Kristen Sullivan Blog

I began my GYROTONIC® journey in 2007 during my MFA program at Florida State University with Anjali Austin. After years of Pilates training through my BFA and MFA programs, I was completely enlightened by the experience of the GYROTONIC® method. It was a totally different way of moving. Where Pilates was more linear and centering, GYROTONIC® was 3 dimensional and expansive.

Upon graduation of FSU in 2008, I continued my education first with my comprehensive Pilates certification as I had had many more years of experience in this method. After teaching Pilates for 6 years and becoming a Master Trainer for Balanced Body I was ready to expand my teaching and moving vocabulary. I then began my level 1 GYROTONIC® pre-training and foundation course in 2013.

Recently I had the opportunity to take the Level 2 pre-training course work for GYROTONIC® with Anjali Austin. This course was absolutely amazing on so many levels. The level 2 material takes the body through a complete movement experience like no other. The movements are full, expansive, and spiraling.

Day 1 of the training started with the Arch and Curl series which is usually done seated facing the handles. In level 2, the Arch and Curl series is done standing facing the tower. By standing I could use the power of the earth to feel the full connection from the foot all the way up the spine. This groundedness allowed me to open all my centers and express more fully through the movement of the torso and arms. I felt long, free, light and effortless, as if I were a bird sailing through the sky. There is some choreography to the foot positions that can be challenging, but it provides different movement experiences for the spine throughout the various exercises.

We then moved into the level 2 work for the hamstring series. There is already quite a bit of material and complexity in the level 1 hamstring series so I was interested to see what level 2 had to offer. A lot! Wow, I had no idea that my legs could move through so much dimension and range of motion. The level 2 hamstring series uses the foundation of the choreography set in the level 1 exercises. This helps the brain and the body understand how to start the more complex choreography in level 2. It often combined several exercises from level 1 to create more of a series for the legs rather than just 1 individual exercise. The hips move through their full range of motion and more! From flexion to extension, internal and external rotation, and abduction and adduction, all with the fifth line energy reaching from your sit bones out to the heel and beyond so that your legs feel inches longer. Every single muscle in your legs is used. I felt such a lightness and mobility to my hips, knees, ankles, and toes when I finished as opposed to fatigue and tightness or soreness.

We then ventured back to the upper body work with the Arch and Curl facing away from the handles. This work is very detailed and brings an awareness to the relationship of the spine, ribcage, scapula, arm, and head that is like no other. You can really feel how if one part of this chain is tight or closed off, it affects the ability to move efficiently. Though it is complicated, the series starts simply in order to prepare the body for what initiates the movements and what is needed to properly move though the exercise. This series in level 2 is different than in level 1 in that it expands on the choreography. It adds single arms spiraling continuously and changing directions instead of staying on 1 side. This motion creates a whirlpool sensation for the body. I no longer knew where the beginning or ending of the body or the movement was.

Day 2 began with a review of everything we had covered as we had been though a lot of new material. We then added more choreography to the Hamstring series which consisted of some inversion choreography with the legs. In level 1 the hips stayed grounded for most of the series so this addition of lifting the hips added a whole new dimension and strength required for this series. The level 2 Hamstring series has 4 parts with around 27 exercises. After completing the material I realized that along with the added material and new choreography there is also a rhythm and breath that must accompany this series in order to keep the initiation from the center and the flow throughout the body and sequencing. Rhythm helped to find the power and expressiveness through the lower body in difficult choreography. If I thought too hard about what the exercise was or broke it down too much I could no longer execute the exercise.

The next series we tackled was the standing upper body series. This series added on to the seated upper body series in
level 1 and also added the element of standing. I felt more power by standing. I felt less of my arms and more of my entire body moving through the series. It’s amazing how the same exercise can feel completely different just by changing the body from the seated position to the standing position. This standing series was very dynamic. It also added an element of cardio because of the way the body is continuously moving. The series started in a more familiar way and like the Hamstring series as we got further along added on more complicated choreography. The exercises began to combine a few of the level 1 exercises so that it felt more like a series. Ultimately the series begin to feel more like you are doing an activity out in life, like tennis or swimming or even cleaning house. This is due to the fact it’s not linear or singular but 3 dimensional and continuous.

The 3rd and final day I felt a sadness as I was driving to the workshop. I did not want it to end. Often as instructors we spend so much of our time teaching that it can be hard to find time in our schedules to take 15 hour workshops like these. But when we do finally carve out the time it is so special and re-energizing. It gives us new inspiration and ideas to take back to our clients. We experience different ways of movement to keep our own practice alive and growing and everyone benefits. This sadness soon turned to inspiration and excitement in that I had almost completed the course and would soon get to move forward with truly understanding it through my own practice. I was eager to begin to introduce this material to clients to enhance their physical movement experiences.

There was no new material to learn this day on the equipment, which was good because I could feel my brain filling up. Ha! The review of the entire course was very comprehensive, and by this accumulation of material and series throughout the 3 days I felt like I had it in my body. We ended with some standing nerve strengthening exercises. These are much more subtle and about moving energy through the centers. It was calming and a perfect way to end such an intense course. These exercises are a good reminder that we don’t need equipment or an instructor to connect our minds to our bodies and find a way each and every day to center ourselves through quiet movements of energy and spirit. We ask a lot of our bodies and minds throughout our daily lives and we must also find a way to restore and re-energize them continuously.