A couple of decades ago, something fell to the floor in a professional colleague’s office, and when I reached down to retrieve it, she said, “Well, at least one of us can still pick up something from the floor.” It’s true that as we age, we almost inevitably lose range of motion, just as we lose muscle mass. Similarly, there is a lot we can do to prevent that loss. It’s just that an awful lot of us don’t do it.
Flexibility is the most underserved and even ignored aspect of fitness. We train for strength, for cardiovascular conditioning, for a specific sport or outdoor activity. But not many of us invest time and effort in protecting and enhancing range of motion.
There are exercise modalities besides yoga that are especially good for range of motion but not a lot of them. Pilates immediately comes to mind. Another less well-known option is a system invented in the 1970s by Juliu Horvath, a Romanian dancer. Originally mat work known as Gyrokinesis®, there is now a version that includes various apparatus in which form it is called the Gyrotonic® Expansion System. It was brought to my attention by Lynn Hocker, well-known in the Sarasota area as a dancer and dance instructor.
In my view, Gyrotonic is a fusion of bodywork and exercise. It is good for strength and coordination as well as flexibility. It features circular, continuous movements, designed to work with the body’s natural energy flow and, like yoga, seeks to balance body, breath and sensation. Spiraling movement is a hallmark; the photos describe it better than words can, and there are videos on the website (www.Gyrotonic.com).
The method is beloved of dancers and celebrities but has yet to gain a lot of traction in the fitness world. That’s too bad, because this work can have big benefits for regular folks, healthy or in a post-rehab phase. A question I always ask myself about any kind of exercise is, “For whom is this appropriate?” My answer for Gyrotonic turned out to be “anyone who is getting older.” Big market!
You can experience Gyrotonic where Hocker discovered it, at the Pilates Body studio on Tuttle Avenue near Bahia Vista Street. Or you can study with Hocker in her Burns Court studio. Her decades of teaching dance are a real asset. The Gyrotonic moves are simple but the more precisely you do them, the more you will benefit. And Hocker has long experience cuing people how to move their bodies.
Hocker fell in love with Gyrotonic the first time she tried it and that is typical of her students. Either it feels good, you like it and you continue, or you don’t. That’s a good thing. One session is all it takes to determine if this is something you want to pursue, and one session a week is enough to derive the benefits of the practice.
In many ways, Hocker is her own best advertisement. Yes, she is a dancer, but she has had her share of joint issues and remains lithe, limber and still dancing well into her 50s. Gyrotonic, it would appear, is a case where going around in circles is a good thing to do.
Molly Schechter is an ACE-certified personal trainer with a specialty in older adult fitness plus YogaFit Instructor Training, SCF Yoga Fundamentals and Power Pilates™ Mat Certifications. She teaches classes at the Bayfront Park Recreation Center and the Longboat Key Club. E-mail her at mschechter@YourObserver.com.
IF YOU GO
Innerwave Bodywork & Movement
630 S. Orange Ave., Suite 301, Sarasota
The Pilates Body & Gyrotonic Studio
1071 S. Tuttle Ave., Sarasota