower stands about seven feet tall and rests on carved wooden feet. Leather straps for hands and feet dangle from various parts of the machine, amid weights, pulleys and wires. The device seems better suited to torturing heretics than fitness training. Even so, the tower is user-friendly; its parts move smoothly and quickly. Its operating principle is simple: by making your arms, legs and other body parts move in controlled, smooth arcs, it expands your range of motion and increases strength and flexibility without injury. And if you are lucky, Gyrotonic founder Juliu Horvath says, “You will go beyond narcissistic repetition and find the unexplored parts of the body.”
For us beginners, the circular nature of gyrotonics is mighty confusing. A Pilates machine, to which gyrotonics is often compared, is based on a linear principle. The Pilates Reformer (when will they invent a machine called The Welcome?) demands that you push and then pull, move up or move back, lift or lower. If only gyrotonics were that easy. I sit, facing away from the tower, and place each hand on top of handles. My task is to reach out first with my left hand-still on the handle, which rotates under my palm-push outward and then pull back toward mysel, and then do the othe rhand. I have watched my teacher, a soft-spoken German man named Jurgen Bamberger, do this iwth no trouble. Bamberger hovers behind me and gently intones instrucitons. “Reach,”he says, “twist more-no, the other way-turn, good.” Then he pokes me in my lower back, gently pulls my hips back down to the seat and extends my upper back by nudging it into a flatter position. “Bring your chin down,” he says. “Now try the other arm.” Finally I complete a rudimentary exercise ad amexhausted. I want to go home.