by Michelle Rodriguez, MPT, OCS, CMPT
In 2004, I sustained a lower back injury. I wasn’t able to walk or bend or work for 2 weeks. I tried to treat myself. I went to see the best doctors, acupuncturists, massage therapists and colleagues, but nothing really worked long term. I discovered that nothing was truly wrong with me except that my body was out of balance; I had areas of incredible tightness and areas of weakness. All I needed to do was unwind and reconnect while regaining balance and strength. This revelation brought me to GYROTONIC® . I had done it 20 years prior as a professional ballet dancer. I wish I knew then what I know now. My approach to the movement was as a young aspiring ballerina, not as an experienced and skilled physical therapist. When I came back to GYROTONIC® I was so blown away by how brilliant the movement system was for the body and mind that I became a certified instructor. I felt like I needed to incorporate the principles and movement into my practice as a physical therapist. I would be doing a disservice to my patients if I did not.
Three things GYROTONIC® has taught me…
1. HOW TO BREATHE!
Breathing is crucial for the support of all systems and the reduction of inflammation by decreasing cortisol levels and stimulating your vagus nerve. I had to retrain my diaphragm (primary breathing muscle) to work properly with the rest of my inner core cylinder muscles (ie. transversus abdominus, mulitfidi, and pelvic floor) to support and decompress my spine. How these muscles were working together was essentially “out of sync” and in order for you to have good posture that is well supported they need to work together. Without this level of organization in your body, it is impossible to build true strength and be injury free.
By focusing on my breath and connecting my inner cylinder of muscles, I found myself in a very focused and mindful state. I couldn’t do anything else or think about anything else or I would lose all the connections. I was truly reprogramming my body. I began to look at GYROTONIC® as “meditative movement”. I was not only connecting my body, but my mind and my spirit as I searched within to reorganize myself.
2. HOW TO BE GOOD TO MYSELF!
Having been a professional dancer and recreational athlete I was very much of the mind set, “no pain no gain”. I pushed my body to its extreme. I thrived on this. I felt like I wasn’t working hard enough if my muscles weren’t burning or trembling. The way I had always approached working out or being in shape led me to an imbalanced state. With my GYROTONIC® practice I started to learn to let go of all of that. Instead, I knew I needed to work smarter and more efficiently. I started being able to connect to my body, listen to it, understand it better, and give it what it needed. GYROTONIC® feels good, well at least it should. I still worked very hard in GYROTONIC® but I learned to do so with more of a softness and a mindful breath that I later discovered led to greater suppleness, strength and vitality. I was able to achieve better physical results with this approach then I had ever before. My spine felt longer and decompressed, I actually “grew” 1 inch, my core was stronger than ever, my body was well aligned and strong. It made me feel like I was all “set up” to go do whatever I wanted to do. Freedom! Confidence! I was able to achieve all of this by doing something that was good for me, GYROTONIC®!
3. HOW TO BE A BETTER PHYSICAL THERAPIST!
Through my own practice of GYROTONIC®, I developed a new vocabulary of imagery cues to offer to my patients. By making connections within my own body, I have been able to better describe to patients how to make connections within their own bodies. It has inspired me to be able to communicate clearly, precisely, and creatively with patients to help them achieve the necessary organization to reprogram their motor control.
The design of the GYROTONIC® equipment and movement allows me to achieve rehabilitation results more efficiently because it facilitates a decompression of the joints. This is important because when there is more space in your joints there is less pain, greater range of motion and an inherent stability that allow for better muscle recruitment. My interest as a physical therapist is not only to rehabilitate someone’s injury, but also to correct movement patterns that led to the injury. At Manhattan Physio Group we look for the root cause of the injury and work with our patients on this level of detail and specificity. True recovery from an injury means to us that it does not continue to reoccur. We have been able to achieve this by having patients on a regular GYROTONIC® program.
I encourage all of my patients to do GYROTONIC® on a weekly basis. It has something to offer for everyone. One of the early signs of aging of the spine is stiffness, a loss of rotation and side bending. Given the 3-dimensional nature of GYROTONIC®, it allows for the spine to arch, curl, side bend, and rotate and hence deter the aging process of the spine. Also, given the age of technology that we live in, many people spend more hours than ever sitting in front of a computer. We have heard for a while now how “sitting is the new smoking” and I’m sure you’ve heard that if you “don’t use it, you lose it”. So, if you’re sitting for most of the day and your workouts don’t incorporate balanced, full body movements in all directions, you are most likely very stiff in certain areas and perhaps overworking other areas. All of this would lead to imbalances and misalignment that can then lead to injury or insidious degeneration.
Use GYROTONIC® as your cross-training for life, for sport, for dance. It will help rehabilitate your injury faster. It will help you avoid injury. It will serve as your body’s anti-aging tool. At Manhattan Physio Group our approach is unique; customized and collaborative. Your GYROTONIC® sessions are guided by and under the direct supervision of a physical therapist to focus on your individual needs.
I look forward to seeing you all soon at our incredibly amazing new space on the 3rd floor of City Center.
With love and good health,