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  • Writer's pictureClaire Harrison

Gyrotonic – addressing the wave of motion, integral to athletic success

If you imagine any sport, let’s use running, for example, there is a wave of motion that happens from the foot, through the leg, through the pelvis, through the spine, into the air and then, it reverses down into the landing. If you think about basketball, there is a wave of movement that goes from the floor, through the body, out through the fingertips.

One of the most fundamental, quintessential movements of the Gyrotonic Method is called the “wave,” which is a flowing movement of the spine. It is the single most unique and valuable theme in this method that separates it from every other exercise system, not only in terms of sports performance, but also because of the extensive health benefits. The fluidity is similar to tai chi or swimming.

In the wave motion, the amount of articulation of the spine is highly unusual. If you think about how many people have back pain, it seems illogical that most exercise systems focus mostly on the arms and the legs. It’s equally ridiculous, in terms of sports, because spinal movements are part of not only every motion in daily life, but also in terms of every sport. Again, if you think about the way a basketball player is going down and then coming up, or the way a diver is folding and unfolding the body, it’s the centre of the body that is leading that motion to make it happen. Or, think about the sideways motion of the spine in a skater, or the spiralling movement of the spine in a golfer, even in walking there is a counter spiralling action that happens in our spine, which is even greater when we’re running. Yet, most training systems don’t give us access to train in ways that include those spinal dynamics.

Many workout systems work one muscle group and then another in parts. However, sports movements don’t occur in parts. Thinking only in terms of training strength and flexibility is a gross oversimplification of the requirements of an athlete. Performance is based on an artful orchestration of strength and flexibility, that wave through the body. There are pathways of movement that are dependent on rhythm, timing, and coordination in their execution to get to the end result. So why not train that way ?

British professional tennis player, Keelan Oakley, uses Gyrotonic to improve spinal flexibility and strength

Let’s go back to running or tennis and think about recreational athletes. In our culture, we spend so much time sitting that our spines, hips, and legs become prejudice to folded positions. We forget how to unfold them. So, people get up from their desk and go to run, but their hips and their low back are still in the form of sitting at their desk. So, they are running with their hips in the position of sitting instead of pushing the ground behind them and extending through the hips. This breaks the wave of motion and puts substantially more impact on all the joints, especially the low back and knees. Without unfolding the spine and hips from the sitting position, we easily end up in a walker with the spine curved like sitting at a computer.

For that wave of motion to be fluid, it needs to be distributed throughout the whole body. The more joints that help in any movement, the less stress there is. If you think about all of the joints, starting with the foot, the foot should have a buoyancy to be a springboard and a shock absorber. It shouldn’t be rigid, at all. Then, you’ve got the ankle, the knee, the hip, and then the spine with five levels in the low back, twelve in the mid-back, and seven in the neck. Then, you’ve got the shoulder girdle, the elbow to the hand, etc…

So, if you’re throwing, every single one of those, from the foot to the hand, should be involved. However, people habitually move from only a few joints. Therefore, those few joints are under incredible stress, and wear and tear. By distributing forces equally through each of the joints, each one has less stress and each one has greater finesse. The overall organism has more power. Whether you are pushing off to jump, or landing from something like a ski jump where the impact is substantial, you have more buoyancy. The body becomes more like a spring and is supple.

Gyrotonic trainer, Hayley Oxley has worked with many athletes to improve spine flexibility and stamina. For more information about one to one sessions at her studio in Brighton please get in touch.

Information for this blog post has been taken from

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