Gyrotonics is the latest twist on Santa Barbara’s fitness menu: a machine-based exercise system made up of fluid, three-dimensional movements. A Gyrotonics studio opened on De la Vina Street a few weeks ago, just opposite Trader Joe’s. Helmed by Jill Denison, a dancer-cum-trainer from Los Angeles, the studio offers private and duet sessions in 60- and 90-minute durations.
While Pilates was a sort of cultural revelation of the ’00s, it is the parent, it seems, to a spawn of similar fitness trends: exercise systems that focus on “build in” rather than “build out.” Yoga spinning and the Tracy Anderson Method (by which Gwyneth Paltrow vocally and wirily abides) would fall into this category—as does Gyrotonics. Like Pilates, the idea of Gyrotonics is to align your spine and engage your hard-to-tone muscles, which theoretically will lead you to a long and lean body.
Though often grouped with Pilates, Gyrotonics is defined by its differences. The range of motion in Pilates is square; in Gyrotonics, it’s circular. Pilates focuses on reps, and Gyrotonic motion is continual.
A typical exercise comprises spiraling outward so as to simultaneously “stretch and strengthen” your spine—a pivotal phrase in Gyrotonics’ Internet propaganda. At an advanced level, motion is fluid and rhythmic, bending and stretching into twists and rolls, proffering within its subject a more educated awareness of one’s body and, afterward, a sense of bouncy elasticity.
As you would expect from any burgeoning fitness trend, Gyrotonics, though unknown to many, is familiar to concentric circles of people—the innermost ring being dancers, followed by physical therapists, Pilates instructors, and fitnessistas.
Moreover, the fitness talisman that is Madonna has blessed Gyrotonics. Supermodel Naomi Campbell confirms it, as well. Celebrity endorsements bring business, mostly women on the quest for the body beautiful (Madonna arms flickering in their eyes like Elysium). But though Gyrotonics might lead you to a dancer’s physique, Denison clarified, “The body is the byproduct, not the intention.” The focus of Gyrotonics, she said, is to optimize the body’s energy and function.
Upon entering the studio (as media relations allow, I got a freebie lesson), one thing was immediately striking: the sheer size of the machines, which are so big that they generally preclude group sessions. Although, even if the studio could accommodate group sessions, it’d probably defeat the purpose—a vigorous personal training experience with machinery. The primary machine, darkly named the Cobra Tower, is a system of pulleys designed around a bench. There are accents of leather and polished wood, and the parts are handcrafted in Hungary.
Like all machine-based fitness, Gyrotonics is somewhat a function of affluence. A private lesson costs around $80, and a package of 10 costs around $750. “I’m not going to lie: People spend money on this, but it’s no more expensive than Pilates,” said Denison.
The price of Gyrotonics delimits a niche market, but one that’s still surprisingly diverse. Denison reports that men make up 40 percent of her clientele, which also includes tween ballerinas and stroke victims.
To find out if you’re down to spend the money, the studio is offering open houses three times a week to learn about the Gryotonic Method and try out the equipment. As an opening special, Denison offers the first private lesson for $50, or the first three for $149.