Gyrotonic: Going Beyond Stretching

I’ve never heard of the GYROTONIC® exercise - and did not know what that word even meant - until I heard Barbara Gelberd’s presentation at the One Million Cups meeting at the Richland Library recently. Barbara has opened The Movement Studio in Five Points in Columbia, SC. Her presentation explained what exactly the practice of Gyrotonic method is, what brought her personally to becoming involved with it, eventually becoming an instructor, and then a studio owner.

Photo Credit: 1 Million Cups Columbia

Photo Credit: 1 Million Cups Columbia

The Gyrotonic method is different from any other form of exercise. It considers a human body to be a container filled with fluid (as opposed to a skeleton wrapped with muscles, ligaments and other tissue). The method emphasizes the concept that all of the physical movement of the body originates from the gyroscope within it - what you may call the “core”. The practice allows one to get into all the interstitial muscles that you may have never “felt” or knew they even existed. Barbara claimed Gyrotonic exercise to be the ultimate core workout.

Her personal account included a story of phenomenal healing. About to give the practice a try through the discounted Groupon offer, she walked into the studio with a frozen shoulder that neither therapy, nor yoga, nor reiki could fix. Additionally, she was 40 pounds heavier than she is today, and lived in constant physical pain. After three sessions, she couldn’t stop - having fallen deeply in love with the practice that brought her shoulder back to life and alleviated the pain she was in, Barbara woke up one day knowing that becoming a Gyrotonics trainer and sharing the practice with others has become her ultimate passion.

Barbara mentioned that trying the practice is really the only way to experience and understand the effects of it. Immediately after her presentation, I signed up for a free demo. Having blocked out an hour of time, I arrived in Five Points and parked by the Baked Bear dessert shop. The Movement Studio is located on the second floor, right above the Baked Bear.

The moment I walked in, Barbara began showing the studio to me, and I got a feel for the place - it felt lovely in there, and though the expansion machines did not look like any kind of exercise equipment that I’ve been familiar with previously, I felt eager to try it all out. She explained that there are two methods that comprise the Gyrotonic practice. One - GYROKINESIS® - is a group practice that involves using benches, matts and lasts about an hour at a time. The other is a more personal approach: one-on-one training with an instructor using the expansion machines. They support the movement of a practitioner and allow one to do much more than their body can do on its own. These machines feature pulleys, weights, are adjustable and can be customized specifically to fit every individual’s shape and needs.

The demonstration began with the Gyrokinesis exercises on a special bench designed specifically for the practice. We explored:

  • Narrowing

  • Upright Body

  • Balanced Arch and Curl

  • Spiraling

  • Side Arch

  • Waving

As a person who frequently practices Yin Yoga (which involves deep stretching) and someone who has had several years of ballet dancing in my childhood, I was honestly surprised to find that the first part of the demonstration did in fact engage a wide range of motion that I have simply never experienced in my life. The movement felt like it created more space within my body, made more room, brought and unknown yet sense libration. It was invigorating and… Took several tries to get a hang of, usually. It wasn’t easy, but it was not straining at all. There were some cracks, some pops, and all of it felt incredible; it’s like my body was saying an “ahhhh…” of relief - the kind it never expected to have. Barbara was right! You have to try the practice to really understand how it feels! The sensations were so unusual that it is challenging to convey just what they felt like, and what they can do for you, through the use of language alone.

The second part of the demonstration involved one of the expansion machines in the studio. After making adjustments to customize one of them to my body, Barbara showed me several movements.

  1. For the upper body (involving the core, arms, shoulders, and everything around them):

    • Arch and Curl Pulses

    • Full Arch and Curl Movement

  2. For the lower body (involving the core, legs, hips, and everything around them):

    • Dolphin

    • Scissors

It definitely looked easier than it was when Barbara first demonstrated the movements to me! Again, the movement engaged the aspects of my body that I have never felt nor used in my day-to-day life and exercise. It took getting used to, but the effects were immediate… There was a sense of lightness and vitality pulsing through my arms, my legs, my neck, torso - and really all of my body.

After the demonstration was over, I felt like it wasn’t enough. Walking out of the studio, I noticed a radical change in my posture. I stood taller, held by head up high, and walked “lighter”. There was this odd sense, it felt like I was “walking on air”... As days went by, the effects of that demonstration alone impacted my other physical activity. Lifting weights at the gym, interestingly enough, felt like more of my muscles were engaged; at least I could feel a lot more of them in the process. In my Yin Yoga practice, I noticed that I was able to go much deeper than usual with my poses. In doing some mild cardio (taking a long jog down my usual route of going from North Main Street to the Statehouse and back), I felt that sense of lightness and a greater ease of movement. I had more energy! I had more feeling in my whole body than I even knew I was capable of! All after just ONE demonstration!!!

Want to see for yourself? Email Barbara at or visit their WEBSITE to book your own demonstration. Be prepared to get hooked on the practice, though! As I have personally found out, it can be quite addictive.

Katerina BarrieComment