Tracee Ellis Ross Is a Fan of the Gyrotonic Method — But What Even Is That?
In the world of celebrity fitness, Instagram posts of A-listers hoisting heavy barbells and powering through HIIT workouts seem to be the norm. But if you're interested in a less intense and lower-impact form of exercise — that still makes you sweat, of course — Tracee Ellis Ross has got you covered.
Over the course of 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, posted Thursday on her Instagram stories, the Black-ish star is sitting on a workout bench doing what appears to be some sort of version of a Pilates teaser using a cable machine. In the other two videos, the 49-year-old actress tackles a series of movements using pulleys and handlebars.
As if her recent influx of Gyrotonic-related posts on Instagram wasn't enough proof that she's essentially the Queen of Gyrotonic, know this: Ellis Ross has been shining a light on the workout method for years, even posting a photo of her mid-routine on Facebook back in October 2012. (Related: Tracee Ellis Ross' Latest Knee-Friendly Workout Also Featured an Unexpected Celeb Cameo)
So, what's so special about it that's got Ellis Ross hooked? And what is the Gyrotonic Method in the first place? Keep reading for those answers — plus, even more deets on its benefits and how to incorporate Gyrotonic exercises into your workout routine.
What Is the Gyrotonic Method, Exactly?
It all started when professional ballet dancer Juliu Horvath had a career-ending injury that led him to start a yoga practice. Inspired by yoga's low-impact, meditative movements and its use of the breath, Horvath developed a movement system that evolved into what's known today as the Gyrotonic Method, according to the eponymous website. Now there's also Gyrokinesis, which involves similar movements as those that are part of Gyrotonic routines but differs in that it requires minimal equipment.
"Gyrotonic exercises focus on fluid, continuous motion that is not impact-driven. Though you are building muscle because you're moving against resistance while on the Gyrotonic equipment, you're really strengthening your body's range of motion," says Lily Marie Jahn, a Gyrotonic-certified instructor and movement specialist at Erika Bloom, a Pilates studio with locations in New York City, Los Angeles, and more.
Much like yoga, dance, and tai chi, the Gyrotonic Method links your breath to movement, helping you draw a stronger connection between what's going on inside your body and the outside. The main equipment used in Gyrotonic is the pulley tower, which consists of dials, pulleys, and weights that are adjusted to your personal fitness goals. Conversely, Gyrokinesis involves using your own body weight as resistance and doing the exercises on a chair or mat.
And while it might resemble Pilates, Gyrotonic exercises call upon different equipment and movement patterns. The Ellis Ross-approved workout has unique circling, spiraling, and undulating motion patterns, while Pilates is more linear, explains Jessica Chen, a Gyrotonic- and Gyrokinesis-certified instructor based in New York City. "The design of the [Gyrotonic] equipment and method [overall] supports a full and natural range of motion, allowing for more well-balanced, three-dimensional, and functional movement," says Chen. (Related: Everything You Need to Know About Pilates for Beginners)
Through the pulley tower, Gyrotonic basically teaches you how to move properly and thoughtfully with your body through your spine and breath, says Teresina Goheen, a Gyrotonic-certified instructor based in San Francisco. Unlike other forms of exercise, it emphasizes your spine as the foundation of strength. The idea is that if your spine is healthy and can move well, the rest of your body will follow, adds Goheen.
"It's functional in that the spine is driving the workout, creating a freedom within the body so as one ages, their lifestyle and range of motion remains intact," adds Ann Fonte, an Equinox certified Gyrotonic instructor. During a session, you'll likely work your spine in three different planes of motion: frontal (front and back), sagittal (left and right), and transverse (rotation), which translates to overall better movement. (Related: Why You Want Different Workouts In Your Weekly Routine, According to a Trainer)
Gyrotonic exercise also promotes mobility by increasing the range of motion of your joints, such as your ankles, hips, and shoulders, and strengthening them. During a Gyrotonic session, a trained instructor will assess your joint range of motion and help you work through exercises that allow you to access it.
"This is the idea of tensegrity — strengthening and improving the flexibility of your joints," says Goheen. "Building strength doesn't just mean making your muscles stronger. It's also building strength in your joints because if your joints aren't able to move through their full range of motion, you won't be able to strengthen the muscle that those joints support."
Benefits of the Gyrotonic Method
Because it's low impact, virtually anybody can benefit from doing the exercises. "Gyrotonic exercises are incredibly applicable for high-level athletes who are seeking a more nuanced awareness of the body, while also being incredibly useful for senior citizens who are struggling with balance issues and are relearning their body's natural movement," says Lily Marie Jahn, a Gyrotonic-certified instructor and movement specialist at Erika Bloom, a Pilates studio with locations in New York City, Los Angeles, and more.
Take, for example, professional tennis player (and Goheen's former client) Andy Murray, who turned to the Gyrotonic Method to refine the movement patterns he uses 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 enhance your performance," says Goheen.
Gyrotonic also teaches you how to activate your toes and feet and establish movement patterns that you can ultimately translate into your daily activities. Say you need to pick something up from the ground, so you squat down to retrieve whatever's down there. If you don't actively press your feet into the ground, however, you run the risk of losing your balance and potentially hurting yourself. And while you likely already do this subconsciously, Gyrotonic helps you develop a better idea of how to best activate your toes and feet so you can maintain a stable base of support for your joints and your spine, according to Goheen. Doing this also helps establish the power you need to build from the ground up for your sport.
How to Get Started with Gyrotonic
If you're interested in incorporating the Gyrotonic Method into your workout routine, Chen recommends working one-on-one with a certified instructor, especially if you have certain movement restrictions. You can find a certified trainer by searching for a studio or certified trainer near you on the Gyrotonic Method website; the site also allows you to search for a virtual class by filtering for class type, class level, time zone, language, and trainer qualifications. (Related: How to Find the Best Personal Trainer for You)
That being said, doing one-on-one Gyrotonic sessions can be costly. So taking group Gyrotonic or Gyrokinesis classes can help you reap the benefits of the workouts without breaking the bank. Remember: Gyrokinesis doesn't involve the same sort of equipment that's part of the Gyrotonic Method. So, if you're just starting out and feel a little intimidated by all the pulleys and handlebars (no judgment!), consider trying Gyrokinesis first to learn the gist of the spinal movements, says Goheen.
Beginner sessions of both methods typically go through the four spinal motions: arch and curl, spirals, side arch, and the wave, says Fonte. That's because "Whatever piece of equipment or Gyrotonic exercise you're doing, it's always based on those four spinal motions." When doing the arch and curl exercises in a Gyrotonic workout, you'll use the handlebars on the pulley unit, explains Chen. To work your lower body, you'll have your feet in straps and do a combination of exercises, such as bicycles, scissors, and leg circles.
"In my experience, to really get the true benefits, it's important to have consistency in your practice. Doing it two to three times a week would be great, but I know that's not possible for a lot of people. The longer I work with a client, the deeper we can go because I learn more about their bodies and movement patterns," says Chen.
In the early 90’s, I discovered Gyrotonic through a friend that had the machine. I had been a figure skater so anything lengthening and strengthening that worked with my already flexible body was worth trying. I had so many injuries as a skater, low impact became very important after surviving the high impact exercise world of the 80’s. Another friend had a Pilates reformer (long before Pilates was something anyone outside of the dance world had even heard of). Both were great for my body. I stuck with the reformer as my friend with the Gyro moved back to Slovenia. Looking back to how strong my core was and my body a combo of strength and flexibility, had I been able to afford to keep up with training, I probably wouldn’t have needed both hips replaced, my spine rebuilt and fused and numerous other ortho procedures. Working out has never been in question. After punishing my body for so many years on the ice (plus starving to stay pin thin for my sport) I really benefitted from someone being there to correct my alignment, engage my muscles and not just rely on my flexibility. It sucks that such beneficial workouts aren’t affordable or available for anyone making less than six figures. I live in Los Angeles and Gyrotonic studios are few compared to Pilates studios with super heavy jacked up reformers (I tried it and it was an injury waiting to happen for a newbie or anyone like me with old injuries) Gyro towers are oddly shaped. Maybe they are more compact now but my friend had to rent an apartment with an extra bedroom just to accommodate her tower. Amazing for your bod IF you can’t find and AFFORD to train on one.Read More
That looks cool but unfortunately I live in a very very small town. No way I’m finding classes for it 😩Read More