There's a lot of confusion around hypermobility and hyperflexibility. The terms tend to be used interchangeably but they actually mean different things. Understanding these differences helps movement instructors, trainers, and PTs build classes and workouts around their students/clients that are actually effective. In this blog I will answer some common questions I get asked when working with clients and other instructors.
What is hypermobility?
Hypermobility is where the joints of the body have an extreme amount of range due to the ligaments being more lax than average. A person with hypermobility will describe their joints as feeling 'loose' and find themselves able to articulate their joints with little to no muscle recruitment. This is extremely hard to wrap your head around if you yourself are not hypermobile.
What is hyperflexibility?
Hyperflexibility relates to the amount the muscles and tendons can extend. A hyperflexible person is going to have more stable joints than a hypermobile person, be less prone to joint pain, and muscle firing patterns will be as expected.
Can someone be both hypermobile and hyperflexible?
Absolutely. In fact it is quite common for a person to be both which is one of the reasons for the confusion that a lot of people have. Another reason for the confusion is that (just like everything) hypermobility and hyperflexibility exist on a spectrum. This means that a person may have only specific joints and/or muscles with hyper range but the rest of their body may not. Or it could mean that a person has hyper range in every single joint and everything in between.
What are the causes of hypermobility and hyperflexibility?
Hypermobility and hyperflexibility can have a range of causes. From genetics to training to various types of disorders to a combination of all of the above. A particular difference is that hypermobility could be contributed to any of the afore mentioned causes but hyperflexibility is usually contributed to genetics and/or training.
How should you approach training someone with hypermobility or hyperflexibility?
While both hypermobility and hyperflexibility require some form of strength training to improve overall function it can be tricky when working with these types of clients. I need to be very clear with my instructions on the exact range of motion and skeletal placement I would like them to use. For example, if someone has an extreme amount of internal or external rotation of the hip joint I have to specify the degree of rotation I want them to use.
For hypermobility I specifically have to emphasize muscle engagement to facilitate movement. If you recall the hypermobile person is capable of articulating their joints with little to no muscle recruitment. If I don't tell them what to engage first they won't get the benefit of the exercise. For example, say I want a hypermobile person to perform a bridge exercise to strengthen their glutes. This person needs to be told that they must engage their glutes first and then lift their hips while keeping the engagement. I know, it sounds wild but your hypermobile clients will get much better results if you stop assuming their muscle firing patterns will work as normal. I also have to consider joint pain that comes with hypermobility. Strength training can help with joint pain because the stronger the muscles the more stable the joints. However, if I were to add too much weight too quickly it could make the pain worse and that client will not want to continue. You must remember that their ligaments don't hold their joints very well and it is incredibly easy to over stretch them, even when weight training. Always start 10-20% lighter than you would with someone of similar age/fitness level and increase the weight/intensity very gradually.
I hope this helps answer some questions regarding hypermobility and hyperflexibility. I work with a lot of hypermobile and hyperflexibile people and deal with both myself. The Gyrotonic method was the first movement method I found that taught me how to control my crazy range of motion and use it effectively while I was still dancing professionally. If you are struggling with hypermobility and/or hyperflexibility book a private session here. I'd love to help you out.
This is a question I get asked often. Most of us know that cross-training is an important part of high level sports and athletics. For anyone unfamiliar with the concept, cross-training is a secondary physical activity used to support a primary physical activity. For example, the Gyrotonic method can be used to support dance technique or certain types of weight training can be used to support American football. Every high level athlete/dancer does some from of cross-training nowadays. Good cross-training helps minimize the risk of injury, improves technique, and makes the body feel and function better.
But what if you’re not a high level athlete? What if you’re a young student? Or an adult with active hobbies? Is cross-training necessary in these scenarios? The short answer is yes, cross-training is necessary. But knowing when and where to begin can be confusing.
For kids, beginning a cross-training regiment between 10 and 14 years old is ideal. Especially if they are trying to work up to a professional level in a technical sport like dance. Now, unfortunately, most young dancers/athletes won’t begin cross-training till after they have been injured. While it is entirely possible to get injured even with a cross-training regiment, in my experience the injuries tend to be fewer, less severe, and heal quicker when cross-training is utilized. In particular, chronic injuries like tendonitis or stress fractures are much less common. Talk to your coaches/teachers to start figuring out what kind of cross-training method might be right for you. For dancers, the Gyrotonic method is an ideal option since it was originally designed by a dancer for dancers. Today, the Gyrotonic method can benefit anyone.
Now what about adults? For adults, cross-training is used to keep us moving as we age. Having at least two or three different activities is ideal to keep your body feeling good. As a recently retired professional dancer, finding new activities for myself has been a journey. Since I no longer have the time to train for hours every day, I have had to find other ways to keep myself in shape that work with my new schedule. At the moment, my weekly schedule includes the Gyrotonic method (of course), ballet barre, functional weight training, and walking to work when time allows. The combination of all these activities keeps my body and mind balanced. Most of my adult clients come see me twice a week and then have other activities that they do when not in the studio. Some walk or hike, some ice skate, some run, some weight lift, and some dance. It just depends on what they feel like doing.
With all my clients I take into account their other activities when it comes to designing their sessions. This helps them get the most benefit from their sessions and keeps them moving no matter what their movement background. Book a session for yourself here. Or if you still have questions, book a complimentary New Client Consultation.
Most dancers at this point know that cross-training is a very necessary part of their training. From pilates to weight lifting, dancers have a ton of different options to choose from. It's finding the right method for you that's the trick. My own journey lead me to the GYROTONIC® and GYROKINESIS® methods, which you can read about in detail here. While every training method has its uses, I thought it would be helpful to briefly talk about how Gyrotonic principles relate to dance. Please note that I will be talking about how these principles relate to western styles of dance technique, ie. ballet, contemporary, jazz, etc. because that is my background.
For example, hyper mobility is something a lot of dancers deal with. While hyper mobility can be a blessing, it can also be a curse. Hyper mobility makes it extremely difficult to build strength. While every PT, doctor, or personal trainer out there will tell you strength building is extremely necessary for hyper mobile joints, most don't understand how to go about strength training in a practical sense when working with someone who has hyper mobility. With the Gyrotonic method, we can provide low impact strength training and teach a dancer struggling with hyper mobility to control their joints, even in extreme positions. The first step in this process is "narrowing", which I briefly discussed in my previous blog "GYROTONIC® Principles in Everyday Life".
On the flip side, some dancers struggle with their flexibility. They tend to have a much easier time building strength, but consistently feel tight and like they are forcing their body past its limits. Now, as weird as it sounds, the same "narrowing" principle that we use to teach someone with hyper mobility to control their range is also the one we use to teach the tight dancer to create space in their joints. This allows them to increase their range of motion with significantly less strain. This is one of the many things that makes the Gyrotonic method so unique and why it is so good at balancing strength and flexibility. You get out of it whatever your body needs, without having to work around how you are.
In addition, because the Gyrotonic method started out as something that specifically meet dancers' needs, GYROTONIC® principles are more easily applied to our technique. For instance, let's say you are trying to get better at using your turnout. In a gym scenario you might do bridges, and/or clam shells to work on strengthening your turnout muscles. While these exercises do strengthen the turnout muscles, they don't teach you how to use those muscles in your dance technique. In a GYROTONIC® session we are not only working on gaining strength, but also on making sure we understand how to maintain our turnout through dance specific motions. This process is what makes applying GYROTONIC® principles to our technique so much easier and why so many dancers that try the Gyrotonic method get hooked so quickly.
If you want to try out a session for yourself, you can book online by clicking the button below. If you are a current professional dancer under contract with a professional company, email email@example.com to discuss rates.
People choose to exercise in different ways for a lot of different reasons. Maybe they are an athlete wanting their technique to be better. Maybe they want to lose weight. Maybe they want to want to fix their posture. Or maybe they want to recover from an injury. It all depends on the person. In my case, I started working out with the GYROTONIC® method to help my dancing and rehab injuries. You can read about my personal journey here.
In the case of the GYROTONIC® method, there are a number of principles that we work with and build on to create a more functional and better feeling body in our everyday life. My favorite of these principles is that you work with the body you have. Everyones' bodies are different and need different things. If you try to force your body to do something it is not ready for or capable of doing, injuries and unnecessary pain can occur. But if you listen to your body and allow it to improve its movement ability at whatever pace it wants, you will eventually find that it is capable of a lot more than you might have thought.
To give a specific example... let's say that someone has a shoulder issue (impingement, tendonitis, etc.) that is keeping them from using their full range of motion. They can no longer reach up for something on a high shelf or lift a heavy item. In a Gyrotonic session, we wouldn't have them start out trying to immediately move through their desired full range of motion (ROM). We would start by working with 70-80% of their current ROM. Making sure that everything is moving correctly with high repetitions and coordinated breathing. As they move, their ROM will gradually increase but we would never go past the point where the movement is painful or they start to try and compensate. This way, by the end of the session, they walk out feeling better than when they walked in and also have better awareness of how they can move their shoulder with out pain. As they keep coming back for sessions their understanding and awareness of their body increases. And over time they will be able to reach something on a high shelf again.
Another Gyrotonic principle that is extremely applicable to our everyday lives is what we call "narrowing". This is one of the foundational principles of the GYROTONIC® method. It is the very first thing every client learns in a session. Narrowing serves two main purposes. One, it prepares the body to move. Two, it teaches us how to attain our ideal posture without straining. Most people tend to think that good posture requires a maximum amount of effort at all times. And that just isn't true. Good posture should be comfortable and easy to be in. It should make us feel more confident in our movement, make breathing easier, and take pressure off our joints which can help with pain.
Try out the GYROTONIC® method for yourself by booking a session below.
"What is GYROTONIC®?" is another question I get asked a lot.
The official definition is...
"The Gyrotonic method is an original and unique movement method that addresses the entire body, opening energy pathways, stimulating the nervous system, increasing range of motion and creating functional strength. Gyrotonic exercise sequences are composed of spiraling, circular movements which flow together seamlessly in rhythmic repetitions with corresponding breath patterns. Each movement flows into the next allowing the joints to move through a natural range of motion without jarring or compression. These carefully crafted sequences create balance, efficiency, strength and flexibility.
This method is practiced on specialized equipment to support the body during movement. The equipment can be adapted to the ideal setting for each person’s unique physique. Adapting for things such as height, arm and leg length, natural range of motion and physical ability."
Just like in my blog "What is GYROKINESIS®?", I will try to answer this in simpler terms.
As with Gyrokinesis, the Gyrotonic method also creates better awareness of the body and builds up the functional motions that happen in everyday life. The biggest difference between the Gyrotonic and Gyrokinesis methods is the use of equipment, which has been specially designed for the method.
With the equipment the body is provided with more support and/or challenge depending on its needs. This can allow for faster results when trying improve skeletal alignment and movement technique in other activities.
Another thing that makes the Gyrotonic method so special is the equipment's ability to accommodate any body. Everyone's proportions and ranges of motion are different. Age, movement background, and injuries also make a difference in what an individual is currently capable of and how they have to approach reaching their movement and wellness goals. An experienced trainer can analyze your body's alignment, movement patterns, and any injuries to design a program that will keep you progressing at an appropriate rate for you.
I hope the helps answer the question "What is GYROTONIC®?". If you would like to try it out for yourself you can book your own private session online by clicking the book now button below.
What is GYROKINESIS®? Is a question I get asked whenever I tell people what I do. So I thought I'd try to explain in a bit more detail.
The official definition is as follows.
"The Gyrokinesis Method is the sister method to the Gyrotonic method that addresses the entire body, opening energy pathways, stimulating the nervous system, increasing range of motion, and creating functional strength through rhythmic, flowing movement sequences. It is an original and unique method which coordinates movement, breath and mental focus. This method is practiced on stools and either Gyrokinesis mats or yoga mats. Which makes it ideal for group fitness classes or to be experienced in a workshop/master class."
To try and say this in simpler terms, this method is great for creating better awareness of the body and building up the functional motions that happen in everyday life.
It can also be used to build coordination and range of motion to improve technique in various sports or other moving arts.
In short the Gyrokinesis method is a full body movement method and can provide a number of benefits to many different people when practiced regularly. At ShadowOfaDancer we host a number of group classes each week, which are opening to anyone. You can sign up for our group classes by clicking the book now button below.
I hope this helps answer some of your questions about the Gyrokinesis method! If you have any other questions feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
We’ve all had to deal with injury at some point in our career. Some of us are luckier than others and only deal with minor set backs like a slightly pulled muscle that takes a few days or weeks to heal. Others deal with major traumas that require surgeries and months or even years of healing time. I myself have had a range of injuries and learned a lot about the process of recovery over the years. I decided to try and put what I know about recovering from injury into words. In this series of blogs, I will be talking about the process from a professional dancer perspective, although this perspective could be applied to any kind of athletics. Part 1 will cover injury types, when to see a doctor, and types of doctors.
Injury Types & Why They Happen
There are two main types of injuries: acute and chronic. Acute injuries are injuries that happen suddenly and can require immediate medical attention. Things like a break, sprain, strain, or tendon snap fall into this category. Chronic injuries are injuries that happen slowly overtime from repeatedly performing a particular motion. Tendinitis, stress fractures, or bursitis would fall into this category.
There are many reasons injuries occur. With acute injuries, it’s usually a onetime accident. But Chronic injuries are different. With dancers, we tend to end up with chronic injuries not just from repetition, but repetition of an incorrect movement pattern. Incorrect movement patterns can develop from compensation from an acute injury that was not properly treated, wearing ill fitting dance shoes, not receiving proper technical training, or not paying proper attention to your body while dancing.
When To See a Doctor
When you suffer an initial injury the first decision you need to make is if you need to go see a doctor. The second decision is what kind of doctor do you need to see. Going to a doctor is an important first step for determining how severe an injury is and a proper course of treatment. This step is especially important for anyone who has never been injured before because it will put the injury into perspective and help set you on the right course for recovery.
In general, going to see a doctor vs. not is the better decision. For acute injuries, you should go see someone as soon as possible, especially if pain persists for more than 24-48 hours. Chronic injuries on the other hand can be a bit more difficult to gauge. With chronic injuries, when it comes to actually going to see a doctor, most of us put it off until we are either in too much pain or have been in pain for too long. This is not necessarily a bad way for determining if we need to go see a doctor, but if you are questioning whether you should or not, you probably need to. It is always better to go sooner rather than later so there is less risk of the injury becoming debilitating.
What Type Of Doctor Should You See?
When choosing what type of doctor to see it really depends on what you feel you need and what worked for you in past experiences. If this is your first time being injured then utilizing the recommendations of your teachers, coaches, or other movement professionals is a good place to start. For myself, I usually go see a chiropractor or massage therapist as my first choice because 1) I can do a lot of the PT related work myself, 2) I have a chiropractor and massage therapist I trust, and 3) most of the injuries I deal with are chronic and occurred in reaction to an old acute injury from when I was 13 years old.
As far as determining the type of doctor you need to see, there are a few options. You have general practitioners, sports medicine doctors, orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists, or chiropractors to choose from as possible options. General practitioners or family medicine doctors are the least specialized of this list but can offer guidance with basic sprains, strains, or breaks. They can also help determine if you need someone more specialized and point you in the right direction if you are unsure what specialized route to take. Sports medicine doctors specialize in sports related injuries. Orthopedic surgeons are also very specialized and usually focus on a small area of the body (foot and ankle, hip and knee, etc.). Physical therapists have you perform exercises or stretches to help improve mobility after surgery or injury. Chiropractors perform manipulations and adjustments that address skeletal and muscle alignment issues that keep the body from functioning properly.
In general, good questions to ask when deciding which doctor you should see are “has this person worked with dancers before?” and “does this person specialize in musculoskeletal body mechanics?” If a medical professional is good enough at their job, it won’t necessarily matter if they have specifically worked with dancers or not. But it does matter whether or not they are some type of movement specialist. For example, an oncologist is not going to be able to give good advice to a dancer that is suffering from back pain due to overuse. While their initial advice of rest until the pain goes away is not inaccurate, it is incomplete. A movement or musculoskeletal specialist is going to be able to provide much more complete information than someone who’s specialty is disease and illness. Once you have found a doctor you trust, you will have completed the first step on the road to recovery.
I hope this helps clear up some initial confusion when it comes to injuries and the recovery process. Stay tuned for future blogs where I will continue through the process of recovering from injury based on my own personal experience. See you soon!
For those who don't know me, my name is Jessica Woodman and welcome to my blog, Barre Fly. I'm a professional dancer, teacher, and fitness instructor based in the SF Bay Area. You can read my full bio in the About section of this website. Over the last few years I have spent a lot of time furthering my education through various certifications, a college degree, and other experiences. At the same time, the company I danced with for five years folded and caused me to rethink what I want out of my career as a dancer. Especially, now that I am no longer in the beginnings of my career (dirty thirty, here we come!). Now that my schooling is coming to an end, at least for the moment, I've got some extra time and thought I'd start a blog to talk about the things I've learned over the course of my career. While this is mostly a cathartic exercise for myself, I hope those of you taking the time to read this are, at the very least, semi entertained.
I decided to start with my journey of finding a cross training method that helped reshape my dancing and heal injuries that were anywhere from a few weeks to many years old. Injuries are nothing new in the dance world as almost every dancer I know has had to overcome something. Through my own experiences and watching others, I've come to the conclusion that it is possible to overcome almost any injury with the right cross training and a willingness to let go of the dancer you were before the injury occurred. For myself, this has been a bit of a process because the first severe injury I had was when I was 13. Being so young I had not yet figured out exactly who I was as an artist, so letting go of the dancer I used to be wasn't the problem. Instead it was about letting go of the dancer I wanted to be and that has been a very long journey.
Until more recently than I care to admit, I continued to struggle with wanting to be a different dancer than what I ultimately became. I don't mean wanting to be a jazz dancer and instead becoming a ballet dancer. I mean wanting to be a ballet dancer and feeling as though my body was holding me back from doing that at the level I had deemed "acceptable" in my head. Part of the reason for feeling this way is because of my approach to dealing with my injuries. Working around and working through an injury are two very different things. When we work around an injury we develop ways to physically and mentally avoid the problem. Unfortunately, this causes more harm because it allows for other physical imbalances to occur and increases the likelihood that we will be injured again. Another byproduct of this, at least for myself, is that it makes being injured part of our identity. Our pain becomes a sort of badge of honor that we convince ourselves makes us better artists.
Over the years I tried many different cross training methods, from swimming to weight lifting to Pilates. While I would get ok results, nothing worked well enough to make me want to continue doing it for very long. I discovered the GYROTONIC® method through a chance conversation with a fellow dancer. Usually, you can guess a dancers training background based on stylistic choices and how they approach their technique. This dancer had a way of approaching her work with such calm intention and quality that it was immediately apparent she had something in her background that was different from the norm. In talking to her, I learned she had been practicing "gyro" for a few years and suggested I try it. It also just so happened that she knew of a trainer who had just opened a studio close to where I was living at the time. I'm not a superstitious person by any means, but I sort of took it as a sign and set up a session.
My first "gyro" session was interesting. It was a very different approach to movement than I had ever experienced and required a level of concentration similar to ballet. But, it "advantageously" lacked the anxiety and desire for perfection that can accompany ballet depending on the approach. The prevailing idea in Gyrotonic is that movement should heal the body, not hurt it. While no dance teacher would tell you to hurt yourself, there is still an underlying idea that you should work through pain no matter what. In some cases, pain is superficial and you should push through it to the best of your abilities. But, I think those cases are more rare than what a lot of dancers and directors/teachers like to think. I walked out of that first session feeling better than I had in a long time and knew I was going to continue coming back.
As I continued with weekly and bi-weekly sessions I began to notice a change not just in my technique, but also in the actual shape of my leg muscles. Over the years my quads had become so over developed that my hamstrings and glutes were almost useless. Normal glute strengthening exercises like squats didn't work because my glutes would not fire and I would end up doing the entire exercise with only my quads. While this might sound kind of funny (I think it does), it is actually a really common problem among dancers and even non-dancers. This can cause back, knee, and/or hip issues which can limit a dancer's ability to progress or even maintain their technique long term. I was already having back and hip issues from compensating for the ankle I had injured at 13 and was starting to question how much longer I could dance professionally before my body gave out. However, it didn't take long for me to realize that each session made my body function better and hurt less.
As I continued with my sessions and eventually getting certified in the work, my dancing continued to change for the better. Not only did my technique improve but I felt myself start to expand as an artist in ways that only happen when you are not in pain and not feeling as though your body is betraying you. The idea that to be a good artist means we must suffer is, in my opinion (if you'll excuse the language), horse shit. I don't know a single person who does their best work when they are struggling mentally or physically. This is not to say that we should avoid being uncomfortable, but that we need tools that allow us to work through real healing processes that make us stronger and smarter in the end. For dancers, good cross training can help us heal and appreciate what we and our bodies are truly capable of. I feel better now than I have in years, and now when things hurt I know the pain is temporary and that I can fix it. And that has made all the difference.