.Movin’ It

Designed for dancers Gyrotonics keeps a body healthy through movement

All good things come to an end, or so thought Mike S., the 65-year-old surfer whose years of repetitive motion rendered his favorite hobby no longer accessible. Then his wife suggested he try something most of us haven’t yet heard of, at least here in Santa Cruz.  The GYROTONIC® Method is the unusual name given to a form of restorative fitness developed by an athlete in one of the most injury-prone practices known to (wo)man, professional ballet.

 A former principal dancer for the Houston ballet, Romanian-born Juliu Horvath applied his knowledge of the dynamics of motion to designing a routine almost anyone could perform regardless of age or health. Now, more than 40 years later, there are over 3,500 studios offering his trademarked Gyrotonic and Gyrokinesis classes.

Arriving at the studio, I was intrigued by what seemed to resemble Pilates equipment. The word that came up for me was rigid. In truth, I don’t gravitate toward that workout style, but having struggled with my own repetitive motion issues, I stayed open minded. And when I stepped into the cozy space for a session, I soon understood the difference.

Studio owner Aliyah Fragen’s yoga training began in college, and she went on to study Pilates and meditation, working with pioneers like Deepak Chopra, before eventually recognizing the ways training at an advanced level isn’t sustainable. She wanted to offer a method for maintaining fitness without getting hurt.

After discovering Gyrotonic, Aliyah’s passion for this method grew from the piece she saw missing in other disciplines, a three dimensional, spiraling movement method that mimics the natural range of motion.  Gyrotonic exercise focuses on moving the whole body at all times (like dancing), to maintain a mobile spine and pelvis using dynamic breathing patterns.

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After earning multiple certifications in the method and running a successful studio in LA for 12 years, she founded her Capitola business in 2022, first borrowing space for her equipment from like-minded neighbors, before expanding to accommodate growing demand.

At closer glance, the rotational discs and weighted pulleys on the Gyrotonic machines are different than the standard Pilates reformer, and I soon learned the experience is anything but rigid. Instead of group work or classes, this training is done individually, and as a result, unique structural imbalances can be detected and corrected.

I watched while Aliyah gracefully demonstrated the linear nature of how most of us move. We sit clutching the wheel as we drive or hunched over our laptops. We bend down and up, and visually driven as we are, walk, run and generally move forward. Yet the body is designed to move on more than one plain. Gyrotonic exercise, as the name would suggest, is based on three dimensional versus linear movement designed to mobilize everything meant to move a body..

Whether from years of poor seated posture, undirected fitness training or using one hand on the driving range, imbalanced use patterns generally catch up with us. This is where Gyrotonic exercise works wonders. Aliyah’s regulars range from a 18-year-old varsity basketball player to a 93-year-old golfer.

And it works! I was happy to hear surfer Mike is back in the water and doing better than he was five years ago.  I loved the balance of fluidity and structure Gyrotonic movement seems to offer. It didn’t feel rigid or tedious, in fact I was surprised at how quickly the time flew by. And I left feeling taller and lighter.

The official Gyrotonic recommendation is two weekly sessions of 55 minutes. This may seem like a splurge, but for those seeking realignment after bad patterning or injury, or for those seeking a more holistic, personal workout it’s both a pleasant experience and a valuable investment.

Learn more at aliyahstudio.com/movement

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