From Feeding Tube, Wheelchair, and Pain Medication, To Freedom!
By Rosaria M. Gracia
GYROTONIC® and GYROKINESIS® Trainer
Dance Artist, Choreographer, Movement Director, University Lecturer, Researcher
This is Alice’s story. She came to my Gyrokinesis classes in the Autumn of 2016 while still wearing a gastric bag. I was moved by her determination to move. We worked together to strengthen her core and legs, and open her upper body to support the recovery of her organs and breathing. She has been an inspiration to everybody in the group.
The key to working with her was to clarify the function of the Gyrokinesis exercises so that they could be modified to support her recovery without putting on extra stress.
I particularly focused on her breathing, the oppositional nature of the work, and the need to create space in a fluid manner which is an integral element of the system.
The results are astonishing, and the medical profession is amazed by the progress that Alice has made.
And so, without further ado, here is Alice’s story, in her words…
To cover some background, when I began attending Gyrokinesis sessions I was in a wheelchair and had chronic muscle wastage after 13 years of being regularly bed bound. I was attached permanently to a feed pump directly into my bowel after my gastric system had entirely shut down. I hadn’t even had a sip of water for nearly 2 years. I was riddled with both acute and chronic pain, was taking 10 painkillers including several high strength opiates.
In addition to this, I was having regular life-threatening pancreatic attacks including septic shock, induced comas and several trips to both the High Dependency Unit and Intensive Care, as well as hundreds of regular ward admissions. I won’t go into the less severe issues or we will be here all year. I’m sure you get the picture!
I was severely disheartened after trying the most basic slow, gentle forms of yoga and stretch classes, finding that the classes were causing more damage than benefit, and I felt there was nothing to rehabilitate me. At this stage, it was unclear as to whether it was even possible to get any more physically fit after such severe illness, or indeed if I would ever eat again. I was almost ready to give up.
As fortune had it, I came across a promo video of Gyrokinesis in my GP surgery. It seemed to be geared towards those who had limited physical ability, injury, or indeed anyone wanting to improve their physicality. I thought it was worth a shot, and at this stage I really had nothing to lose.
The first thing that struck me was the enthusiasm and dynamism of the instructor, Rosaria Gracia. She made me feel truly welcomed and took a lot of the fear out of learning by helping me develop a true understanding of the practice. She gave detailed, informative explanations of the body positions and structures I needed to aim for in each exercise, without over-loading with science.
Rosaria helped me create a huge sense of body awareness that was often missing from other practices, systematically building on this knowledge in each class with constant tips and adjustments, however slight, that completely changed the way I felt and moved into a posture. Her attention to detail, keen observation skills, understanding of anatomy, and patience allowed me to feel my way into the correct positions for my limbs. Instead of over-stretching or distorting my body shape, I started to really feel when it was a stress or strain on the body so I could start working within my limitations.
Gradually, over time, I began strengthening and conditioning my muscles to be able to move on to the next stage, a progression that had always evaded me up until this point. The methodical, gentle, rhythmic way of working, focusing on isolated muscles, followed by the surrounding muscles, muscle groups and fascia, meant that each tired and weary limb had a chance to soften and warm before rushing directly into whole muscle groups, giving a much gentler form of movement that was far less harsh on the body. Incorporating breath work and music gave a clear beat to begin connecting both cardio vascular movement, stretching, and a sense of mindfulness and interconnectedness of the entire body. The breath-work was imperative to understanding and feeling into how your body works as a whole unit, and increasingly I was able to feel ever more deeply into this fascinating internal eco-system!
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of learning to work within the limitations and constraints of your body. I feel this was the key to my recovery and not only worked on a physical level but very much a mental one too. It taught me not only the correct way my body should sit to reduce pain, but has also helped me to the point I have come off every single pain killer which I was meant to be on for life – and which the doctors thought was an impossible task.
It also massively increased my gut motility to such a degree that I can now eat regular meals the majority of the time, and my gut function has been largely restored. I do not use a wheelchair anymore, or indeed any walking aids, and have just joined a dance studio as my level of fitness has greatly improved.
This is nothing short of a miracle, previously thought of as a long lost dream that would never be recovered. Not only this, but attending the classes has re-connected me with the outside world and reinstated a sense of community, giving my life meaning, focus and direction, paving a path for recovery that was previously a destitute future of pain, suffering, and ultimately death. I was too scared to even create a future picture for myself prior to attending these classes as it was so bleak. To say it has given me my life back is an understatement.
I can not recommend this practice enough, for everyone. It is a system of working that can be applied to your whole life ethos that teaches you how to work with your body and mind, not against them. With this in mind, I have come to realize that working within your limitations greatly unlocks your true potential, even for the most severely ill people, and that nothing is fixed. It gives you the power to be in control of your body again and not let it control you.
On a mental level, it has taught me even that things, such as lack of assertiveness or loose boundaries, can give a great deal of energy away. I see a direct link into how our mental habits and behavioral choices can also affect the energy levels we have left to heal ourselves and how certain areas of the body can store past learning experiences both mental and physical. Working with areas of the body can unlock the lessons stored there for the mind and vice versa.
My practice is still developing, and I gain more and more feedback from each class, ever-developing the self-awareness needed to maximize my physical and mental potential. I feel this learning process is a never-ending unraveling, and I have the power to increase my health and well-being exponentially.
Whilst there were and still are many things that contributed to my recovery, including many outside factors and a massive cumulative effort on my part, the Gyrokinesis Method was a huge tool that aided and accelerated my healing process. Whilst I recognize that no single method can eradicate severe acute or chronic illness, it is definitely a process that can be applied to significantly enhance your health and wellbeing.
You can learn more about Rosaria and her work at: www.rosaria-gracia.com.
Have you had a similar experience, either with a client or as the client? Please let us know in the comments below.