AN EXERCISE METHOD THAT CAN BENEFIT PEOPLE WITH PARKINSON’S
Perspectives from a Movement Specialist
By: Marc Pierre MS, PT
One of the major challenges that people with Parkinson’s face is a struggle with movement quality and specificity. The complexities of movement fluidity and dynamic balance challenge the nervous system to interpret a myriad of stimuli from the environment, including joint position and sensory stimulation. Any interference with the inflow of critical information or the outflow of intended movement will affect one’s quantity of function and therefore quality of life.
At the Center for Physical Health, for over 20 years we have helped Parkinson’s patients to bridge the informational gap in their central nervous systems, explore movement options and integrate new capacity into productive function.
One of the innovative therapies we draw on is the Gyrotonic Expansion System®, which focuses on mobilization of the spine and joints and effectively eases pain and eliminates restrictions in the body.
Gyrotonic® exercise features three-dimensional circular, spiraling and elongated movement that stimulates the nervous system to gain awareness with increased equilibrium. The name is derived from ‘gyro’ (meaning circle or spiral) and ‘tonic’ (meaning to tone or invigorate). It blends elements of dance, gymnastics, swimming, Yoga and Tai Chi-. With skilled guidance and encouragement, virtually anyone can perform Gyrotonic exercise, regardless of age or neurological challenges. The potential benefits are enormous.
The Gyrotonic Expansion System was created by Juliu Horvath, a truly gifted movement professional, master craftsman and problem-solver. He is one of those rare individuals able to touch people as a healer, educator and spiritual leader.
Born in Hungary in 1942 and raised in Romania, Horvath’s childhood included swimming, gymnastics, rowing and other sports. At age 19, he turned to the study of ballet, and within one year was dancing in principal roles with the Romanian State Opera. He went on to land important roles with the New York City Opera, Radio City Music Hall and became principal dancer with the Houston Ballet. A career-ending rupture of his Achilles tendon and serious back injury propelled Horvath into the study and practice of Yoga, discovery of the inner workings of the body and development of a system that could both prevent injury and sustain safe movement.
I had the honor and the privilege of studying with Juliu in the mid-1990s. His energy and presence in that educational space revealed to me that he is an innate healer whose gifts must be shared with the world. He sees movement as fluid, continuous and harmonious – characteristics that are eagerly sought by the people with Parkinson’s.
Gyrotonic exercises are performed on the Pulley Tower Combination Unit, a unique piece of equipment designed by Horvath. It is fully adjustable to meet the needs of many people with varying body types and levels of strength. The ingenious curvilinear pulley system allows a practitioner to provide the patient’s body with a gentle resistance imparted through cables that confidently support the upper or lower extremities. We intentionally but freely guide the patient’s movement, so that their nervous system is encouraged to learn and participate. Abdominal and core muscles are engaged, allowing the spine to move in all directions as it is designed to function. One can feel an unwinding of tension previously locked into the body and begin to experience movement as never before.
Gyrokenesis is similar to Gyrotonic in principle, but performed in a seated or standing position on the floor without the use of equipment. Similar to a dance or yoga class, Gyrokenesis is taught in a group setting with flow and rhythm connecting movement and breath. Our practitioners’ skilled hands help people with Parkinson’s to initiate movement that radiates from the body’s
PRO Newsletter articles Nov 2012
core and returns in an ebb and flow, uniting physical capacity with the central nervous system that directs and guides it.
Both approaches emphasize the circular, spiraling and undulating movements introduced and refined by the practitioner to help the patient experience and understand the functional relationship of the entire body. The exercises are synchronized with corresponding breathing patterns, thus enhancing aerobic, cardiovascular and neuromuscular stimulation.
Benefits of the Gyrotonic Expansion System for people with Parkinson’s include: Building and enhancing core and spine strength and mobility
Increasing flexibility, coordination and balance through neuromuscular reorganization and integration
Alleviating poor posture and restores structural integrity through the application of alignment principles
Enhancing joint mobility and articulation
Promoting long, strong and lean muscles with both strength and maximum flexibility
Restoring proper body function and integration of all systems: muscular, skeletal, respiratory, circulatory and nervous
The Center for Physical Health incorporates the Gyrotonic method in therapeutic programs tailored to the capacity and potential of each individual with Parkinson’s. This unique exercise system has proven to be highly effective in inviting people with Parkinson’s to move, breathe and go beyond what they think they can do!
Marc Pierre MS, PT is a physical therapist certified in the Gyrotonic Expansion System® and owner/CEO of THE CENTER FOR PHYSICAL HEALTH, a mission-driven healthcare center that developed a team approach of complementary therapies including Gyrotonics® You can find THE CENTER FOR PHYSICAL HEALTH, at ParkinsonsResource.org/wellness-village/