“The breath is one of the first things impacted by stress of any kind and it impacts every part of your body. There is no part of your human that isn’t touched by breathing!”
“Deal with what’s happening. Move that out of your body, and as that moves, you’ll start feeling – ‘Wow, I was hanging on to a lot of stuff’.”
Lisa Roche is the founder and owner of a 1 to 1 GYROTONIC® studio, called Nagare, based in New Jersey. Her studio also shares the space with other holistic therapies, such as Reiki and Massage.
We speak about the importance of acknowledging wellbeing, looking at the body as a whole, as well as how self-care is changing with this universal shift of the pandemic. Lisa also provides some great tips on how to deal with this.
She takes us through her life before discovering the GYROTONIC® method – from political science, to being a mother, to studying music – then flash forward to when she began Adult Ballet classes and her long history of back pain started to flared up.
Listen to her enthusiastic and generous story.
Follow Lisa & Her Work
Check out these relaxing and moving tunes for some vibrational ambiance for your studio. Orginally made for StretchLab (pictured above), where clients want to relax during their deep stretches.
As trainers, we spend most of our time in the studio, so why not let the atmosphere have feel-good vibes? I’ll keep adding on to this playlist, so be sure to come back to it every now and again.
Listening is a virtue, especially for the body. There’s no need to force the body into shape; let’s nurture the body instead.
In a time where we’ve been physically confined (and mentally for some of us), we now need to start wiggling our nervous system a little bit as we re-emerge into the world.
The body holds all kinds of muscular restrictions formed from memory, habits, mental and physical trauma, stress, etc. To truly feel the body, we must learn how to listen. Thus, we should turn to somatics for guidance.
Although the idea of body listening is not necessarily revolutionary or ground breaking, it is, nevertheless, a concept that has been under-emphasized in the dance technique class and should be revisited.
5 Components of Somatic Approach –
awakens the senses and prepare the body and mind for learning. One way of accomplishing this involves the use of improvisational structures within the technique class, rather than just “see and do” exercises.
the examination and processing of information the learner receives from doing movement.
affirms the dynamic state of the experiential moment, as each person tunes inward to listen to each inhale and exhale. Breath can be a very powerful way to build and retain concentration, endurance, focus, and flow in the dancing moment.
accounts for the whole person, not excluding the environmental context in which the person lives and moves.
acknowledges that a dancer’s technical training should include opportunities to hone his or her creative skills.
Source: Enghauser, Rebecca. Developing Bodies in the Dance Technique Class (2007).
We can use aspects of this approach in our own time or even while we’re taking class. Here are a few methods that specifically uses a somatic approach that’s geared for dancers and movers alike:
Happy Moving <3
“I believe in humans… their behaviour and their stories.”
Colleen is a performer, choreographer, educator and the Founder/Co-Artistic Director of Frog in Hand – a dynamic, site-specific driven performance group that she began with her sister, Noelle Hamlyn.
I first met Colleen in 2010 at London Contemporary Dance School where we received our Masters. I’ve been following her work over the years and now, given the climate, I finally made the time to arrange a chat with her.
Here we easily speak about her work, how she got there, her dance and non-dance related influences, and how she’s been transitioning during the lockdown.
Master Trainer Domini Anne from Carmel, California. She is an avid mover and maker within the movement community who is constantly delving deep into GYROTONIC® and GYROKINESIS® methods as well as various styles of yoga, movement and fitness.
I first met Domini in San Francisco many moons ago at S.F. GYROTONIC® where she also sold her own clothing line. It was exciting to catch up to see what else she’s been doing within her movement explorations like: Galileo Training, Yoga Trapeze, and Aerial Yoga.
I was definitely able to understand why she wanted to talk about the usefulness of knowing how to connect yoga and fitness with the GYROTONIC® and GYROKINESIS® methods and why we should continue to showcase their importances both in person and online.
Yoga & the Gyrotonic Method are supportive, [therefore] they are two logical crossovers. So how can we integrate [the Gyrotonic] system to people who are curious about movement?
Follow Domini’s Work
From left to right: Poster Presenters Jennifer S. Dalva, Jeanine Ferrone, Rita Renha, & Marni Larkin
From teaching to speaking with medical professionals first hand, Specialized GYROTONIC® Master Trainer Rita Renha wrote an open letter about the progress that’s happening between dance rehabilitation and physical therapy today.
These progressions involve the collaboration of GYROTONIC® Manhasset, Harkness Center Healthy Dancer Initiative (HCHDI) and making sure physical therapists enhance their practice as a movement practitioner.
I first met Rita Renha during a Gyrotonic Trainer Update Course in Lisbon, Portugal in April 2018 at Equilibrium – many thanks to studio owner, GYROKINESIS® Master Trainer, and GYROTONIC® Pre-trainer, Bernardo Gama. After Renha learned that I created The Movement Blog and I about her new projects, we wanted to collaborate instantly.
As I’ve been becoming quite familiar with the work between Marni Larkin, studio owner of GYROTONIC® Manhasset, and HCHDI, a few things will be presented:
Renha’s Open Letter to the Dance and GYROTONIC® community.
What’s changing in movement and injury education.
Key points from the presentation of Rita Renha, Marni Larkin, Jennifer S. Dalva (NYU Langone Health), and HCHDI at the NEXT APTA Conference and Exposition.
“HCHDI provides professional dancers in financial need with subsidised educational opportunities to encourage a sound, holistic approach to self care and aid in career longevity.” (med.nyu.edu/hjd/harkness)
HCHDI now officially partners with GYROTONIC® Manhasset to provide subsidised Gyrotonic sessions to the dance community. Gyrotonic sessions are then held at the New York City Center Building.
The team will continue to present at medical conferences in the U.S. about the resources they have gathered thus far amongst their dance students and patients. This collaboration alone will provide a number of opportunities to be the role model for other dance injury clinics and schools.
An excerpt of Renha’s open letter:
I am sharing several developments that I have been very proud to be a part of.
What makes these developments so exciting is that, I believe they represent the first time in the USA, that the GYROTONIC® method has been experienced by the mainstream medical community. It seems that it has been the perfect timing as the new vision statement for the American Physical Therapy Association reads: “Transforming society by optimizing Movement to improve the human experience.”
As we have known for years, the GYROTONIC® method is an incredibly innovative and sophisticated system – not just for wellness, but also for rehabilitation. Inroads of this nature are essential for the method to “be given its due” but more importantly, so rehabilitation professionals have a far more advanced tool than anything in the health sciences currently offered.
We have been collaborating with the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries, a world renowned institution headed by Dr Marijeanne Leiderbach, and part of NYU Langone Health in New York. Marni Larkin (owner of GYROTONIC® Manhasset) a PT and a pre-trainer in my network first offered an in house workshop for the Harkness Rehabilitation staff back in 2011.
Since then, we have continued to develop interest, and in 2016, a 3 day presentation entitled ‘Introduction to GYROTONIC® Methodology for Healthcare Professionals’ was held and received with positive feedback. People from far and wide including Canada and California attended.
Concurrently, the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries sponsored 2 staff members, Jennifer S. Dalva and Kayla Harkness to become certified Gyrotonic Trainers, which they are now. Jackson Kellogg and myself were the Master Trainers associated with their educational courses. Faye Dilgen, the Harkness program manager has been extremely supportive of integrating the Gyrotonic method into the traditional Physical Therapy setting in dance rehabilitation.
Finally, we are in the final stages of being part of the Harkness Center Healthy Dancer Initiative (HCHDI), in which professional and pre-professional dancers that meet certain needs-based criteria will have 10 private Gyrotonic sessions subsidized by Harkness funding.
I hope that you are as excited as we are about these developments, but we truly see them as “the tip of the iceberg” in terms of all that the Gyrotonic method has to offer.
After presenting at the American Physical Therapy Association Conference in New Orleans, February, 2018 – Renha, Larkin, and Dalva will offer their presentation again:
June 27-30, 2018
A Movement System Approach for Clinical Practice
Marni Larkin, PT; Jennifer Dalva, DPT, CSCS; Rita Renha, PT; Faye Dilgen, DPT; Marijeanne Liederbach, PhD, PT, ATC, CSCS
Key Points from “Implementing a Movement System Approach into Clinical Practice Using the GYROTONIC® EXPANSION SYSTEM®” Poster Presentation:
ENCOURAGES PHYSICAL THERAPISTS: to embrace their role as movement practitioners.
FUNCTIONAL BREATHING: Foundational to the Method is an understanding of functional breathing. The goals of the breathing component are  to optimize complex axial movement along the stability/mobility continuum and  to modulate the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The Method varies rhythms, intensities and patterns of breathing to effect specific movement and/or ANS responses.
SPHERICAL MOVEMENT: The Method immediately moves beyond pelvic neutral and encourages the balanced and coordinated movement of the trunk and extremities in all planes of motion, the definition of core stability. Throughout each movement sequence there is an emphasis on axial lengthening.
STABILITY MOBILITY CONTINUUM: Dynamic stabilization occurs through the counterbalance of opposing forces on the whole skeleton minimizing compressive and tensile forces (stress and strain) Strengthening, stretching and mobilization never occur in isolation. Range of motion gains are always accompanied by strength gains. Physical Therapists may use Manual Therapy techniques with the clear intention of subsequent integration into the movement sequence.
MOTOR LEARNING AND FUNCTIONAL STRENGTH: The Method fosters motor learning by varying the environmental constraints of tasks to teach individuals how to make pain- and fear-free, biomechanically efficient choices. Tasks are modified to demand more strength, power and active range of motion within each movement sequence.
“Physical performance is about movement development not just muscular development – if you train the movement, the muscle will develop appropriately.”
– Rita Renha
Written, Formatted, & Edited by:
PT, GYROTONIC® Manhasset Studio Owner
GYROTONIC® and GYROKINESIS® Master Trainer and Personal Assiant to Juliu Horvath (creator and founder of the GYROTONIC® EXPANSION SYSTEM®
GYROTONIC® and GYROKINESIS® Trainer, Dancer, Blogger
Specialized GYROTONIC® and GYROKINESIS® Master Trainer, PT, Functional Therapist, GYROTONIC® Instituto Brasil Studio Owner
Jennifer S. Dalva, Faye E. Dilgen, Marni Larkin, Marijeanne Liederbach, Rita Renha. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 2018.
NEXT APTA Conference & Exposition Poster Presenters
Jennifer S. Dalva, Jeanine Ferrone, Marni Larkin & Rita Renha
Bernardo Ricou Gama: The GYROKINESIS® Master Trainer That’s Making Waves with Mixed-Ability Movement CommunityJune 18, 2018
On April 24th, 2018, I was fortunate to observe, photograph, and film Bernardo Gama’s mixed-ability group that practices both the GYROKINESIS® Method and DanceAbility® Method. From moving while sitting down, transitioning to the floor, to contact improvisation – it was a beautiful to see how movement can develop in every sense of the word.
Sit back and allow me to guide you through my observations and emotional experiences of this 2 hour class that allowed me forget about the outside world and be fully immersed with each individuals’ process.
1ST HOUR – The GYROKINESIS® Method
The class begins with an hour of the GYROKINESIS® Method. After allowing the the spine to be in a calm, upright position, Gama leads the class into the awakening of the senses. Working with the physical and the imaginative, Gama believes that hard to reach areas or areas that simply are not there can be reached through the imagination. Therefore both the brain and the mind can maintain stimulation.
Awakening of the senses is a series of self-massage sequences, from the Gyrokinesis method, from scalp to the toes. It also involves drumming, pulling, and opening the muscles and joints in a calm, relaxed state.
Gama’s energy and intention is very clear throughout as the students follow with comfort and ease. As an observer, the students moved in a familiar fashion within the work, moving the way they knew best. The pace was lovely. There was always enough time for everyone to catch up with each other. I really could feel the joy and presence in the room. Even as I scrambled around the room attempting to capture these moments, the focus stayed on Gama.
. . .
Having worked in the professional dance world for almost 30 years, I felt that the ability to dance and express your inner world was transversal to everybody.
– Bernardo Gama
. . .
Regardless of ability, the main task was to continue moving and exploring. The group flowed into different Gyrokinesis exercise sequences such as Arch & Curl, Spiral Twist, and Sideways Arch. As the movements became more intricate, each hands-on guidance was chosen carefully.
The confidence that transmitted from Gama to the student was like a light bulb becoming brightly lit. There was also sense of playfulness which isn’t often seen in group of adults. Adults have the tendency to lose this kind of playfulness as we acquire more information and experience, which can be difficult to let go. Thus, it was refreshing to observe the contrary.
The group spiralled, waved, and elongated the body, often incorporating with gentle taps of the feet on the floor between sequences, like a reminder to remember to feel the ground again. Each of the sequences flowed into one another allowing the group to become comfortable in their own body and movements.
The class concluded with a 15 minute break to make the transition to the DanceAbility method portion of the class. Those in wheelchairs were carefully released by the help of their caretaker and were placed comfortably on the floor. All new sensations found during the first hour will now be further developed alongside the use of the floor.
. . .
[I learned that] having awareness with even a person with very little mobility, can move or at least reach any part of their body through sensation and/or intention.
– Bernardo Gama
. . .
2ND HOUR – The DanceAbility® Method
After a small break, the 2nd hour began with the DanceAbility® method where all the students are now on the floor, even the wheelchair students. The energy is kept alive as the students accept the challenge. Stillness is challenging in general. Gama continues to bring his students to ease whenever uncertainty arises.
Now the students explore movements on their back more fully, as if the floor is their partner. Gama allows time for the room to come into its own fruition, while also moving and playing in the space alongside the students, which created a fluid ambience.
As Bonobo’s album Migration softly bellows in the background, movements in the room become more intentional, longer, dynamic. More dynamic tasks were gradually introduced, going in and out of the floor. One of the main tasks were similar to a ‘move and freeze’ game. There was a wonderful softness in the ‘freeze’, that acted like a suspension that filled that room.
The task now required morphing into group contact improvisation while continuing to find the use of the limbs, head, each other, and then the floor again. Everyone became even more comfortable with their other senses during the contact improvisation. In fact, within the contact improvisation, it was visible that newer senses were being activated. Now the sense of play and exploration became fearless.
. . .
The DanceAbility® method helped me to systemize many things that I was already giving and teaching in my dance classes […] but this time with much more awareness about people with different bodies and abilities.
– Bernardo Gama
. . .
The next task involved ‘shape-shifting’ in partners, quite an advance task, but everyone is up for the challenge. The exploration stayed present with no resistance. The space gradually filled out with full bodied movements. Watching this type of work is quite touching when you observe the sense of true connection.
The class ended with everyone together as one group in a circle once again to slow down the breath, find expansion, and one word to describe their experience of the day. There was a lot of love in the room for the movements, for the methods, and for each other.
. . .
[In the future] I would like to continue working the base of the Gyrokinesis method and the DanceAbility method to explore [movement] in an organic way, as a spatial architecture, as well as an interior architecture full of possibilities … and one day choreograph on them.
– Bernardo Gama
. . .
Observing Bernardo Ricou Gama Teaching the GYROKINESIS® Method & DanceAbility® Method: A Movement Diary
More About Bernardo Gama
Gama is the studio owner of Equilibrium Studios in Lisbon, Portugal and is a GYROKINESIS® Master Trainer and a GYROTONIC® Pre-Trainer. He already had experience in working with the mixed ability populations, however his first experience in teaching both the Gyrokinesis method and dance was with the group Dançando com a Diferença, back in 2006.
In 2017, Gama became certified in the DanceAbility® Method. Alito Alessi, the artistic director of the method, came to Lisbon to give a 4 week intensive course, so Gama didn’t hesitate. Especially after working with Companhia CIM, and mixed ability dance company, for almost 6 years, he was ready to go to the next level.
Over the last few weeks I’ve taught two GYROKINESIS® Workshops and attended a GYROTONIC® course with Master Trainer Rita Rehna. There are some incredible benefits to delving into these methods more deeply; largely body awareness.
Here are 5 benefits in which I’ve seen within my clients and experienced personally coupled with supported outside sources.
1) Enhanced Body Awareness
Developing body awareness is quite important for understanding movement as it’s also key to healing the body. Within the GYROTONIC® and GYROKINESIS® methods, students are guided through movement sequences that carefully focuses on how to stimulate the body’s physiology in a calm state.
Psychology Today states that slow and deliberate movement practices “increases the parasympathetic relaxation response […] which promotes reduced stress and inflammation and stimulates healing.” Without this, we aren’t able to connect to our bodies properly to promote awareness.
2) Deepened Breathing
The importance of breathing properly within movement can often be forgotten or under practiced. However, the respiratory system plays a major role in body awareness, so without proper use of the breath we reduce our full movement potential.
In the Science of Breathing, Novotny and Kravitz, mentions that, “the practice of proper breathing techniques is aimed at eliminating misused accessory chest muscles, with more emphasis on diaphragmatic breathing.” This helps us to engage the body as a whole, increase oxygen intake, and appropriately stimulate of the neuromuscular system.
3) Understanding Core Connection
When we engage the body, we are able to strengthen the body as whole without unnecessary tension. Unnecessary tension often includes forward head posture, upward shoulders, an overworked lower back, and/or tight hamstrings for example.
“Think of your core the sturdy central link in a chain connecting your upper and lower body,” Harvard Health Publishing relays, “[…][Therefore] your core stabilizes your body, allowing you to move in any direction.” This is exactly the goal of the GYROKINESIS® and GYROTONIC® methods, to create stabilization through contrast for optimal movement.
4) Tapping Into True Wellbeing
Sometimes physical habits and/or emotional habits tend to hold us back from being our optimal selves. Wellbeing should involve enhancing both the body and the mind simultaneously. I’ve often experience clarity and breakthrough within these movement methods because of the way the external and internal body has to work in harmony.
Human Kinetics wonderfully clarifies that, “the pursuit of health, personal growth, and improved quality of life relies on living a balanced life. To achieve balance, we need to care for our mind, body, and spirit […] If any of these three areas is consistently lacking or forgotten about, we will not be at our optimal level of health.”
5) Finding Efficient Movement
Efficient movement not only happens alongside body awareness but when we allow ourselves to enhance our learning and coordination skills. We want to “find effortless effort”, as Master Trainer Rita Rehna would reiterate when we started to work too hard in the course. We must invest enough time and practice to understand our own body.
Movement Therapist and Author, Todd Hargrove, mentions that, “neuroscience reveals that the quality of attention as [we] practice will affect how productive the practice will be […] try to make the movement as smooth and easy and effortless as possible […] this will almost always require slowing the movement down and reducing the force of the movement from time to time.” This is how efficient movement begins.