Imagine churning butter until your muscles stretched farther than ever before and your limbs turned rubbery, kind of like a giant Gumby.
Sound scary? It's really not. It's Gyrotonic, an approach to fitness that has captivated Madonna, Teri Hatcher and other celebs hooked on having the long, lean body of a dancer.
As a workout, Gyrotonic looks a little like Pilates, gymnastics, swimming, ballet, yoga and tai chi all thrown together and practiced on a device that looks like a torture rack. The circular and fluid movements of Gyrotonic can improve flexibility, strength and balance.
Michele Gifford brought Gyrotonic, with its system of pulleys and weights, to Fort Worth with the hopes of helping people do something she has done for decades as a professional ballet dancer.
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"I wanted to start helping people move," said Gifford, who offers individual sessions at her Fort Worth home and also teaches for Pilates at Dancescape.
As a dancer with the New York City Ballet, Gifford was no stranger to injuries when she discovered the value of Gyrotonic for herself.
"At first I didn't get it," she said. "But two sessions into it, I was hooked."
In 2000, she became a certified Gyrotonic instructor and brought the unique workout to Fort Worth, where she also performed with Texas Ballet Theater. Over the past decade, she has built a reputation for her Gyrotonic classes, which attract teens to 70-somethings.
Today, Gifford does indeed get people moving, starting off slowly with gentle circular movements that help unkink the body. Breast cancer survivors have found that Gyrotonic opens the chest and helps them feel more at ease. Athletes have discovered that the workouts can be as vigorous and demanding as they need to be. And just about everyone finds in Gyrotonic a workout that helps reduce stress.
"The movements help people get in tune with their body," Gifford said. "It's all about creating space in the body and decompressing."
It's a concept that is easy to understand once you consider how much time we spend compressing muscles.
"People work at desks or they are in their cars driving all the time," Gifford said. "Everything is about compression, nothing is expansive."
While Gyrotonic hasn't made it into the mainstream world of workouts quite yet, it is catching on around the country, especially during these stressful times when people are looking for ways to relieve tension.
"It's so healthy for you," Gifford said. "And it just feels good for the body."
Jan Jarvis, 817-390-7664