What it is: This movement practice was originally designed for dancers, but it now reportedly has devotees such as recent Wimbledon champ Andy Murray, Kim Cattrall and Madonna. The method has its roots in yoga, tai chi and dance and features seamless movements with the help of custom-designed Gyrotonic equipment that uses pulley, friction and weighted resistance. Unlike most linear workouts, the practice is built on rotating and spiralling movements that strengthen the core and promote better balance, posture and co-ordination. Proponents of the method also say the fluidity helps massage the core and encourage detoxification.
How to do it: It’s done in one-on-one sessions with a specialized trainer that last an hour. Stretching and strengthening exercises are performed on Gyrotonic equipment that arches and curls the spine and lengthens muscles. Gyrotonic studios are popping up in larger cities; as the buzz grows, the practice is expanding its reach.
The results: “Gyrotonic increases the space between the vertebrae,” says Crispin Redhead, the owner of Gyrotonic Toronto by Crispin. It simultaneously stretches and strengthens the muscles and tendons while articulating and mobilizing joints. This means that Gyrotonic can literally change the way your back looks and feels after just one session. You will stand taller and feel more limber and you’ll look and feel immediately different, but “it’s not a quick fix,” warns Redhead. A once-weekly session is encouraged to maintain the positive changes in your back strength and posture.
What it is: The primary focus of Pilates is to strengthen the core and back muscles and train the deeper muscles that support the spine and joints. “People sometimes get back problems because they only focus on abdominals and ignore the lower back,” says Stefania Della Pia, the Toronto-based senior program director and education and master instructor trainer for Merrithew (STOTT PILATES). “You need balance.”
How to do it: Pilates is all about the details, so start with the basic moves and work with an instructor to make sure you’re executing them correctly. “If you progress to more advanced moves too quickly, you’ll miss the subtleties [of how each one should look and feel] and the essence or goal of each exercise,” says Della Pia. Private one-on-one or small group classes are a great place to start. Two or three times a week is best for optimal results.
The results: Pilates not only balances your body’s muscle groups but also encourages movements in all dimensions, including flexion, extension and rotation of the spine, all while teaching you how to breathe properly. “When we breathe incorrectly, it can create unnecessary tension in the spine, neck and shoulder areas,” says Della Pia. You need to focus on starting each move from a tension-free position.