Crash Course: Capital Gyrotonic is a boutique fitness studio in Woodley Park offering private and group instruction in gyrotonics and gyrokinesis. Say what? Exactly – this exercise technique is definitely off of the beaten path of commercialized fitness trends, but don’t let its obscurity fool you. Originally created as a rehab method for professional dancers, gyrotonics is best described as a mixture of yoga, assisted stretching, pilates, dance, and physical therapy. According to the website: “Through the use of circular, continuous, and repetitive movements, Gyrotonic Exercise both strengthens and stretches the body to its fullest capacity of wellness and health.” Click here for more info.
where: 3000 Wisconsin Ave., Suite 334
perks: beautiful space, small class size
sweat score: 4 out of 10
wear: clothes that allow a full range of movement
cost: private session is $85
A while back, a good friend suggested I visit one of his all-time favorite boutique studios in DC. Intrigued by his enthusiasm, I quickly agreed to put Capital Gyrotonic on my fit crashing list. But before I called to make an appointment, I wanted to do some research to figure out just what the heck I was getting myself into.
A quick google image search was leaving me with more questions than answers. The gym’s website mentioned the workout was an improbable and hilarious mash up of yoga, dance, tai chi, gymnastics, and swimming. And the videos on YouTube were freaking me out. So before I could psych myself out, I picked up the phone and booked the next available session. How crazy could it be?
The Capital Gyrotonic studio is in the large building complex directly across from the National Zoo. There’s a bike share station out front, and the location is accessible from both the Woodley Park or Cleveland Park metro stops. When I walked in, I was struck first by the bright and clean space and second by the beautiful fresh cut flowers decorating the space. I know I’ve said this before, but I love the effort some small studios put into the little details. It makes a huge difference and helps set the tone.
My first session was with Nathan, the studio owner and a certified gyrotonics master teacher. His resume includes a stint as a ballet dancer and time spent in China during the 2008 Beijing Olympics teaching at the country’s first gyrotonic studio. Needless to say, I knew I was in great hands. After a short tour of the space and all of the many crazy-looking contraptions, it was time to get started.
I was completely spoiled with three complimentary private sessions at Capital Gyrotonic; one with Nathan, and two with Yvonne Hamm. Both instructors were attentive, encouraging, challenging, and inspiring in their own ways. Yvonne and Nathan are former ballet dancers, and I was in complete awe of their fluid, graceful movements as they demonstrated the various gyrotonic exercises. I tried my best to emulate their flow, but flexibility and grace are not my strong suit. Thankfully, the environment was entirely non-judgemental and I never felt inadequate when I couldn’t quite lift my leg to that 90 degree mark. Needless to say, the instructors definitely provide an example to aspire to (and make it look so easy!).
So what the heck is a gyrotonic session like? Well, a little bit like your favorite vinyasa yoga class paired with pilates and infused with a little bit of sassy interpretive dance. Each exercise is geared towards stretching out the body, elongating the spine, and building strength through fluid movement. It’s very hard to explain without seeing it with your own eyes, so I suggest doing a quick video search to check it out.
Because all of the exercise movements are scalable, either by adding weights or increasing the range of motion, the workout is ideal for folks of any imaginable age and ability. I have heard of gyrotonics being a part of routines for professional dancers and athletes, and also geriatric clients who need a gentle, no-impact workout. If you want to be challenged, you will be. I felt particularly challenged in my flexibility, core stability, and agility.
I left each session feeling elongated (at 5’1, this is particularly exciting) and pleasantly tired. There wasn’t the “I’m going to die” feeling of a spin class or a “I won’t be able to walk the next day” wince of a boot camp, but my body felt like it had done some intense internal work to stretch, lengthen, and tone all over. I absolutely loved it. And as someone who tends to be more attracted to high-impact workouts like running and interval training, gyrotonics was the perfect counterbalance. While the price point for private sessions is out of my range, I am intrigued by their group session option and think a few classes each month would be a great way to keep my body in check. If I go back, I’ll be sure to let you know!