Practical tips to de-stress and find your feet.show more
Journalist Catriona Stewart of the Evening Times tries exercise system that’s helped Scottish Ballet dancers – and Andy Murray.
“Just don’t faint,” the man says, attaching me to a wooden frame that’s doing a great impression of a medieval torture device.
As my eyes pop wide in alarm, my torturer – who actually turns out to be a lovely man named Finlay Menzies – adds, “We call it a whitey.”
I’ve been invited along to Scottish Ballet’s headquarters in Pollokshields to try out an exercise method called Gyrontonics.
The dancers use it to stretch, tone and correct their muscles and it’s practised on a series of machines that use weights to enhance the stretches.
It’s also popular with celebs Madonna and Sting while sports stars from Andy Murray to Tiger Woods use it too.
Finlay, a movement expert, had been a professional golfer but an injury led him to seek out a means of healing himself and getting back out on the course.
Gyrotonics was that solution and now he and wife Kate, a former ballet dancer, run The Movement Studio on Ashton Lane in Glasgow’s west end.
And he works with Scottish Ballet’s dancers to make sure they avoid injury in what is a high-impact, physically demanding profession.
As well as the dancers and sports stars like boxer Charlie Flynn, Finlay and Kate will work with anyone – from those who want to improve their physical fitness to other who want to repair injuries.
But today Finlay is working with me – and I’m not sure either of us knew what they were letting themselves in for.
First, I’m instructed to sit on a bench that is attached to a complicated looking system of pulleys and weights.
Finlay attaches my arms to the machine with straps at my elbows and wrists. This, I’m told, will stretch out my spine and help my posture.
Stretch is the right word – I can feel all my vertebrae getting to work, as well as muscles in my arms and shoulders that I’ve never felt before.
While I might not be at peak fitness – too much cake for that – I practise yoga and have danced since childhood, so I always pride myself on being pretty flexible.
Turns out my pride has been misplaced. Finlay says my hamstrings are actually quite tight while my lower back is extremely flexible.
So, when I, for example, touch my toes, it’s not my legs that are stretching but that my lower spine is collapsing.
Finlay says he’ll stretch my hamstrings out so I can feel what the sensation is supposed to be like.
Yeah. I’m never doing that again. The pain was not fun, although our photographer seemed to find my gurning face and grinding teeth really amusing.
What felt for me most different to other types of exercise is the one-to-one attention from Finlay.
He’s there to physically guide me through each exercise and, by the end of the session, I feel an inch taller and somehow lighter but know that the next day I’m really going to feel it – which I do.
Asking about my new feeling of improved posture – especially now I know I have one shoulder higher than the other – Finlay says this is a lure to sportsmen and women.
He said: “We know that Andy Murray is practising Gyrotonic training.
“You can see now when you look at Andy, he used to sit forward with his Adam’s apple prominent in his throat – now he is much more upright in his back and you can see a real change in him.”
The Gyrotonic system was developed in America in the 1970s by former Hungarian ballet dancer Juliu Horvath.
It takes movement principles from yoga, dance, gymnastics, swimming and tai chi and its rotational discs and weighted pulleys allow the user to strengthen their muscles without fear of over-stretching or injury.
And it was injury that brought Finlay to the system.
He said: “After university I turned professional playing golf although I was decidedly average and then got an injury to my lower back and both shoulders.
“I couldn’t play golf and so I couldn’t make money and I was thoroughly miserable.
“When I first came across Gyrotonics I thought it looked too easy – but I asked lots of questions about it and it began to seem like there was something in it.
“The second time I tried it I felt that I ‘got it’ – and I haven’t looked back. I didn’t need to see the chiropractor any more and I developed an intense understanding of my body.
“I went back and played the golf of my life, although that was only going to get me so far. I was a hard worker and very conscientious but I found myself watching younger players and admiring their technique so it was time to find something else for me to do.”
Finlay helped Commonwealth Games boxing medallist Charlie Flynn recover from a back injury and has a pro-golfer on his books.
He talks with pride about helping an elderly gent with serious mobility problems to walk without a stick.
As well as providing a physical service for Scottish Ballet’s dancers, Gyrotonics also provides a space for them to let off some steam following class.
Finlay added: “I’ve had a lot of tears in here. The dancers can talk about the stress and strains of their job knowing that everything is completely confidential.
“That’s a really big thing for them as they can talk about any issues and then work them out through their body and get them into a better place emotionally.
“They also come in here and will tell me about some difficulty or technique issue that’s just not working properly. We’ll look at that from a bio-mechanical way and work out how their body should move.
“Gyrotonics helps with their performance, centering and provides rehabilitation.
“But it’s not just for professional athletes – it’s for everyone.”show less
Andy Murray hones his flexibility with ballet dancers, climbs never-ending ladders and eats sushi by the vatload — the No 1 is in the perfect shape to rule the tennis world for years to come
CHARLIE FLYNN is back in business after turning to a sports guru whose magic touch usually works wonders for ballet dancers.show more
CHARLIE FLYNN is back in business after turning to a sports guru whose magic touch usually works wonders for ballet dancers.
The Glasgow Games gold medal hero is looking to dance his way to glory in the pro ranks after his back problem was ironed out by former pro golfer Finlay Menzies.
To most folk a ‘movement consultant’ sounds more like someone who would help you out with a flit than a dodgy back.
But the fitness specialist has worked wonders for golf and tennis stars – and the twinkle-toed dancers from Scottish Ballet.
Flynn, 21, hopped on to the treatment table after pulling out of a bout earlier this month. Now he’s fighting fit ahead of his second contest as a pro when he takes on Andy Harris in Newcastle
on April 4.
Never mind tutu – the Wishaw ace is out to make it two wins from two.
Flynn said: “It’s something I had to get sorted.
“It got so bad I couldn’t get out of bed. I was under the duvet for three days and could barely move.
“The doctor prescribed painkillers but it was affecting my training. I missed three weeks solid in the build up to the fight. I tried to hammer it for the last few weeks but unfortunately it was a no-go.
“Finlay got in touch with my manager Alex Morrison and said he could maybe help me out. I’d never even heard of a movement consultant.
Charlie Flynn works with movement coach Finlay Menzies in preparation for his next fight (Image: Daily Record/Paul Chappells)
“It turns out he’s done a lot of work with a lot of sporting people, such as tennis players and golfers. He also works with the ballet dancers.
“Maybe I’ll start dancing a couple of pirouettes Swan Lake-style about the ring!
“I didn’t know what to expect. When I first came in the studio looked like a medieval torture chamber. It was like ‘rack ‘em up’!
“I was a bit worried but I could feel a huge difference after the first session.
“I’ve had problems for years with the muscles between my shoulder blades but what a difference.
“It’s all about longevity. It’s all right fighting through the pain barrier but it’s not going to help your long-term career.”
Flynn may have been stuck in bed but he was climbing the walls in desperation to keep up the momentum following his debut pro win against Ibrar Riyaz.
He said: “It was the most frustrating time of my career. There was the excitement of the Commonwealth Games and then my first fight as a pro.
“Then I got the flu, my back went and I tore my groin. It was torture. But sometimes you have to take these things on the chin.
“I didn’t think I would even make this fight but just as well I got it sorted.
“I’m back now and punching well. I am 100 per cent ready for this fight.”
Flynn would love to work under the radar but admits his world has turned upside down since the Games.
The Mailman delivered gold last summer and captured the heart of the country with a wit as sharp as his talent. He said: “It’s been madness. Before the Games everyone knew me in the boxing game but no one else did. I just kept my head down and did my training.
“Now it’s just exploded. Every day there is someone wanting to do something, charities, dinners, you name it. I’ve had people coming up to me in the street, especially in Glasgow.
“It’s crazy, you get stopped all the time. I can’t go for a fly McDonald’s – maybe that’s no bad thing!
“It’s hard as there have to be times when you knuckle down and do your grinding in the dark before stepping back into the limelight.”
Charlie Flynn celebrates after winning on his professional debut (Image: SNS Group)
The lightweight prospect will fight on the undercard of Anthony Joshua’s latest heavyweight test at the Metro Arena next Saturday.
Flynn’s bout will be part of the television coverage and he’s determined to catch the eye of the armchair fans.
He said: “You only get one chance to make an impression and this is going to be massive for me. I know my audience is huge and I want to put on a big performance for them.
“You never look beyond the next fight but I want to deal with this guy and then be as active as possible for the rest of the year.
“I’m playing catch-up but I want six fights a year because I’m a man with a plan.”
Flynn may have left the Royal Mail but he’s still determined to deliver.show less
A BIZARRE combination of ballet and golf has got Charlie Flynn fighting fit for his TV debut as a professional boxer.show more
Swing and a dance have Flynn raring to go – By Stewart Fisher
A BIZARRE combination of ballet and golf has got Charlie Flynn fighting fit for his TV debut as a professional boxer.
The 21-year-old Commonwealth gold medallist from Lanarkshire will make the second outing of his pro career on the undercard of Eddie Hearn’s Geordie Roar show at Newcastle’s Metro Arena against England’s Andy Harris, just weeks after a back problem forced him to withdraw from a proposed Glasgow bout against Nigerian Ideh Ochuko. Flynn pays tribute to the work of movement expert Finlay Menzies – whose main work is with ballet dancers and golf professionals – not to mention a sneaky few rounds at Dalziel Golf Club for strengthening his atrophied back muscles, and hopes to flex them to impress in front of a UK-audience on Sky Sports.
“First I hurt my back then I was running and torn my groin,” the fighter said. “So I literally could not do anything but I have been seeing Finlay Menzies for the last two or three weeks and he has sorted me right out. My back muscles are really small compared to the muscles on the front of the body, because I have been boxing since I was really small. I wouldn’t have made the fight without him so he has been a Godsend. It was him who got in contact with my manager so we didn’t know if he was just some random guy. I didn’t have a clue what to expect but after the first session I knew he was going to sort me out.”
Flynn played some golf when a kid, and after being given free membership for Dalziel Golf Club, he admits he could be tempted to dig out the plus fours on a more regular basis. “The other thing I did with the back guy is that he does a lot with golf, so we joined Dalziel Golf Club,” he said. “My back is dead stiff, it doesn’t move, so I got told to do golf to assist me on my back rotations. I played when I was younger, but I never got that good. I never got a handicap, I never understood how that works.”
Flynn is part of a three-strong Scottish contingent on a bill for the show which has been forced into a fairly radical transformation. With proposed headliner Bradley Saunders forced to withdraw with a broken hand, Hearn has been quick to rack up a Commonwealth title shot for fellow home favourite Anthony Nelson of South Shields, and who should come in as the opposition but Dundonian Jamie Wilson, a man with just five previous fights under his belt. The hugely impressive Anthony Joshua also features as does Edinburgh’s Stephen Simmons, who defends his WBC International Silver cruiserweight title against Jon-Lewis Dickinson. Flynn admits there is added pressure.
“It is my first Sky TV show and you never get a second chance to make a first impression,” he said. “There is a bit of pressure there, this is the first time Eddie Hearn is going to be watching me, the first time the British public are going to be seeing me as a pro boxer so I am looking for a good performance and I know I am going to put on a good performance. Training and sparring has been going great. It is just about sharpening up and doing the damage on the night.
“I don’t know much about my opponent, I have just seen some clips,” added Flynn. “But he is orthodox, quite scrappy, but with quite clumsy feet. I have watched him and I know I will beat him. I have got a video of him and I just need to make sure I work his feet a lot, and his elbows are very wide so I will work his body. I will highlight all his bad points, and any things that he does well I will just try to nullify them.”show less
The Lanarkshire fighter has been working with movement expert Finlay Menzies as he battles the back and groin issues which forced him to withdraw from his proposed bout with Ideh Ochuko last month, and after a tentative opening round he led Harris a merry dance.show more
THERE was a new and unwelcome sensation for Stephen Simmons last night when he surrendered both his unbeaten record as a professional boxer and his WBC international silver cruiserweight title after being stopped by home favourite Jon-Lewis Dickinson in the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle.
The Edinburgh fighter, who won a Commonwealth bronze medal for Scotland in Delhi in 2010, went into the bout with 11 wins from 11 fights, five of them by way of knockout. But fighting on Eddie Hearn’s televised Geordie Roar bill, it was Dickinson, a 28-year-old from Durham, whose brother Travis was also on the bill, who gave the crowd something to shout about.
This was a typically aggressive display from the 30-year-old from the capital, who was on the front foot throughout, particularly during the evenly contested early stages. But he failed to persevere with his good early work to the body and instead walked into too many clean shots from Dickinson, a man battling to save his career after back-to-back defeats to Ovill McKenzie and Courtney Fry.
This product of the North East had Simmons in trouble in both the fifth and sixth rounds – the bell coming to his assistance while he teetered on the ropes in the latter. While there was a minor Simmons resurgence in the seventh, the referee had little choice but to end the contest just one round later, with the Scot appearing unsteady on his feet after another fine right hand from Dickinson had left him on the canvas.
“Of course it was it was do or die for me,” said a victorious Dickinson. “I am not going to keep getting beat. It would have been the end. He is a strong lad, who was always going to come forward. But we had confidence in the camp. I know when I look in the mirror that I am a 100% different man from I was then.”
Thankfully there was at least one successful border raid from a Scottish fighter to recount last night. Earlier in the night, Charlie Flynn, the 21-year-old Commonwealth lightweight gold medallist, betrayed little ill effects from his recent back problems as he recorded a unanimous points victory against Andy Harris in the second bout of his professional career.
The Lanarkshire fighter has been working with movement expert Finlay Menzies as he battles the back and groin issues which forced him to withdraw from his proposed bout with Ideh Ochuko last month, and after a tentative opening round he led Harris a merry dance.
Harris was hit with a barrage of hefty rights, enough to dump him on the canvas in the third. With a cut above his right eye, Harris was soon just happy spoiling and holding to survive, and while he was unable to finish his man off, the Scot came out a comfortable winner by a 40-35 margin. While there was a minor disappointment for Flynn that changes to the schedule saw him moved down and out of the live televised broadcast, he is still at the phase of his development where any pro rounds are a blessing. “Great win tonight, dropped him in the third, thanks for all the support,” the Scot said.show less
I hurt my back and tore my groin a few weeks ago and they are not 100 per cent, but thanks to the support of Dalziel Golf Club and Finlay Menzies at the movement studio I am ready to face Andy Harris in Newcastle.show more
Charlie is aiming to be a television star
Charlie Flynn met boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard for a TV programme earlier this month, now hes ready to get back in front of the cameras.
Newarthill boxer Charlie Flynn says injury will not prevent him making his televised debut as a professional on Saturday.
Flynn will feature in front of the Sky Sports cameras as he faces Andy Harris in Newcastle on the undercard of Olympic Gold medallist Anthony Joshua’s fight.
Having made a successful debut in December, a bout of sciatica forced him to pull out of a fight in Glasgow earlier this month, but he says there was no chance of that happening this time.
Flynn said: “If it was a smaller fight then perhaps I would have considered calling off, but this is such a big opportunity that just wasn’t going to happen.
“I hurt my back and tore my groin a few weeks ago and they are not 100 per cent, but thanks to the support of Dalziel Golf Club and Finlay Menzies at the movement studio I am ready to face Andy Harris in Newcastle.
“There will be no excuses, I have been able to spar fine, the injuries have just meant that rather than having a five week camp it’s been for three weeks.
“I was used to the TV cameras at the Commonwealth Games, but this is my first time in front of them as a professional and there are a certain amount of nerves because you only get one chance to make a first impression.show less
Charlie Flynn isn’t like most boxers. When he invited the media along to meet him this week the Scottish hopeful picked Ashton Lane – one of Glasgow’s most famous spots for west end pub goers and socialites – for what many predicted a photo shoot in one of the lane’s trendy bars or restaurants.show more
Charlie gets back to basics ahead of Newcastle showdown with Harris – Sessions with movement expert Menzies mean the ‘Mailman’ is back in top shape. By Nick Thomsonshow more
BOXING ace Charlie Flynn is ready to take to the ring once more after putting his recent injury woes behind him.
‘The Mailman’ was forced to pull out of a fight at Glasgow’s Thistle Hotel last month with a painful back injury, but thanks to some intensive sessions with movement consultant Finlay Menzies, he is in terrific shape ahead of his fight with journeyman Andy Harris in Newcastle this Saturday.
As our terrific pictures show, Flynn has certainly been put through his paces by former professional golfer Menzies — a man who is more used to returning ballet dancers to optimum fitness.
And after his excruciating session, the Commonwealth Gold medallist took time out of his busy schedule to sit down with the Wishaw Press — and he began by telling us of his excitement at getting back to competitive action.
He said:“I can’t wait to get back in the ring. It’s been four months since my last fight after I had to pull out of my latest bout at the start of March because of my back.
“The fight in Newcastle is a bigger fight — and I could have injured my back in that smaller fight last month and missed the big show.”
The show in the Metro Radio Arena on Tyneside will be Flynn’s first professional fight to be shown on television and is headlined by Olympic Gold medal-winning heavyweight Anthony Joshua — a man many believe will go on to become a world champion within the next few years.
And, ever the showman, the ‘Mailman’ is determined to impress both the Geordie crowd and those watching at home.
“It’s quite weird as I watched Anthony Joshua before the Games and he was a big star, and all of a sudden I’m on his undercard,” he said.
“So it’s a big thing for me, and I know I can and will perform, and I know I’m going to please the public.
“Everyone will like the way I box and will want to see more, so I’m just looking to getting on a show where
so many people will be watching.”
And as well as impressing the public, Flynn is also hoping to vindicate top promoter Eddie Hearn’s decision to sign him up when he turned professional.
“It will be good to show him that he’s made the right choice by signing me,” he added.
“The pros and amateurs are two different things — sometimes you get a great amateur who gets done-in on the pro circuit, or a poor amateur who does really well in the pros.
“But I know I’m suited to being a pro, and I’m looking forward to showing Eddie and all of Britain that I’m the new kid on the block.
“I don’t know if he knows just how good a prospect it is he’s signed.”
Flynn: I owe it all to Fin’s fine work
Without the intervention of movement consultant Finlay Menzies, Charlie Flynn reckons there is no way he would facing up to Andy Harris on Saturday night.
He told us: “I wouldn’t have made the fight if it wasn’t for him. I couldn’t run or do my exercises without my back hurting.
“But Finlay has sorted it all out, and now I’ve been in to see him I can’t see myself having back problems again.
“He’s been working on my groin too, and after doing it a few times I’ve been able to start running again.”
The Gyrotonic contraptions that Flynn is hooked up to work his back muscles — muscles that wouldn’t normally be used by a boxer given the sort of movements they use when fighting.
And despite the pain he has to go through to improve his back, the ‘Mailman’ certainly believes it to be worthwhile.
He said:“It is painful, but it’s stretching all the muscles but you’re working them as well. My back muscles are really weak compared to the front of my body, and it is sore — but not in a way that it feels like an injury.”
And with his back improving, Flynn has been able to return to something like a normal training schedule, and he explained to us what is involved in that.
He continued:“I train for two hours every morning with two sessions that we alternate. One is sprints and boxing, and the other is plyometrics and strength work.
“We do one of those sessions day about over six days.
“Then in the afternoon, I run. Normally I would do seven miles but at the moment I’m only able to do three because my groin hurts.
“Then at night I do some sparring with my coach Peter Harrison — and we’ve been doing that non-stop, and this week my fitness has rocketed as I’ve been able to do everything again.
“By the time the fight comes, I’ll be in perfect condition.”
Saturday will see a crowd of thousands pack into Newcastle’s Metro Radio Arena, and Flynn believes his expereince of fighting in front of such large audiences last summer at the Commonwealth Games will stand him in good stead.
He continued:“I’ve been there with the big, big crowds at the Games, and I’ve felt the buzz, and it’s not scary for me.
“At my first fight, I was terrified before it but, for the final, even though there was a much bigger crowd, I was super confident.
“That experience is something you can’t buy, and you learn to use it to your advantage, and feed off it.”show less
Andy Murray uses Gyrotonic as part of his fitness training and rehabilitation after back surgery – 2 hours per day – phew that guy is fit!! I’m always aware after I read these articles that people think that Gyrotonic is for the super-fit, it is not. It is as effective for Andy Murray as it is for the proverbial couch potato to anyone in between.show more
Murray turns ballet boy to retain Wimbledon crown
Andy Murray’s new regime includes breathing techniques and a pulley weights system (Xposure)
TAKE a deep breath. Andy Murray has prepared for the defence of his Wimbledon crown by adopting an exercise regime that combines breathing techniques with a pulley weight training system.
Murray has been spending up to two hours a day on Gyrotonic training, a form of exercise used to help ballet dancers and favoured by sports stars, including Tiger Woods, and the singers Sting and Madonna.
The Gyrotonic system was developed in America and incorporates movement principles from yoga, dance, gymnastics, swimming and tai chi. It involves the use of a specially designed machine fitted with rotational discs and weighted pulleys that allow the user to strengthen their muscles using flowing, circular movements.
The technique was pioneer–ed in the 1980s by Juliu Horvath, a Romanian dancer who performed with the Houston Ballet, to help him recover from injury. Matt Aversa, vice-president of Gyrotonic, said: “One of our trainers who worked with Andy Murray in Miami said he was curious at first but gradually grew to really like it.”
Gyrotonic is gaining in popularity in Britain where there are now 48 licensed studios.
Franziska Rosenzweig, a former ballerina and Gyrotonic instructor in east London, said: “It has a lot to do with bending and extending the spine. It changes your muscle tone and you become long and lean. For Andy Murray it is probably very revitalising and realigns the symmetry of the body in a sport where you are using one side of your body more than the other.”
Since winning Wimbledon, Murray, 27, has undergone back surgery. He is seeded No 3 in this year’s championships.
•Maria Sharapova has defended a decision to open Sugarpova Candy Lounge, a temporary sweet shop, close to the All England Club. Asked if she was setting a bad example to children, she said: “I know all about living a healthy lifestyle . . . but everybody loves sweets including myself.”show less
The Telegraph ~ 2nd July 2014
Andy Murray’s secret fitness weapon? It turned me into a floppy dolphin – By Sarah Raineyshow more
Andy Murray’s fitness is a subject of intense interest. Gone the lanky teenager; enter the muscle-bound Wimbledon champ. His latest gym obsession is the Gyrotonic – a mix of yoga and ballet, enacted on a medieval torture device. Sarah Rainey limbers up
Gym classes are not my forte. Sure, the occasional emergency – eating my bodyweight in Ben & Jerry’s; discovering that none of the clothes in my wardrobe actually fit – has prompted me to sign up for the odd yoga or pilates session. But I don’t make a habit of it.
The truth is that I dread the thought of a room filled with toned uber-fitties, wearing infinitely better work-out gear and sweating in that radiant way that only supermodels do. I’ve contemplated dropping out. A serious pep talk, a shopping trip for a new (very stretchy) exercise outfit and a despairing examination of my flabby arms is usually required before I’m willing to walk through the door.
And when I do, I need to be eased gently into the class. “Now it’s time to relax” is one of my favourite pre-work out phrases. The following have a similar effect: “Lie down and close your eyes”; “Leave all your worries outside”; and “This is going to be quick, easy and painless”. Which, when you’re doing something that involves sock soles, spongy mats and a soothing soundtrack, is normally what you’d expect.
So when I walk into a chi-chi yoga complex in Primrose Hill, take off my shoes and pad past a café selling mung bean salads and vats of green juice, I’m pretty sure I know what I’m in for – and I’m ready.
The changing rooms are filled with women who look like me; the background music is mellow; the air smells faintly of lavender. But then I meet my trainer at the door of the studio and make the mistake of glancing past her. What awaits me, can only be described as a medieval rack. With my blood pumping in my ears, I only just register her saying: “Now some people think it looks like a torture device, or some kind of S&M machine. But there’s no need to be frightened.”
Before I know it (and before I can even contemplate barrelling past her and heading for the nearest darkened room), I am face-to-face with the Gyrotonic expansion system. It looks – and this is no exaggeration – like a cross between something from the horror film Hostel and the Red Room of Pain, as described in Fifty Shades of Gray. At one end there are levers fitted on a circular axle; at the other are weights, pulleys and a terrifying mesh of ropes. In the middle is a long, leather-clad bench on which I imagine I am going to have to sit.
There is only one person to blame for the agony I’m about to endure – and that’s Andy Murray. For it is because of the Wimbledon champion that I’ve come to try out Gyrotonic: the latest exercise trend, imported from the US, said to combine elements of yoga, dance, swimming, gymnastics and tai chi. It was revealed last month that Murray has been using Gyrotonic to prepare for the defence of his SW19 crown. He is said to use the machine for up to two hours a day, having got a taste for it while training in Miami.
And so, in a desperate bid to emulate the nation’s favourite grumpy athlete – or at least to improve my abominable forehand – I’ve signed up to a one-on-one Gyrotonic session at Triyoga’s north London studio, where my very patient instructor, Aud Aasbo, is eyeing me with increasing suspicion.
I am, I tell her, a little intimidated. “I can see in a way it looks like a stretching machine,” she admits. “But it’s not that at all. Gyrotonic is all about creating space and lengthening your body. It feels organic and comfortable to use. It’s the kind of machine that really gets into the cobwebs – but not in a painful way. You’ll love it.”
Somewhat less convinced, I let her talk me through the main principles. Invented by Juliu Horvath, a Hungarian ballet dancer who performed with the New York City Opera in the 1970s, it was originally called ‘Yoga for Dancers’. Having torn his Achilles, Horvath retired from dancing and moved to a small enclave in the Virgin Islands in 1977, where he built a one-room hut and devoted six years to intensive yoga and meditation. He then returned to New York, where he began to teach the technique he had developed to dancer friends and, in the 1980s, pioneered Gyrokinesis (of which one element is the Gyrotonic machine).
Today, it’s practised the world over. The founder – Horvath, now in his seventies, still leads the devotees – boast that there are over 2,500 Gyrotonic studios worldwide. Aficionados reportedly include Tiger Woods, Jennifer Aniston and Madonna (who, incidentally, Aud tells me, “used to do it in a studio just down the road”).
It’s popular, primarily, among dancers and sportspeople: there is a machine at the Royal Opera House (used not only by ballerinas but singers, too) and it’s a popular training method at the World Cup, with the German national team flying their machine over to Rio. The torture chamber – fondly known as ‘The Cobra’ by trainers – costs upwards of £3,000 to buy.
Once you get past the aesthetics of the thing (not to mention the terrifying nickname), the first step of Gyrotonic is to understand the movements. “It’s based on spirals and circles, which is how the body moves naturally,” explains Aud. “It’s about warming up the spine, loosening the joints, balancing your system. It even” – and, at this, I perk up – “massages your organs.”
Is that even possible? To find out, I mimic her warm up routine; a series of ducking, diving, arching and curling the back – which she, a former dance student at the Norwegian Opera Ballet School, does with poise and finesse. I do it with about as much élan as a floppy dolphin. I even emit the odd squeak.
Which is quite apt, because the dolphin – or, rather, the “reverse dolphin” – as it turns out, is one of the main Gyrotonic routines. I quickly progress on to the machine (either I’m a natural or Aud is politely speeding up the class to disguise my ineptitude) and we rattle through the four main series: arch and curl, hamstring, upper body and abdominals.
The first involves leaning forward while spinning the levers at one end in large concentric circles; the other three are more intensive, requiring me to lie down on the machine and push, pull and twist with any combination of my limbs on the various wheels and pulleys. It’s undignified; it makes my legs shake uncontrollably and I’m sweating far more than is acceptable. But I’m not, contrary to first impressions, having a terrible time.
Aud has seen a spike in popularity of Gyrotonic and her customers hail from all walks of life; “from little old men to pregnant women”. She can see the appeal for athletes such as Andy Murray. “You can make the movement quite sport-specific; you become prepared to move unexpectedly, so that would be great for returning a difficult shot. And, though this might sound a bit hippie, I notice that people who use it seem happier afterwards: they get a spiritual lift from the flowing, luscious movements.” As we try out different routines on the machine – most of them, inexplicably, named after animals – I start to see what she means: that dull ache in my back, the product of too many hours hunched in an office chair, starts to lift, leaving me feeling bouncy and energetic.
Ninety minutes in, though, and I’ve had quite enough luscious movements for one day. I can, Aud explains, practise the stretches at home, without the machine; but I’ve become strangely fond of this odd apparatus. I might not be a complete convert yet, but I’m tempted to sign up for a few more sessions.
With continuous use, Horvath – whose English is, at times, dubious – claims Gyrotonic can bring a whole host of benefits: “natural ageing without too much discomfort, indulging in the gift of life and in one’s body, and dancing free in the spirit”. I don’t know about winning Wimbledon, but if Murray keeps this up, he’ll be the twinkliest-toed tennis player in town.
Four animal-based Gyrotonic exercises to try at home
The reverse dolphin: My favourite. Lie flat on your back, thrust your legs in the air and kick them together like you’re doing the butterfly swimming stroke. Great for core strengthening and thighs; not recommended near breakable objects.
The octopus: Suitable for beginners. Sit on a mat in the middle of an empty room, making sure nobody can see you. Wiggle your arms in the manner of a hungry sea creature until exhausted / too embarrassed to continue.
The turtle: Scrunch up your abs and upper back, touching your chin to your chest. Reverse the movement, stretching out your torso like a turtle emerging from its shell. Do not do too quickly or unexpectedly, particularly if in company.
The frog: Lie on your back and kick your legs skyward, heels stretched far apart, in the manner of a leaping frog. If in an enclosed space, be less ambitious: aim for a swimming frog, or if especially restricted, a tadpole.show less
In this article in the “Saturday” magazine Kate talks about Ballet training, the life of a dancer and the exercise videos she developed with Scottish Ballet.show more
A series of free fitness downloads where Gyrotonic instructor, Kate Menzies, is joined by principal dancer Claire Robertson and Coryphée dancer Kara McLaughlin, amongsty others in a workout designed to help tone, lengthen and strengthen muscles. These downloads also introduce barre work and takes the form of a dancer’s regular warm up prior to taking daily class.show more
Scottish Ballet, National Dance Company Wales and English National Ballet are joining forces for the first time in a national celebration of dance inspired by the 2012 London Olympics and the coming together of the British nations for Team GB.
Christopher Harrison, Scottish Ballet’s Dance GB poster boy, talks about his training. This is the first of a few videos from each company, exploring the world of dancers as ‘athletes of God’.show more
A DAD who once suffered from crippling back pain is gearing up for a marathon swim, kayak, trek and cycle for a SECOND time.show more
A DAD who once suffered from crippling back pain is gearing up for a marathon swim, kayak, trek and cycle for a SECOND time.
David Forrest had endured problems with his back since his early 20s and tried various different treatments, but nothing did the trick.
But since attending the Movement Studio in Glasgow two years ago, David no longer suffers from the terrible back pain, although he still attends regularly to prevent it from returning.
The 44-year-old, who lives to keep active, is now looking forward to taking part in the challenging Artemis Great Kindrochit Quadrathlon at Loch Tay in the Scottish Highlands.
The event raises money for charities Mary’s Meals and Mercy Corps.
David, who lives in Bearsden with his wife Dawn and three sons Jack (13), Scott (11) and Fraser (7), also took part in the paired event last year in a time of 14 hours and 45 minutes.
He said: “I used to have a sore back all the time and it did limit what I could do.
“On more than one occasion I had to lie on the floor for a week.
“The Movement Studio has worked wonders for me.
“It’s very targeted towards each individual and the exercise you do to specific muscles.
“I have also started sitting better and thinking about what I do.
“If I think something is going to be heavy to lift then I’ll get someone to help.”
David will take part in the quadrathlon on July 9 with friend Simon Inglis and they have called themselves the ‘Round The Rugged Rock’ team.
The tough challenge involves a 0.8 mile swim across Loch Tay, a 15 mile hill trek of seven munros, followed by a seven mile kayak and finishing with a 34 mile cycle.
David, who runs a jewellery wholesale business, added: “Last year it took me a week to recover from the quadrathlon.
“It was exhausting, but I’m looking forward to doing it again.
“I’m doing a lot of training to prepare and I’m hoping to improve on last year’s time. I’m also hoping to raise as much money for the charities as I can.”show less
CRIPPLED with excruciating back pain, Murray Leith was unable to get out of bed one morning.
As someone who suffered a catalogue of back problems for two decades, most days were a struggle for the university lecturer – even simple tasks like standing upright were near-impossible.show more
As someone who suffered a catalogue of back problems for two decades, most days were a struggle for the university lecturer – even simple tasks like standing upright were near-impossible.show less
IT’S the technique used by ballet dancers to keep their bodies supple and injury free for the big stage.
But gyrokinesis can be just as beneficial to ordinary people who just want to keep their bodies in tip-top condition.
We can learn a lot from the world of dance.show more
IT’S the technique used by ballet dancers to keep their bodies supple and injury free for the big stage.
But gyrokinesis can be just as beneficial to ordinary people who just want to keep their bodies in tip-top condition.
We can learn a lot from the world of dance.
You only have to study a dancer’s movements and poise to know they are aware of their bodies and how they work.
Behind that lightness of foot lies a controlled strength and confident control.
A hunched back and a saggy tummy just won’t do. Even just standing up straight can make us look thinner, but we often have no idea where our perfect alignment lies.
Gyrokinesis was devised more than 30 years ago by Juliu Horvath, a former professional dancer and gymnast.
With the help of gyrokinesis, Scottish ballerina Kate Menzies not only returned to dance after a back injury, but felt even stronger than before.
Kate, who danced with Scottish Ballet for nine years, is now a qualified gyrokinesis practitioner running a studio from Scottish Ballet’s headquarters at The Tramway, in Glasgow.
She helps maintain the fitness levels of the dancers, who boast the one of the lowest rates of injury in their profession.
Now she and husband Finlay, a professional golfer who has benefited from gyrokinesis for injuries, have opened The Movement Studio in Glasgow.
I had booked a session with Kate on a gyrotonic table, based on the principles of gyrokinesis. I had no idea what to expect but it looked like some kind of weird torture table from a James Bond movie.
It’s very low impact, so there’s no heavy sweating or jumping around and hurting your joints.
Kate manipulated me around the table with moves that looked and felt like doing the breast stoke, but really opening up my chest.
Then a series of rotations to the side, which really make you work your back and sides. When my ankles went into the stirrups, I quickly put all scary images of childbirth out of my head.
I could feel my leg muscles really working but also elongating. You feel your whole body waking up and it’s like your best stretch ever.
It’s all very safe and you never feel like you are going to over-stretch and injure yourself.
Kate gently holds and manipulates you while the machine supports but challenges.
I liked the feeling of it being one-on-one.
The session becomes tailored to you and Kate is very good at identifying problem areas. Due to sitting at desk with poor posture, I have problem areas in the middle of my back but I am more flexible on one side than the other.
Sometimes it takes a full mobilisation to make you aware of your body. A lot of us hold on to stress and aches for years, which stores up problems for later on.
While the Scottish Ballet dancers use the tables every day, Kate said most people vary between once or twice a week, or as and when they feel it’s necesssary.
The method can be used as a corrective measure for people after surgery and injuries. It can also be tailored for pregnant women and for post-pregnancy, to help get core strength and pelvic floor muscles back in shape.
Kate used it after having her own children, Milo, two, and 13-month-old Isaac. It can also be used to prevent injuries.
The increased stretching and opening up of the chest allows for better breathing, making you more relaxed, calmer and energised, which can induce better mental health.
Kate also sees golfers and rugby players.
The age range is typically between 30-50 but she has people in their 80s, some of whom had lost confidence in their mobility.
Kate runs gyrotonics classes, which accommodate 8-10 people. They sit on stools and work on the same principles.
Another benefit is that this form of exercise won’t give you muscly Popeye legs.
Despite the stretching, it won’t add a few inches to your height, unfortunately. But with Kate’s help, you can start walking tall.
Give it a try at the The Movement Studio’s open day on Saturday, June 5.show less
M-Press Magazine ~ 05 April 2010
This fantastic system is taught by both Kate & Finlay Menzies in the prestigious settings of the Movement Studio, Glasgow’s West end, also at the newly developed Tramway, home to Scottish Ballet.show more
For this issue I am reviewing a highly innovative approach to the movement of the body and its conditioning, namely the Gyrotonic Expansion System. This fantastic system is taught by both Kate & Finlay Menzies in the prestigious settings of the Movement Studio, Glasgow’s West end, also at the newly developed Tramway, home to Scottish Ballet.
Now admittedly having no concept or previous understanding of this system, I was initially intrigued but also rather apprehensive about this fantastic equipment. At first glance, I can only say the senses were considerably heightened at the sight of what appeared to me as some sort of mechanical genius/torture contraption, honestly I wondered what I had got myself into. The experience however, well read on. . . .
Now interestingly the creator and founder of this system, Juliu Horvath developed this unique approach as a result of his own personal struggles and the intuitive realization of the body at its most subtle level. A former professional dancer and accomplished gymnast, he found his career abruptly ended by spinal damage and a ruptured Achilles. Now this twist of fate certainly propelled Juliu in a new direction, but not in a restricted role in any sense. This remarkable man committed himself to move beyond his current limitations, embarking on a period of self discovery and intensive study of the human condition. This was achieved during retreat on the island of St Thomas, through the practice of Yogic disciplines. This experience led to the development of Gyrokinesis from, which later grew the Gyrotonic expansion system.
Julio intuitively understood that the connective tissues of the body must be lengthened and strengthened, using a creative harmonious approach, which promotes its natural function. By employing his understanding that the body heals through its own intelligence, he decided that it must learn the joyful lesson, something it should wish to repeat as it restores itself. Knowing this he playfully began to stretch, strengthen and elongate his muscles, using rhythmic circular and spiralling movements. These had the desired effect of gently opening the spine and joints, as well as creating the vital internal strength and balance needed to freely move with grace and control. Specialized breathing techniques were also developed to promote healing capacity at a cellular level, oxygenating the body as it moves. This also serves to re-establish our sense of vitality, as it enables our energy too flow efficiently without inhibition. Ultimately Juliu discovered how to engage the body in the most natural way, with an economy of breath and economy of movement. By using the least, but also the exact amount of resistance needed to perform each action, it meant he could once more move freely without restriction, skillfully without struggle!
The apparatus developed by him, allows people of various abilities to perform and benefit from these movements in a very therapeutic and fun way. Thus making recovery sessions seem a lot less of a chore. However, as we shall discover this is only one of many applications for this system, it can be used also for enhanced conditioning and sports specific training.
As a teacher of Yoga and also in my own personal understanding from a sports coaching capacity, I had some reservations as to exactly how effective this equipment could be? Let me say exactly how impressed I am, not only by the range of movement, breath and awareness that is quickly achieved, but also in the way that Kate & Finlay sensitively guide their clients to achieve maximum benefit from each session. I quickly became aware that this system requires complete mental focus (Finlay, demands it), it also has quite a meditative effect on you too, pleasantly more focus equalling less effort! The use of resistance and elements incorporated from swimming, dance and martial arts develops strength, which encourages the use of the body with intelligence and control.
What is apparent is that both Kate and Finlay share the practice from their personal experience.
Finlay a member of the PGA and a professional player/coach was introduced to Gyrotonic and Gyrokinesis after shoulder & spinal injuries hampered his ability to play. Remarkably, but not surprisingly, he has not only regained full physical health, but enhanced his game through the development of fine motor control. Since then he has pursued a keen interest in the internal arts of Chi Gung and Yoga, seeking to continually evolve his knowledge and understanding of our physical and energetic systems. The science of movement has provided him with the tools to unite mind, body and soul.
Kate having danced with the Scottish Ballet for over 9 years, as well as both the Birmingham and Royal Ballet, inherently understands the demands of top level performance on artists and athletes alike. Working with an extensive client group which ranges from runners & dancers, too members of the building trade. Kate has witnessed many people return stronger than ever after rehabilitation, often displaying an awareness & control of their bodies that has been absent since much earlier in life. This new found freedom obviously makes for much happier & healthier individuals!
Personally I can confidently say this is an enjoyable, safe and intelligent way in which to be guided towards a strong, lean and supple body, without leaving yourself in a puddle of sweat or with the danger of frequent visits to the injury table either. It’s definitely something that myself & I’m sure many others might consider as an alternative to traditional exercise. Indeed I would highly recommend a visit to The Movement Studio for its restorative effects but also as an aid to sports enthusiasts or athletes looking to achieve peak performance, improved conditioning & functional power. It is without doubt a means to progress in my own discipline & I only wish I had came across it in my youth, when I was boxing, kayaking, skiing and racing about on dirt bikes… it’s seriously that good!
Alan Dickson, Yoga Teacher
M-Press Magazine, Interior and Lifestyle Magazine, January to March 2010 Editionshow less
The Sky Arts camera follow the dancers as they prepare to perform George Balanchine’s ‘Rubies’, ‘Workwithinwork’ choreographed by William Forsythe and ‘In Light and Shadow’, set to the music of Bach. Get a behind the scenes glimpse of their working lives including their work on the Gyrotonic equipment.