Keeping Up With the Gyros

Just when you think you've mastered the newest and latest form of exercise — aerobics, spinning, kickboxing, Tae-Bo, pilates — there's a new trend out there.

Living in Los Angeles, if you don't start participating in the latest craze, you won't be seeing your friends because they'll be meeting every Tuesday and Thursday to work out together and then go out. Pilates and then Luke's for drinks. Yoga followed by a tea at Elixir Cafe.

Well, get ready to start Gyrotonics. No, it's not a drink served at The Roosevelt Hotel. It's a form of exercise that involves pulleys and wooden beds and … well, they look like harnesses to me. But what do I know? I'm a runner. How boring!

Now, before I go any further, I should say that while the general public refers to it as Gyrotonics, it is actually called and patented The Gyrotonic Method. It's hailed as yoga for the 21st century and is a system of exercises that simultaneously strengthen and stretch the body, increase flexibility, mobility, balance and coordination.

So that you don't feel badly if you haven't heard of Gyrotonics, Joel Stein of The Los Angeles Times contends that "any form of exercise that was mentioned in the song 'Greased Lighting' has got to work."

When I met K.W. Miller and entered one of the three studios where he works — In-spiraling Movement Arts, located in West L.A. — I was, to say the least, a bit timid. I felt as if I had entered a medieval torture chamber. Naturally, when he invited me to try one of the machines, I put my feet in the stirrups and my head against a wooden plank, and … he laughed. Evidently, I wasn't doing it the right way — big surprise.

Lisa Marie Goodwin, owner of the studio in West L.A., is a master trainer of the Gyrotonic method and said of Miller, "His background as a dancer has gifted him with both intuitive body skills and compassion in treating injuries. K.W. seems to know just how to help a person understand how to execute the freedom of fluid movement in a connected way — one of the key principles of the Gyrotonic Expansion System."

More evidence that I was in way above my head, but also that the team at In-Spiraling Movement Arts makes one feel capable and comfortable in one's own skin.

From Dancer to Gyrotonics

Miller is a dancer and you can see it upon meeting him. He's lean and lithe and has a smile that melts you. Actually, he was performing in the Broadway national tour of "Wicked" when a serious injury ended that stint.

"I was doing choreography where I jump up and off a bench when a cast mate was tripped and fell below me, sprawled out with her chin catching the bench," Miller said. "I twisted as hard as I could in the air to keep from landing on her neck. She was rescued. I, on the other hand, suffered three major sprains to my right ankle, a stress fracture to my right tibia, a torn peroneal sheath, a up-slip of the right hip, severely strained inner thighs and an overstretched peroneal nerve on the right leg."

You have to have an M.D. to even begin to comprehend what this means. In more general terms, Miller was told he would never dance again. That is, until a top orthopedic surgeon suggested the Gyrotonic method. And guess what?

Miller can dance again. Just watch him on the machines. He was inspired by his own physical healing.

"Encouraged by the many trainers I studied with around the nation, I became a certified teacher myself," he said.

And so he wanted to share his personal success. And frankly, he shares it all. Just look at him in our video interview. He's an open book who encourages others to step outside of their fears and reach for their dreams.

Miller has worked with professional athletes and performers ranging from cyclists to Alvin Ailey dancers, from musicians to Cirque du Soleil contortionists. And his clients sing his praises.

"K.W. is able to communicate on a visceral level … a true teacher in every sense," said Peter Reckell, who plays Bo Brady on "Days of Our Lives."

Fear of the Unknown

The night Miller showed me the machines (cue scary music in background), I was frightened, to say the least. Although there are several, the Gyrotonic pulley tower is the machine most commonly used. Yes, the tower. I got onto it as if I were putting my head in a guillotine.

But what I realized, after only making a teeny bit of a fool of myself — OK, a big fool — was that I could do it! And I liked it. It actually made me feel graceful.

And boy did my body hurt in places I never knew about the next day. Kelly Moneymaker, the singer from Expose, shares my sentiments.

"I used to feel awkward and uncoordinated," she said. "Simple motion, simply communicated by K.W., helped me move forward quickly. I now feel such a difference in my body-mind connection."

Michael Blowhard, his Internet name, touts the exercise on a less official level.

"A few friends have marveled over the amount of money — probably around $2,000 — that I spend annually on Gyrotonics," he said. "I see it this way: Imagine God appearing and saying to you, 'Dude, here's the deal. You give me two grand, and I let you enjoy this upcoming year far more than you otherwise would. Or you can keep the two grand and spend the year feeling aching, peevish and crabby.' Sounds like a sweet deal to me."

Hey, a fan is a fan.

While Miller may compare Gyrotonics to dance and he certainly looks like Peter Pan when he's working the machines, for me, the closest thing I can compare it to is swimming. Every part of your body is worked out and without being strained in any way.

So don't be intimidated by the machines. They're like finely crafted instruments that tone and strengthen your body. Because the system stretches the body, and I'm on the petite side, I'm hoping it will also make me taller.

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