Adaptation to Aging: Modifying Sequences for Mature Movements

Blog Content // February 28, 2024

Paul Thrussell is a GYROTONIC® and GYROKINESIS® instructor at The Carillon Miami Wellness Resort (formerly Canyon Ranch Hotel and Spa). Paul’s classes at The Carillon have been wildly popular, earning him a loyal following among the residents. Paul finds that his students are not only capable but eager to learn. To keep the sessions enjoyable and engaging, he emphasizes the importance of listening to the needs and abilities of older clients while modifying movements accordingly. Paul also makes sure those clients are having fun! The Carillon continues to operate, in part, as a condominium for the original residents of Canyon Ranch, while also housing a modern luxury wellness resort.

At the Carillon Hotel, Paul teaches five to ten Gyrotonic private classes per week and four Gyrokinesis classes per week. During his busy season (November –May), his average Gyrokinesis class size is 15, with sometimes up to 30 people per class.

You can also listen to this interview through the recording below.



My name is Paul Thrussell. I’m a former ballet dancer by way of Boston Ballet, Northern Ballet Theatre, and London as well. I’m a product of the Royal Ballet School. I studied in England, then came over to the USA. At the end of my career in dancing, I discovered the Gyrotonic Method at the South Beach Studios in Miami. I didn’t realize how lucky I was to be involved in seeing all the master trainers coming in and out, and to be part of that scene. To see Juliu, on a regular basis while I’m practicing on the machine by myself. He came up and said, “Looking great!” I was like… who is that? I found out later – that’s Juliu!! That was 14 years ago.

GYROKINESIS® Class at Canyon Ranch

I started teaching Gyrokinesis classes to some of my friends (as you do as an apprentice). They were all dancers, able-bodied people, lovely, and young. They can do the whole 90-minute and 60-minute class. Then I got a job with Canyon Ranch. They had one in Miami Beach, back in the day. I love working over there. It’s such a beautiful space. The Ocean Studio overlooks a swimming pool. The beach and the ocean are right there. It’s a covered studio with air conditioning, but you can see the waves crashing, and the surf. It’s a beautiful location. I feel so lucky.

Canyon Ranch came with an understanding that they wanted to explore all the parts of exercise and movement. It wasn’t just about physical fitness. They understood the yoga component and the Pilates component. They’d heard and knew about the Gyrokinesis and Gyrotonic methods. When they found that I wanted to be part of the team, they brought me on. I started doing Gyrokinesis sessions first, then we got a tower, and added Gyrotonic training, once a week, onto the schedule. These people have been part of Canyon Ranch for many years, they were used to all kinds of exercise. They were very open. The average age was around 65.

GYROKINESIS® classes at Carillon Miami Wellness Resort with a few aging students

GYROKINESIS® Class at Carillon Miami Wellness Resort

It was hard in the beginning, because Canyon Ranch said, “You have 45 minutes to do your class.” How was I going to get to a whole 60-minute class or even part of the 90-minute class? So, I started to reduce and realized… I can fit it all in. We even do the standing balancing sequence. They love that sequence, and it’s so good for them.

We did Gyrotonic Happy Dance, and they love it. One of the students, who is a singer, recognized the sound of the music, “Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket.” The sequence fits perfectly with that little song. They don’t even realize how much fun they are having. Usually, these people would be frightened to jump, and here they are, jumping and kicking their legs – just having the best time. If you find spaces where you can let them feel like their heart is dancing, they’ll forget that they couldn’t jump… and there they are, jumping on one leg.


Paul’s Popularity Grows Over the Years

Canyon Ranch is now The Carillon Miami Wellness Resort. There was a new company that bought, took over, and divided the hotel components into the resident component. The Carillon switched over, four or five years ago. They are continuing the way of lifestyle that Canyon Ranch understood – exercise isn’t just strength training. It’s more than that.

GYROKINESIS® Class at Carillon Miami Wellness Resort

I was still teaching in the hotel, and the residents could take the hotel classes, so it was all combined. The residents would get there straight away. They knew where to go and where the class was being held. They would come in, get their spots, get their stools, and get ready, but the Hotel guests would arrive last minute and there’d be no spots left. A lot of people wanted to take my classes, but they couldn’t get in. It was becoming a bit of a problem (sharing me with the hotel) so they’ve taken me out of the hotel component, and I just teach the residents. I have a huge following in The Carillon. They have me all to themselves. I feel quite lucky.

Clients come and go. They switch around and all get one slot a week because they only do so many hours in a day. They will say, “Please stay longer.” No one wants to work out at lunchtime, and nobody wants to wake up early, so it’s hard to get them in unless I stay for the afternoon. I used to stay and do the wh ole day (eight hours of Gyrotonic training). It was exhausting. I do a barre class in the day. I do a ballet class. I do Gyrokinesis classes. I used to do four Zumba classes a week. It got a little too tiring on my body. I had a hip replacement and resurfacing. When recovering from hip surgery, I realized traditional physical therapy can only take you so far. The GYROTONIC EXPANSION SYSTEM® is so therapeutic. Get on the machine, and just move.


Modifying Movements for Aging Bodies

You can do every part of the class, just learn how to modify. If it hurts to put your arms up above your head, then don’t put them up above your head. We’re going to try to put our arms up above our head, but you don’t have to. Eventually, the range of motion starts to go there, but you must let the movement get into your body before you can start to practice. Even the Cat Back series: standing, holding, putting your hands on the stool, arching and curling your spine, and feeling the movement. A lot of people who teach, can’t kneel. I’ve shown them what to do as a modification. The whole series you can do as a modification.

The benefits of GYROKINESIS® classes for aging

GYROKINESIS® class at The Carillon

I started doing Gyrokinesis sessions over there and I was thinking, they can’t do this, can’t do that. Narrowing it down to what they might be able to do, I discovered they could do much more than I was expecting. I slowly added little pieces back into it, and we just got into the routine of every single day, plowing through. Some were like, “It’s getting boring.” After teaching it for so many years, I see the benefits of that repetition for myself. I feel like I’m conducting an orchestra. I don’t know where my orchestra’s going. Sometimes it speeds up, sometimes it slows down. It depends on who’s sitting where and whose energy is coming my way. That orchestra gets conducted in a slightly different way, even though the routine is set.

The routine of it is important. That’s where I can see how they improved so much. It’s consistent. I’ll switch up sometimes on a Sunday because I’ll do a Latin cardio dance class after it. We do the Gyrokinesis class to the Gyrotonic Happy Moves Music. I love it. They love it. It keeps them happy. It keeps the tempo moving a little more strictly. Sometimes, we move a little bit slower than we used to, and sometimes, it makes us move a little bit faster than we used to. I love the light, happy energy when they know it’s the end of the week, and they’re about to dance. Some will do all the classes.

I’ve just done the breathing intensive. I loved it, so I put it in on a Friday. The following has gotten a particular crowd. One who’s a singer, he loves it. I love teaching it because I feel so clear for the day. My nose is open, my oxygen is flowing it’s so awakening. The breath alone, in the Gyrotonic world ­– the shallow breath and then opening the back of the neck totally changed my whole world.

We don’t always get into a shallow breath, and it’s not always coming from the right space. Everyone needs to do the intensive breathing, then they realize where it’s coming from. When you start to play with the sniffing breath, and pumping breath, you can start to feel a spring of energy in your legs. When you find it, it just becomes second nature. But trying to force that space is hard.

The class seems so different every single time. Different people’s energy and different people’s abilities. Sometimes I can see them having a hard time with their shoulders, so we move it a little bit faster, and sometimes we move it a little bit slower depending on needing to be careful in some of the movements.


Growing Older with Your Students

The clientele used to be around 65. So now, 15 years later, they’ve gotten 15 years older with me. One lady, who is 93 years old, does most of the class. She follows me to a barre class and follows me to a stretch class. It’s amazing to see her moving. She’s got problems with her shoulders, but she does what she can. She never gave in to any of the arthritis or the pain that she was in. They’re all getting good at listening to their bodies. They all start to explore a little bit. They say they can’t do it, but before you know it, they’re doing the whole spiral. They all seemed so stiff years ago, and now they’re all just moving and breathing together. It’s so lovely to see a group in their 70s, 80s, and 90s, moving in such a delicious space. It’s powerful.

GYROKINESIS® class at The Carillon

Listen to the people who are in front of you. Don’t underestimate, just simplify some of the stuff that can be a little too much for their shoulders, and maybe slow it down. I realized I loved all this lovely, slow, delicious movement but also how much they were holding tension when they moved too slow. I try to find a tempo for their bodies that looks like it is comfortable. Maybe a little bit faster than what some people would want to do in Gyrokinesis class. Those delicious moments might feel good for that dancer’s body, but when we look at the older body in front of you, we need to move this a little bit faster, pick up the tempo a bit so it’s a little bit easier for them to move.

I think it’s also staying present, not taking it to an out-of-body experience. I do feel the energy, but I’m not trying to be a Yogi. I’m a dancer. I come from a dance background and we’re going to dance together. There’s still a very real connection rather than an internal feeling. It’s about us, and our connection, and our feeling.

They start to really enjoy the Strengthening Sequence. They love that whole sequence. That’s when I started my journey. When we’ve slowly gone into this beautiful yoga energy (light healing, energy connecting, and pulsing). That’s when I can start to take them into some places, but not everyone wants to be taken to this ethereal world. Keeping it real, keeping it present, really kept them with me. I just know that the music itself, the movements themselves, are doing the work.

Juliu’s already done the work for us. It’s making me shiver, right now, just thinking about how incredible it is. It just makes you trust the system. Trust Juliu’s movements alone. It’s amazing. Just trust the system. Movement is the key. That was written on the wall, down in the South Beach Studio. Juliu said that movement is the key and it’s so true. Once they’re moving, you can start. If they’re resistant to movement, it’s hard.

My life with the Gyrotonic and Gyrokinesis Methods is complete. It’s so magical. The more I do it, the more I believe this is master work. It’s just incredible.



Take a look at some of these other inspiring stories from our community:

GYROTONIC® and GYROKINESIS® Movement In the Golden Years

Overcoming Long-Haul Covid through the GYROKINESIS® Method

Awareness and Imagination: The GYROKINESIS® Method from a Wheelchair

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