First created to complement other dance training, Gyrotonics® evolved over the years into an exercise system for both the body and the mind. It strengthens muscles, connective tissues and joints. A particular way of breathing during the exercises is believed to boost the exercises' aerobic and cardiovascular benefits and encourage neuro-muscular restoration. Exercising with the Gyrotonics® equipment involves using fluid movements that resemble dancing. The exercises are suitable for people with various body types and levels of fitness, including people with injuries.
Juliu Horvath, a former ballet dancer, started building the Gyrotonics® machine when he was living on the island of St. Thomas in the 1970s and later used it to train dancers at his New York dance studio. Although it was first designed only to help dancers learn the pirouette, the exercise system became more popular as the machine evolved to help non-dancers exercise. The Gyrotonics® machine, known as the Pulley Tower Combination Unit, has gone through many versions over the years, with each new model incorporating small changes designed to improve its function.
The main exercise equipment, the Pulley Tower, consists of a tower and a bench with a pulley, weights and other exercise tools attached. The machine's consistent resistance level allows for smooth transitions into and out of various series of movements. This is intended to prevent injuries that often occur at the more stressful beginning and ending of exercises when using conventional exercise equipment.
Other Gyrotonics® equipment includes the Archway, the Leg Extension Unit, the Jumping Stretching Board and the Gyrotoners®. These structures allow users to train muscle groups that would otherwise be difficult to access using other machines. Horvath also created Gyrokinesis®, which is built on the same movement principles but requires no equipment.
Gyrotonic® is an original exercise method, but it has similarities to yoga, dance, gymnastics, swimming and tai chi. Horvath first referred to the exercise method that requires no equipment as "yoga for dancers" before he came up with the name Gyrokinesis®. Compared to similar exercise systems such as Pilates, which emerged in the 1920s, Gyrotonic® is a relative newcomer.
From New York, Gyrotonics® spread to the rest of America, Canada, Europe, South America, Australia, New Zealand and Asia. Several high-profile celebrities have also embraced the exercise system, including Madonna. Cast members of the popular play The Lion King also used Gyrotonics® when they were training to perform in Canada in 2002.