December 3, 2012

The Gyrotonic method makes us all feel like dance professionals

Created by a professional dancer, and borrowing from swimming, gymnastics, Pilates and yoga, Gyrotonic delivers a full stretch while toning.

Gyrotonic sounds like the name of one of those colorful food trucks.

Rather, Gyrotonic is an increasingly popular form of rehabilitative exercise that borrows some modalities from Pilates, yoga and swimming. The movements are done on padded machines composed of pulleys, weight plates and movable knobs.

No, you don’t have to be in rehab to join the class. Gyrotonic emphasizes three-dimensional and functional moves that focus on stretching and protecting the spine.

“The movements are fluid and rhythmic as opposed to creating a position or posture,” says Miami Beach Gyrotonic owner and instructor Mari Kasich. “All the movements are created at the center of the spine. From the spine comes healthy movement of the limbs…it’s a holistic approach.”

Indeed, Kashich conducts her class like a healer. Her instruction is level-headed, caring and precise. Her students adore her.

“Mari is a natural healer and has that loving touch and that’s something you want from someone you are trusting your body to,” says Amy Bloom, 39, a Pilates teacher at Fisher Island who also takes Kasich’s Gyrotonic class. The program helps her get exercise while dealing with previous injuries. “There’s something about the circular, undulating movements of Gryotonic that really opens up my joints, tendons and ligaments and has given me such great relief and helps with my posture.”

The music — New Age and tranquil — guides softly in the background of the setting of hardwood floors and wraparound windows that overlook busy Washington Avenue. The exercises, which consist of bending and twisting in smooth, round, graceful arcs or bicycling of the feet while in a reclined position or pulling weights from a pulley system, feel as enveloping and satisfying as a hearty yawn.

“I decided to come to Gyrotonic about two years ago for my well-being,” says Susana Brito, 58, a special-ed teacher for grades 6 through 8 across the street at the Fienberg-Fisher K-8 Center. “I’m taking medications that limits the type of exercise I can do but with Gyrotonic I discovered I could do all sorts of exercises via machines. I feel in here age doesn’t mean anything because I can keep up with the younger students because it’s graceful and expansive. You don’t get hurt here. You are giving back to your body.”

The Gyrotonic Expansion System was originally created by Juliu Horvath, a Romania-born dancer with the Houston Ballet. Horvath suffered injuries so he created a series of exercises as a form of rehab. Originally dubbed Yoga for Dancers, it evolved into the Gyrotonic program.

Kasich took over Miami Beach Gyrotonic a few years ago. Horvath opened the studio on South Beach about eight years ago to serve as a training ground to certify instructors.

Because of its roots in the dance community — and since many ballet companies use the equipment and modalities for dancers’ rehabilitation and conditioning — there’s a perception Gyrotonic is just for professional dancers.

“But that’s not the case,” Kasich says. “Dancers are just drawn to it.”

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