Studio brings unique technique to fitness

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Glastonbury - posted Thu., Mar. 10, 2011
Body Sense owner Maria Beck guides client Marilyn Allan through an exercise on the Gyrotonics machine at her studio on Hebron Avenue. Photos by Steve Smith.
Body Sense owner Maria Beck guides client Marilyn Allan through an exercise on the Gyrotonics machine at her studio on Hebron Avenue. Photos by Steve Smith.

The Gyrotonics machine might look to some like a crude-but-elegant version of a piece of gym equipment. But, for clients of Body Sense, which just opened in Glastonbury in January, the machine is a welcome, refreshing option after other machines, exercises and programs have come up short.

Body Sense owner and therapist Maria Beck has run a shop in Ridgefield for 17 years, and recently found the location at 400 Hebron Ave., which she said has worked well for her.

Beck offers Pilates as well as Gyrotonics, and explains that both were created out of necessity.

Joseph Pilates, a physical therapist, came up with the idea of a hospital bed that would also facilitate some therapy for patients in the 1940s, when he was asked to help wounded soldiers recover more quickly.

“He was asked if he could design a form of workout that they could do,” Beck said. “He started fiddling around with a mattress, and he took the springs out and created a [sliding] carriage.”

Beck’s studio contains the updated form of that sliding bed, known as a “reformer,” as well as other Pilates devices, the wonder chair and the half-trapeze.

Juliu Horvath, the creator of Gyrotonics, was a Hungarian/Romanian ballet dancer who injured his Achilles tendon and herniated a disc in his back in the 1970s.

He developed what was originally known as “yoga for dancers” to deal with his pain but also prevent other dancers from similar injuries. These exercises increase flexibility and create more overall wellness, and contrasted with the static movements of yoga, as well with the isolating movements of working out with standard weights.

“We don’t move that way,” Beck said, paraphrasing Horvath, adding that the goal was to come up with a form of exercise that follows the natural movements of the body, so the body would respond and strengthen more quickly and easily.

“One day he just sat down with a saw and a blueprint in his mind,” Beck said.

The long cables of the Gyrotonics machine allow for longer, swooping-type movements that mimic the effects of swimming, Beck said.

Marilyn Allan, a client of Beck's, said using Gyrotonics is “like dancing on the machine.”

“It's a relaxing stretch, even when it's a vigorous workout,” Allan said. “It feels like a massage from inside. It's not like any other toning and stretching I've ever done.”

Beck said there are only about a dozen Gyrotonics trainers in Connecticut, and no other such machines in the Hartford area. Most of her clients seek her out because they are looking for a different alternative in their workouts, or are dissatisfied with what they get at a typical gym, Beck said.

She also sees a lot of people who are recovering from injury or illnesses. For those people, she designs a special workout, but not until she studies their condition and consults with the clients’ doctors.

“I have two clients that have MS,” Beck said. “I trained a little boy for years who had cystic fibrosis. I've had physical therapists who have sent people to me. People come to me with a new condition, and I go to the library, I talk to doctors, and I do my research.”

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