In the realm of famous individuals’ physical fitness, Instagram posts from top-tier celebrities lifting heavy weights and powering through intense high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts seem to be the standard. However, if you’re interested in a less rigorous and lower-impact form of exercise that still induces sweat, Tracee Ellis Ross has got you covered.
In just eight days, Ellis Ross has taken to Instagram not once, not twice, but three times to share snippets of her Gyrotonic workout sessions.
In her most recent video, which she posted on her Instagram stories on Thursday, the star of Black-ish can be seen sitting on a workout bench, performing what seems to be a variation of a Pilates teaser using a cable machine. In the other two videos, the 49-year-old actress tackles a series of movements utilizing pulleys and handlebars.
As if her recent abundance of Gyrotonic-related posts on Instagram wasn’t enough evidence that she’s essentially the reigning Queen of Gyrotonic, it is worth noting that Ellis Ross has been shedding light on this workout method for years. In fact, she even posted a photo of herself in the midst of the routine on Facebook back in October 2012.
So, what is it about Gyrotonic that has piqued Ellis Ross’s interest? And what exactly is the Gyrotonic Method? Continue reading for the answers to these questions, as well as additional details about its advantages and how to incorporate Gyrotonic exercises into your own workout routine.
Exactly What Is the Gyrotonic Method?
Everything began when professional ballet dancer Juliu Horvath suffered a career-ending injury that prompted him to begin practicing yoga. Inspired by yoga’s gentle, contemplative movements and utilization of breath, Horvath created a movement system that eventually evolved into what is now known as the Gyrotonic Method, as stated on the self-titled website. Additionally, there is also Gyrokinesis, which encompasses similar movements as those incorporated in Gyrotonic routines but requires minimal equipment.
“Gyrotonic exercises concentrate on a smooth, continuous motion that is not forceful. While you do build muscle because you’re moving against resistance on the Gyrotonic equipment, the primary focus is on enhancing your body’s range of motion,” explains Lily Marie Jahn, a certified Gyrotonic instructor and movement specialist at Erika Bloom, a Pilates studio with branches in New York City, Los Angeles, and other locations.
Much like yoga, dance, and tai chi, the Gyrotonic Method connects your breath to movement, assisting you in establishing a stronger connection between the internal and external aspects of your body. The primary equipment utilized in Gyrotonic is the pulley tower, which consists of knobs, pulleys, and weights that are adjusted to cater to your individual fitness objectives. Conversely, Gyrokinesis entails using your own body weight as resistance and performing the exercises on a chair or mat.
And although it may resemble Pilates, Gyrotonic exercises involve different apparatus and movement patterns. The Ellis Ross-approved workout incorporates distinctive circular, spiraling, and undulating motion patterns, while Pilates follows a more linear approach, as explained by Jessica Chen, a certified Gyrotonic and Gyrokinesis instructor based in New York City. “The design of the [Gyrotonic] equipment and overall method supports a comprehensive and natural range of motion, facilitating more balanced, multidimensional, and functional movement,” remarks Chen.
By utilizing the pulley tower, Gyrotonic essentially teaches you how to move correctly and mindfully with your body through your spinal column and breath, according to Teresina Goheen, a certified Gyrotonic instructor based in San Francisco. Unlike other exercise forms, it prioritizes the spine as the foundation of strength. The concept is that if your spine is healthy and mobile, the rest of your body will follow suit, adds Goheen.
“It’s practical in that the spine propels the workout, creating a sense of liberation within the body so that as one ages, their lifestyle and range of motion remain intact,” emphasizes Ann Fonte, an Equinox certified Gyrotonic instructor. Throughout a session, you’ll likely focus on three different planes of spinal motion: frontal (forward and backward), sagittal (left and right), and transverse (rotation), leading to overall improved movement.
Gyrotonic exercise also enhances mobility by expanding the range of motion in your joints, including your ankles, hips, and shoulders, while simultaneously strengthening them. During a Gyrotonic session, a trained instructor will evaluate the mobility of your joints and guide you through exercises that enable you to access it.
Advantages of the Gyrotonic Technique
“This is the concept of tensegrity — fortifying and enhancing the flexibility of your joints,” says Goheen. “Developing strength doesn’t just imply making your muscles stronger. It also involves building strength in your joints because if your joints are incapable of moving through their complete range of motion, you will be unable to strengthen the muscle that supports those joints.”
Because it’s gentle on the body, practically anyone can benefit from performing the exercises. “Gyrotonic exercises are immensely applicable for elite athletes who are seeking a more nuanced awareness of the body, while also being incredibly useful for elderly individuals who are dealing with balance issues and are rediscovering their body’s natural movement,” says Lily Marie Jahn, a certified instructor and movement specialist at Erika Bloom, a Pilates studio with locations in New York City, Los Angeles, and more.
Consider, for instance, professional tennis player (and Goheen’s former client) Andy Murray, who turned to the Gyrotonic Technique to refine the movement patterns he utilizes during his matches. “You have to move your spine in all three planes of motion, so it’s very accessible for playing sports and helps improve your performance,” says Goheen.
Gyrotonic also instructs you on how to activate your toes and feet and establish movement patterns that you can eventually apply to your daily activities. Suppose you need to retrieve something from the ground, so you lower yourself into a squat to pick up whatever is down there. However, if you don’t actively press your feet into the ground, you run the risk of losing your equilibrium and potentially injuring yourself. And although you likely already do this unconsciously, Gyrotonic helps you develop a better understanding of how to effectively engage your toes and feet, allowing you to maintain a stable foundation of support for your joints and your spine, according to Goheen. Doing this also aids in establishing the strength necessary to build upward from the ground for your chosen sport.
How to Begin with Gyrotonic
If you’re interested in incorporating the Gyrotonic Technique into your workout routine, Chen suggests working individually with a certified instructor, especially if you have specific movement limitations. You can discover a certified trainer by exploring a studio or finding a certified trainer near you on the Gyrotonic Technique website; the website also allows you to search for a virtual class by filtering for class type, class level, time zone, language, and trainer qualifications.
However, it should be noted that individual Gyrotonic sessions can be expensive. Therefore, participating in group Gyrotonic or Gyrokinesis classes can help you enjoy the advantages of the workouts without straining your finances.
Remember: Gyrokinesis doesn’t involve the same kind of equipment that is part of the Gyrotonic Method. So, if you’re just beginning and feel a little intimidated by all the pulleys and handlebars (no judgment!), consider trying Gyrokinesis first to learn the essence of the spinal movements, says Goheen.
Beginner sessions of both methods typically go through the four motions of the spine: arch and curl, spirals, side arch, and the wave, says Fonte. That’s because “No matter which piece of equipment or Gyrotonic exercise you are doing, it always relies on those four motions of the spine.” When performing the arch and curl exercises in a Gyrotonic workout, you will use the handlebars on the pulley unit, explains Chen. To work your lower body, you will have your feet in straps and do a combination of exercises, such as bicycles, scissors, and leg circles.
“In my experience, to truly reap the benefits, it is important to have consistency in your practice. Doing it two to three times a week would be great, but I understand that may not be feasible for many people. The longer I work with a client, the deeper we can delve because I gain more knowledge about their bodies and movement patterns,” says Chen.
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