Gyrotonic® was developed by former ballet dancer Juliu Horvath in the early 1980s after an injury ended his dance career. It incorporates elements from yoga, Pilates, dance, and tai chi, but people who practice Gyrotonic® say it's a lot like swimming due to its fluid movements.

Exercises are practiced on the Gyrotonic Expansion System®. This equipment includes benches, ladders, weight, pulley systems, and straps or handles for hands, arms, legs, and feet. Movements are very integrated, dance-like, and circular. The equipment allows for movement in all directions.

Gyrotonic® is appropriate for people of all fitness levels and those recovering from injuries. It's an exercise system that's often recommended by physical therapists because it allows users to stretch and strengthen muscles and connective tissues around joints. Exercises are synchronized with corresponding breathing patterns, making it a mind-body exercise, but Gyrotonic® can also be vigorous enough to provide aerobic/cardio fitness.

Unless you have the funds and room for your own equipment, Gyrotonic® is best practiced in one of hundreds of studios around the world. The equipment is big, bulky, and expensive. Plus, learning how to use it isn't easy. Specially trained instructors evaluate a new student's fitness needs, guide them through exercises, and teach them to use Gyrotonic® equipment. Most studios offer a variety of Gyrotonic Expansion System® equipment:

The Pulley Tower is a fully adjustable system that can accommodate all body types and fitness levels. The resistance provided by handles and pulleys provide strength and flexibility training in a way that prevents jarring movements and injury.

The Archway looks like a combination jungle gym and ladder. There's no pulley or weight system on this equipment, but straps provide extra support for users to practice bodyweight and stretching exercises.

The Jumping Stretching Board has a bench attached to a rolling track that can either lay flat or be raised to an incline. A pulley system provides slight resistance. Exercises are performed by lying on the bench and pushing off from a foot piece. The harder a person pushes, the higher and farther the bench glides.

The Gyrotoner® could be compared to an elliptical trainer crossed with a stationary bike and weight machine. It was designed so various muscle groups, tendons, and ligaments in the spine, arms, hips, legs, and ankles could be strengthened and stretched simultaneously.

People who don't have access to Gyrotonic® equipment can practice Gyrokinesis®, a mat-based exercise program that works the entire body through seven elements of spinal movement: forward, backward, left side, right side, left twist, right twist, and circular, as well as other movements. Like yoga, movements are coordinated with breathing patterns, but postures aren't held for long periods of time. Similar to dance, smooth, fluid movements are emphasized.

Where can you find a Gyrotonic® or Gyrokenesis® class? Log on to the Gyrotonic website or search online for studios in your area.