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Our Last 50 Referrers

« A 27-Year Computer Diet | Main | Architecture Linkage »

February 21, 2008


Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

30-Minute Meal diva Rachael Ray gives the exercise system called Gyrotonics a whirl:

Though I don't giggle quite as infectiously as Rachael does, darn it, I enjoy Gyro too. I've been going to a class or two a week for about two years now, and I love the workout as much as I love yoga, which is saying a lot.

For one thing, I love the activity itself. At first the machines can seem bizarre, the movements can be hard to imitate, and lord knows Gyro has its silly side. (That's a bad thing?) But the Gyro scene is a lot of fun. One reason is that Gyro hasn't been as thoroughly discovered and exploited as yoga and Pilates have been, so it's still a small and friendly universe. For another, Gyro teachers (most of them ex-dancers) seem nearly all to be sweet-natured, helpful, and easygoing -- less mystical than yoga teachers but far less Nazi-drill-Sergeant-esque than Pilates instructors.

My physique hasn't exactly been transformed into a Greek god's -- far from it. But I'm well past the age when that's a realistic possibility anyway. What I love-love-love most about Gyro is the way it leaves me feeling: stretched, toned, and mellow. It isn't a sweaty-grunty, gym-style, testing-your-willpower activity, thank god. (Lost interest in those years ago.) The weights on the machines aren't there to exhaust you, they're there to dramatize and heighten the movements you perform.

Instead it's great at helping you get the kinks out; at expanding your range of motion; at fostering body awareness; and at reminding you of how much fun it can be to have a contented and alert body. You may walk into a Gyro class feeling distracted, alienated from your body, and full of aches and pains -- but you're likely to walk out feeling blissy and playful. The sensation is a hyper-pleasing blend of "I just had a workout" and "I just got a massage." Hours after a Gyro session, I often find myself savoring the sensations in my hip joints, my shoulders, and my spine -- not something I'm likely to find myself doing otherwise.

Gyro hasn't replaced yoga in my affections, but it has become a wonderful complement to it. I dragged The Wife to a few Gyro sessions not long ago. Though at first she dismissed it as one of my loonier passions, she has since become a regular at the Gyro studio herself. She likes the scene and the teachers, and she likes the way an hour of Gyro makes her feel. I like the way Gyro leaves her an even sweeter-natured, kittenish thing than she usually is.

Here's another glimpse of some basic Gyro moves:

A warning: Private classes with a Gyro instructor can be very expensive. So, if you're tempted to give Gyro a try but aren't rolling in dough, let me make a few suggestions.

  • Do spring for five or ten private lessons despite the cost. The movements and sensations of Gyro are so peculiar that one-on-one sessions can be a big, big help. What you're looking to experience might remain a mystery for months if you don't give yourself the chance to work closely for at least a few hours with someone who really knows what she's doing and who can focus on you and you alone.
  • Let the studio know that you're interested in Gyro but don't have big bucks. They probably won't respond snootily -- Gyro places generally aren't like that. And they might be able to help you make cheaper arrangements. For example: While fully-credentialed instructors are pricey, studios often offer trainee instructors who are good yet whose fees are half the price of the usual pro's.
  • Once you've developed a feel for the movements, bring your costs down dramatically in two ways. 1) Look for a Gyrokinesis class. Gyrokinesis is the same set of movements as Gyrotonics, but done on a mat instead of on a machine. It's rather like a yoga or a Pilates class. Gyrokinesis classes typically cost $12-$15, or about the same as a yoga class. 2) Look for Gyrotonics group classes. (These might also be called "tower classes.") In these, you and three or four other Gyro fans will be led through a routine on the machines by a single instructor. That way you'll have the benefit and the fun of a machine-based workout while paying (typically) from $20 to $30. That ain't chicken-feed, of course. But, ahhhhhhhhh, the way it'll leave you feeling ...

Semi-related: I blogged about trying Bikram yoga back here. I never feel better than I do when I'm attending Bikram yoga classes regularly. Visit the main Gyro site here and find out if there's a Gyro studio in your area. Rachael Ray can be terrifyingly perky, but the food she prepares is often pretty good, and her "make a complete meal in 30 minutes" schtick is excellent. Though high-end foodies often sneer at Rachael, Real People with Real Lives (aka with limited time and an aversion to excess fuss) often find her cookbooks and her show (on the Food Network) enjoyable and useful. Following Rachael Ray can be one of the better ways for a cooking novice to start experimenting with this whole food-preparation thang.



posted by Michael at February 21, 2008


I would love to give Gyro a try. None up here in Ottawa, though. I'm curious, Michael, about whether Gyro has helped deal with aches and pains in your hands and arms. I've got an increasingly excruciating case of RSI-induced tendo-bursitic mouse elbow with the pronator muscles in both forearms so clotted with fascial adhesions that they're like thick steel wires wrapped around my ulnae. Ow.

I do Yoga, and yum, it's great. But for my problem, nothing. I'm willing to look anywhere, and if I have to open a Gyro facility up here to get it, well hey, why not?

Posted by: patrickH on February 21, 2008 8:03 PM

PatrickH -- That sounds like a lot of Ow! to deal with. No idea if Gyro could do you any good. I'd guess it wouldn't be a help -- in my experience it's paid off mostly where the spine, the shoulders, and the hips are concerned. Juices 'em up, stretches 'em out, leaves them all wiggly and contented. But we don't do much in Gyro (beginners, it goes without saying) that makes an impact on elbows and wrists. Do you have any luck with any kind of treatment or stretching where your arms are concerned? Did the damage all come from computer use? Fun to hear you've been enjoying yoga. What kind? I find that the combo of yoga and Gyro keeps about 80% of my middle-aged aches and pains at bay. Leaves me much cheerier than I'd otherwise be too -- and I'm already a pretty cheery guy. Do you have similar luck?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on February 21, 2008 8:48 PM

Damage from computers definitely, exacerbated by too many and too heavy pulling exercises--deadlifts, pullups, rowing on the Concept II ergometer, kettlebell snatches, and some work with some very challenging grippers called (get this) Captains of Crush. Combine the above with all-day mouse tap-tap-tapping, and there go the top of my forearms all to hell.

My yoga is (occasionally) Bikram, though I still find myself struggling with the heat of the room. I do a variety of the "Power Yoga" classes that are all the rage these days, most of which are run at about 10 degrees cooler than the Bikram, which makes more of a difference than you might think. I'm falling in love with the rhythmic ballet-like Ashtanga, and I always check out Yin Yoga classes--very different, floor poses only, gravity does the work, you settle into the pose over three, four, up to seven or even ten minutes, doing as few as eight poses in an hour and a half, just sinking and lengthening, till the muscles open up so much you start getting down into the connective tissue, which begins to sloooowly open in a way that has to be experienced to be believed. Surprisingly, Yin Yoga can hurt because gravity and time will work together to draw you open from deep inside, slowly but relentlessly. Especially when working the hips, you'll find emotions surfacing; even memories long lost can reemerge. Sometimes people cry in Yin Yoga classes.

It's been described as a Thai massage you do to yourself. That's about right...long slow movements, lots of stillness in extended holds, holding per se, no pulling, no pushing, no muscling. Just time...gravity...breath.

And you walk out floating.

Posted by: PatrickH on February 21, 2008 9:31 PM

At the risk of sounding like a party pooper, I object to any exercise regiment that requires going to a gym with special equipment. First, there's the money of course, but it's also the scheduling involved. Unless the workout room is right across the street or in my building at work, i won't do it.

In the last two years I've been doing exercise videos inside my apartment. (Here's my review of exercise videos . It's not as social and requires you to have uncluttered living space (a tall order for me), but for me it works well. The only bad thing about the vids (which cover a little bit of yoga and pilates btw) is that I don't get feedback about form--am I doing it the right way?

Speaking of which, I could write a book about how fitness videos have evolved over the decades. I watched a Jane Fonda video a few months ago, and it was laughable from a efficiency point of view. The videos you see in the last few years are very well-designed and usually nicely choreographed too. Also, I find it incredibly distracting when fitness video directors aim for these fancy angles and jump cuts. Just let me follow the footwork, please!

Also, it's relatively easy to multitask while doing exercise videos. Just turn the volume to mute and listen to a book on tape or multitask.

Posted by: Robert Nagle on February 22, 2008 6:57 AM

PatrickH -- Kettebells? Ashtanga? You're a much stronger and hardier guy than I am, that's for sure. Fun to get your report on Yin yoga, tks. I keep telling myself to give it a try, and now you've got me double-wanting to do so.

Robert -- Yeah, the whole "how long does it take to get to where you want to exercise?" thing gets absurd sometimes, doesn't it? I've been places where you had to drive 30 mins to get to a yoga center, which makes no sense in so many ways ... I'm lucky in NYC because I have a half dozen yoga studios and even 3 Gyro studios in easy walking distance. Even for midday ... There's a Gyro studio about five doors from me in midtown. That's a great idea you've had, reviewing exercise vids. What a cultural product in its own right, the exercise vid ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on February 22, 2008 12:40 PM

I still can't warm to Bikram (no pun intended). I last went a few weeks ago and commented to a friend as we left: "This is how I imagine Hell to be."

I also don't like their apparent philosophical aversion to modifications.

Posted by: CyndiF on February 22, 2008 2:50 PM

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