Teaching the GYROTONIC® Method From a Wheelchair
Lorenzo Spadafora is a GYROTONIC® Trainer with a spinal cord injury, practicing and teaching from a wheelchair. I first heard about him from his Master Trainer Igor Abba and was so inspired by their story that I asked to interview them both. Below is my talk with Lorenzo.
Lorenzo: I’m in Pesaro in Marche region, in the center of Italy.
Cina: Beautiful. Well, let’s start with how you came to the Gyrotonic Method.
Lorenzo: OK, the first time I tried the Gyrotonic Method was in Bergamo, 15 years ago, with the pre-trainer Beatrice Bonacina. I practiced the work two times per week. After the first time I practiced, I felt very good because I’m in a wheelchair. With Gyrotonic movement, I was moving my body with the narrowing, the arch, the curl, and the spiral. I know my body. After a motorcycle accident, my life was changed. After that, I must know my new body, right?
I loved the Gyrotonic work and after some time I decided to do a course for teacher training. So, I called Gina at Gyrotonic Headquarters, and I asked her if it was possible that I could be a trainer in a wheelchair. Gina said it’s o.k., but maybe I’ll need to repeat different courses to learn more.
After that, I called Gyrotonic Torino and talked with Master Trainer Igor Abba. I did the course and now I am a Gyrotonic Trainer.
Cina: Fantastic. So, let’s go back to your story before you found the Gyrotonic Method and how you came to be in a wheelchair.
Lorenzo: So then, at about 18 years old, I was in a motorcycle accident. I had a spinal lesion in the d4/d5 vertebrae. I can’t control the body below there, but with the Gyrotonic work, I found better equilibrium. I can now control my body better with the narrowing of the pelvis and the other Gyrotonic movements.
Cina: How long after your accident did you find the Gyrotonic Method?
Lorenzo: About three years, not much time.
Cina: When you went to that first session, what exactly made you think this was going to be good for you?
Lorenzo: The benefits are many because the Gyrotonic work is psychological and physical. With the Gyrotonic movements, I didn’t think. I only paid attention to my body and what areas were closed and didn’t have breath. I can open my body and control my breathing. Usually, the person in the wheelchair is closed and doesn’t breathe well.
So, in my first lesson, I sat on the bench and tried to move my body with the machine. As I understood the movements better, and with the help of the machine, I was able to make bigger movements like the waves.
Cina: How does the machine help you move?
Lorenzo: I can’t control the body because I don’t have the lower abdominals, but with the support of the handles, I can do those exercises, moving from the upper part.
Now, I have two studios: one in Pesaro, and one in Fano, in the historic center. I teach clients with disabilities and without disabilities. I have clients with different disabilities, and together with Igor Abba we developed a Gyrotonic Specialized Course for those with spinal cord injuries. It is to give the Gyrotonic trainer the ability to teach this work to those with disabilities.
Cina: That is so beautiful.
Lorenzo: Yes, I am very, very happy about this course because I can see the benefits and how good people feel after. It feels good that I can give the possibility for people with disabilities to know the body in new ways. Now, we only do the course in Italy, but I can’t wait to do a course in the USA or Germany!
Cina: It really is wonderful and very exciting. I would love to come to the course! So, I’m curious, what was your career before becoming a Gyrotonic Trainer?
Lorenzo: I was doing computer work, like mechanic drawings. I would draw different types of mechanical parts, but I didn’t like this very much because I’m very active and “sporty.” I swim competitively, and I also box. Now, in Italy, we are working to get wheelchair boxing in the Paralympics!
Cina: So, you are very active and have a very active lifestyle. You decided to make a big change in your life to become a trainer and open a studio. How long have you had a studio?
Lorenzo: I’ve been teaching for about ten years. I teach with the Pulley Tower and the Jumping-Stretching Board. I started with a small studio and now have had this current studio for five years. I also have a smaller second studio near Fano. I have five colleagues: three at the larger studio, and two at the smaller studio.
Cina: Do you also teach the Gyrokinesis Method?
Lorenzo: No, because I cannot move so much without the machine, but I do spinal motions and those sequences with clients. I just adapt the hands-on a bit for me. When I teach, I teach a bit differently than a normal trainer.
Cina: Speaking of that, what are the biggest challenges teaching from a wheelchair?
Lorenzo: The parts without the machine. Also, the turtle, swimming, canoeing, etc.. are a bit more difficult because they are such big movements with the body. When I teach the legs, I just use my arms and the client follows.
Cina: Do you find that you use more language and words, then?
Lorenzo: No, it’s the same as any other Gyrotonic Trainer. Although, maybe I do speak a lot!
Cina: What are some of the other disabilities you see with your clients?
Lorenzo: Things like paraplegia, tetraplegia, seizure, fibromyalgia, stroke, and one time I had a blind person. So, then I must speak a lot, and use a lot of hands-on. They all have a good experience because I am an example for the person. When they arrive, they become a bit relaxed because I am also disabled. So, people with these problems call me because they know I can relate to their problems.
Cina: What advice would you give to another person in a wheelchair as to why they should give this work a try.
Lorenzo: I would tell them they should try the Gyrotonic Method because the way it teaches you to know your body can change your life. You will learn to control your body, learn how to feel where your body is, and what you can do with your body. It also helps you relax the muscles. People in wheelchairs have a lot of muscle spasms and this work helps to relax those.
Cina: You know, we also have one Gyrokinesis Trainer in Canada. So, I will tell her about your course!
Lorenzo: Wow, that’s great.
Cina: Well, is there anything else you would like to share with me?
Lorenzo: I love this work because I can see how much it changes people. Sometimes people come in not happy and then I see them leave happy. They even call me a day after and tell me how happy they are because they have more control in their body, or the spine feels more elastic, or say they feel muscles that they’ve never felt before. Sometimes, they even have psychological problems and this work helps them.
One other thing, when I did my Final Certificate Course in Germany, I was able to meet Juliu Horvath and do one lesson with him. That was a very good experience.
Cina: How do you get clients for your studio?
Lorenzo: I use social media, but the best marketing is by word-of-mouth from the clients.
Cina: Yes, this seems to be the best universal marketing tool! Lorenzo, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me. I hope this article is an inspiration for the whole community and brings much awareness about the Specialized Course you have with Igor! I also have an interview with him about working with you for the first time, so I hope people read that as well.
Lorenzo: Thank you so much!
See Lorenzo on the GYROTONIC® Pulley Tower in the video below.
If you enjoyed this interview, be sure to read these other inspiring stories and interviews:
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To learn more about how to become a Gyrotonic or Gyrokinesis Trainer, visit our Teacher Training page.