Swing and Flow with Gyrotonics

Golfers at Bearpath unlock a secret to their swing.
Susan Gaines leads Dan Malina of Eden Prairie through a series of exercises called Gyrotonics.

Back in 2008, Dan Malina was minding his own business one day when a young child got in harm’s way. Without thinking, he bent over to scoop the youngster to safety—and in so doing, did severe damage to his neck and back. For years he suffered through various therapies and medications, to little or no effect—a shame, since he’d moved to Bearpath in Eden Prairie just years before to enjoy golf, a game he couldn’t even finish anymore. “When I’d stand at the tee box, 80 percent of what was on my mind was, ‘Will I reinjure myself again?’” he says. “I had restricted motion and tightness, and as a round progressed and my back got tired, I’d start to experience muscle spasms and sharp pain, limiting my flexibility.”

Then in early 2014, his chiropractor, Dr. Richard Hills, recommended something Malina had never heard of before, a series of exercises known as Gyrotonics, which stabilize the pelvis while strengthening the core, increasing natural movement and flexibility in all joints throughout the body. “I was skeptical at first, because if it was out there, I’d tried it, everything from Pilates to you name it,” Malina says. “[But very quickly] it helped me tremendously—range of motion, flexibility, strength, overall movement.”

Malina attends Embody, owned by certified instructor Susan Gaines, who’s created a “Gyrotonic playground,” she says, in her Uptown-based studio. She employs a handful of other certified instructors, each of whom schedules one-one-one time with clients at a rate of $75/one-hour private session.

The key to Gyrotonics is the equipment, a series of exercise machines that assist in spiraling, rhythmic movements that the practice is known for.

“I don’t teach golf,” Gaines says. “I help with movement—stabilizing the pelvis so you can mobilize anything that swings, articulating the spine.” She explains that all exercises are based in five natural movements—curl, arch, wave, side curl and twist. By resting your hands on some of the rotating pulleyed devices, Gaines walks you through movements that are simple for a healthy individual and very approachable to any age or ability—clients range from age 16 to 92—but the controlled nature of the rhythm and breathing are quite therapeutic to the inner (fascial) muscular development, perfect not only for rehab cases like Malina’s, but for preventative treatment of any golfer.

Bearpath’s personal trainer, Paul Pribyl, is a believer in the benefit to golf. “Gyrotonic excels because your body goes through that full expression of movement to unlock areas in your body that passive stretching would be limited to,” he says. “It is a good mode of exercise that helps you recover from intense exercises or workouts and makes them more fruitful. For golf especially, it is a great combination of routine movements that are highly sport-specific to the golf swing.”

He’s also referred people “who are in a bit of a funk, to improve their game,” Gaines says, because golf is a game of finesse—it’s not about powering the swing through, but rather the technique with which the swing occurs.

According to Gaines, Gyrotonic and Gyrokinesis methods are actually not novel. The complementary exercises created by Hungarian professional dancer Juliu Horvath date back to the 1980s, after he’d suffered a series of debilitating injuries and needed a way to heal himself. Based in the practices of yoga, Tai Chi and dance, he developed a series of circular exercises and breathing that can be accomplished on a mat or chair (gyrokinesis) and actual exercise equipment (gyrotonic) that’s carefully sequenced to improve balance, efficiency, strength and flexibility. In the more than 30 years since Horvath invented the system, more than 10,000 people worldwide have been trained as instructors in 52 different countries.

“Another aspect of this is mental, too,” Malina adds. “I have more confidence in my body, and I don’t have as much worry at the tee box anymore because I’ve seen the physical progression in Gyrotonics over time.”

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