I have many patients who come in to seek treatment for chronic neck pains from their desk jobs, back sprains from gardening, occipital headaches from neck stiffness, radiating pins and needles from lower back injuries, the list goes on and on. According to the Cleveland Clinic, 90% of Americans experience back pain at some point in their lifetime. It is the single most common reason for people to visit a doctor around the world.
Acupuncture can effectively treat the spine by controlling pain and promoting recovery. I often tell people to continue to take care of their spine even after recovery because it is vital to our health and wellbeing. The spine hosts the major part of our Central Nervous System (CNS), which connects to the brain and controls both voluntary and involuntary functions of our body, including the Autonomic Nervous System (sympathetic and parasympathetic pathways). The spinal cord act as an information highway to transmit nerve signals between the brain and the rest of the body. What this means is that injuries to our spine not only cause local pains and aches, they can often impair other bodily functions such as digestive health and even emotional health, as signals in those pathways become impaired from the injuries.
One unique workout that I am obsessed with is Gyrotonics. In my opinion, it is one of the best ways to take care of your spine. Gyrotonics allow your spine to move through 3-dimensional range of motions. It articulates the joints, releases the fascia, correct alignment issues of the spine, and over time can economize the cooperation amongst the muscles, tendons, fascia, and nerves. Due to its emphasis on breathing while moving through the range of motions, this exercise also improves circulation and energy movement in various meridians. I interviewed Billy Macagnone, the owner of Body Evolutions Gyrotonics Studios and Pilates on the Square, to learn more about this distinctive exercise and his personal fitness philosophy.
How did you get into fitness? I got into fitness as a young boy after watching Bruce Lee doing Martial Arts on the "Green Hornet Show" that used to be on TV in the late '60s. I remember watching him move and getting dizzy. Soon after I was in a karate class at 11 yrs old and started to realize it wasn't as easy as it looked on TV! Rigorous training and discipline were required. I learned that the body was an instrument and needed to be kept tuned all the time to perform well.
What is the one life lesson you learned through years of your fitness career?
Through the years of my fitness career one of the most important things I had to learn was that I needed to change things up as I got older. What used to work in my 20's needed to be changed in my 30's and again in my 40's and now 50's. Being able to sense the subtle changes in the body and understand what it means to be fit physically, mentally, and spiritually is a never-ending process. Just as important, is having the discipline to then be consistent in whatever training that is. With this in mind, what I realize was that by far, the most most important part of being alive and fit is the ability to move and live in a pain-free, non-restricted fluid body. That to me is the ultimate goal. Thus my study of Gyrotonic. What is Gyrotonic and how is it different from any other form of exercise?
The Gyrotonic Method is an original and unique movement method that derives principles from Yoga, Dance, Tai Chi, and most importantly how energy moves through the body in spirals. It opens up the energetic pathways, stimulates the nervous system, increases range of motion while improves strength and movement efficiency. Each movement flows to the next, allowing the bones and joints to move through a natural range of motion without jarring compression.
Specialized equipment is used to guide and assist the exerciser. The machines are built around the human body allowing it to move how it was designed to while paying close attention to the spinal articulations. The machines have settings to allow one to work in his/ her comfort zone, and can then be adjusted at the appropriate time to challenge the exerciser as well. What is Gyroknesis? Can you share a few Gryoknesis stretches people can practice daily at home? Gyrokinesis is the same as Gyrotonic but there are no machines involved. Gyrokinesis begins with movements on the stool, then a mat on the floor, and finishes with standing exercises. Gyrokinesis was created before the machines were, thus the machines were created to facilitate the movements. The core components of the work are what we call "The Seven Spinal Motions". The spine is the conductor of the body; the highway where most energy flows up and down needs to be addressed in each session in an intelligent manner. All movements are based on these seven motions:
1. Arching 2. Curling 3. Twist Left 4. Twist Right 5. Side bend left 6. Side Bend right 7. Waves. (undulations of the spine)
All these movements are done with rhythm and a prescribed breathing pattern which brings the body into harmony and balance. Your ability to perform these movements on a day-to-day basis really determines the quality of being able to "move through life" as one age. Besides adequate warm-up, how can we prevent injury during any workout class? To prevent injury during a workout class, one must always be conscious of working in the comfort zone as well as remember to breathe. A gentle stimulation is created by marrying the breath with the movement while you flow through the sequences. How are you staying motivated with working out during the quarantine?
If the body is the conductor then the mind is the main switch! For me to stay motivated during this difficult time is to remember that "this tune shall pass". Life will go on and we will adapt. Not to forget all the good times, joy, and love that exist.
To be able to continue to experience that we need to remember the vehicle which allows us that experience is our body. The finer you can tune it, the more you can tune in to the good vibes! If you are clear on this, then the motivation will come to make the right choices to nourish your body, mind, and spirit.
You can currently find Billy and his trainers teaching Gyroknesis through Zoom, and you may also email him directly at email@example.com