Breaking the Cycle of Pain Pills With the GYROTONIC® Method.
By Cina Canada
I first heard about William Knight from GYROTONIC® Master Trainers Elizabeth Holland and Lisa Lansing. They had both worked with him in Maine. I’ve heard many stories about how this movement system changes lives, but Bill’s story was unique. So I went to visit with him in Portland, Maine during one of his teacher training sessions with Gyrotonic Trainer Randy Matthews.
There I learned that after just a few sessions of Gyrotonic work with Randy, and experiencing a radical change in his ability to hope that things could be different, Bill was able to break a 20-year cycle of being on disability and medication. He also convinced the state of Maine to purchase for him a Gyrotonic Pulley Tower.
Finding the Gyrotonic Method truly changed his life. Now he’s now helping others in his own studio in Auburn, Maine.
Cina: Bill, let’s start with your background.
Bill: Well, I have 20 years in restaurant management. The last two years that I actually worked, I hurt my back. I was bending over, picking something up off the floor and somehow twisted my back at L3 and L4, causing the disc to protrude toward my stomach, rather than out.
Apparently, this was unusual. I kept on working even though I had severe sciatic nerve problems and other issues. I just made baby steps going to work, and baby steps coming home. I did that for about two years. Eventually, I had to have it operated on, but it didn’t help. I spent the next 20 years after that living on pain pills and trying to survive.
Cina: Wow. What was your normal day like?
Bill: I don’t know how I did it, to be honest. I was in a lot of pain. I was the manager, so I could stop when I needed to, but I was also a working manager, so that was really hard. I just kept pushing and pushing.
Eventually, I got a release so that I only had to work 25 hrs. I did my job, but the company didn’t like it because I never increased my hours.
Cina: What made you finally look into surgery?
Bill: Because I would lay on the floor for days. It’s a different world when the TV remote and phone are on the floor, and that’s all you can get to. After about a two week stretch of that, I finally went to get the operation. My operation was in 1991. It worked for about a month, and then the pain actually switched sides. I don’t know if that was just because of the healing, but after that I had to be on all kinds of different drugs. I couldn’t do my job because of all the medication, and they fired me.
I was able to get workman’s comp, because I hurt myself at work. They wanted to try and fix me with massages, which lasted about two months, and then they decided they didn’t want to do that. Then they wanted me to go to Spark, a rehabilitation center. They ended up cancelling that after about 6 months.
From there, I just kept trying different drugs. But it was at Spark where I met Gyrotonic Trainer Randy Matthews.
Cina: So they didn’t allow you to try different therapies, or movement modalities?
Bill: No, no. About five or six years ago, they let me try acupuncture to see if I would get any better. That didn’t really work, and I thought it was a waste of money because I would feel good for a day, but the next day I would be right back where I was. I always judge how I’m doing by how long I have to take off after working on a car. If I work on a car for two hours, get stuck leaning over, I might be out for two days after that.
When I was doing the acupuncture, a friend of mine told me that Randy was doing something strange and I should check go check it out. So I came down here to his studio to try it out.
After my first try, I kind of wiggled, walked around between exercises, and wondered what he was doing to me. I came back and tried it again and got a little better.
I think it was after the third visit that I got into my car to leave and was banging my head on my head rest. I was like, “What the heck is that?” I had been scooped over for so long. At that point, I was taking Tramydol every day, plus about 4-6 Aleve, and sleeping about 10-12 hours a day.
After that last session with Randy, I just threw my pain pills away. I came back the next week, kept coming back and just got better and better. I’m probably standing an inch and half to two inches taller than when I first started, just from the spiraling. It took someone taking the time to move me the right way.
From there, I asked the insurance company if I could get a Gyrotonic Pulley Tower. They said they would look into it. I waited about six months, and my rep never called back. I called again, and she said, “I think I procrastinated too much. Let me get back to you.” About three days later, she called and said they would buy it! I waited another six months, and it was here. I was just amazed that they bought it. Once I knew they were going to, I started talking to Randy about teaching other people.
That’s how I ended up doing the teacher training. If I had known about the Gyrotonic Method 20 years ago, known that I didn’t have to lose the next 20 years of my life, it would have changed everything. Now I can work all day on cars. Every once in awhile my back will get stuck, but I just do some arch and curls and spirals at home, go the next day to my machine, and then usually everything is better.
Cina: So, in regards to teaching, how will this affect your career pursuits?
Bill: I can finally have a career! I’ve been on disability for so long because the doctors wouldn’t let me work, telling me I had to stay off cement floors. It was ridiculous. Then, I think they just eventually lost me.
I survived by raising two kids. Now I can do more with my kids. I can play Frisbee and shoot basketball, again. I’ve gained probably ten years of my life back, is how I look at it.
I want other people to know about this. I’m after people with bad backs. I see people walking around, and they’re all crooked, and I’ll just go talk to them. I’ve already got a studio in Auburn, Maine and I’m trying to build a practice. I even work with my daughters, sometimes.
Cina: What do your kids think about all of this?
Bill: Oh, they’ve never seen me move. They are used to seeing me on the couch, or on the floor. I have one daughter who has Down Syndrome and she remembers me sneezing and actually falling down on the floor because the pain took my legs right out. She now says, “Daddy, you don’t sneeze and fall anymore!” I’m probably in the best shape I’ve ever been in in my life. I’ve got more core stability and strength in my arms. It’s been a long journey.
My other daughter, who is 18, came down here to Randy’s studio with me once, and we put her on the Pulley Tower. We measured her before and after, and she grew 3/4 of inch from just that session.
Then she found out I was getting a machine, so she started working with me on that. She sees how much better she moves. She especially likes doing the cross grip because it helps her neck; you know, kids and their computers. She now wants to become a Gyrotonic instructor.
Cina: In general, how has becoming a Gyrotonic practitioner, and now teacher, changed your life?
Bill: It’s given me purpose for myself and a way to keep myself useful. It’s added time to my whole life. I used to figure in how long it was going to take to recuperate from something before I could schedule anything. That was just my life.
My goal now is to keep learning, get clients, help them, and get off social security. This is giving me an opportunity to re-enter the job force. I haven’t been to a doctor in two years. I think that’s the main reason the disability insurance bought the machine because they saw me drop the pain pills, they saw that I was moving again, and realized this was probably a smart choice.
Cina: Well, Bill, thank you for sharing your story. It is truly inspiring. Is there anything else you would like to add before we end?
Bill: For anyone who reads this and wonders whether or not they should try, they should, for at least three classes. It will help.
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Learn more about Bill and his studio, Knight Spiral, at his Facebook Page. Visit his studio at 1225 Center Street in Auburn, Maine.
To find studios and trainers offering Gyrotonic and Gyrokinesis classes near you, use our Studio Finder tool.
To learn more about how to become a Gyrotonic and Gyrokinesis trainer, visit our Teacher Training pages.
Cina Canada is a GYROTONIC® Trainer and the Media Coordinator for GYROTONIC® International Headquarters.