Karine Bienfait knows that not all dreams can be fulfilled in exactly the way we planned. She was well on her way to attaining her childhood aspiration of becoming a ballerina when an injury forced her to reconsider her life path. Her journey took her through a stint in journalism with CNN before she realized how much she missed the daily routine of working and training her body.
She discovered the GYROTONIC® method and immediately loved the holistic and dynamic approach, which inspired her to become a certified instructor. INSPIRELLE team members joined Karine in a bright and cheerful studio near Bastille in the heart of Paris for an initiation to GYROTONIC®. We left feeling energized and centered thanks to her patient and attentive instruction.
Inspired by her story, INSPIRELLE Membership Director, Pauline Wong-Lemasson, caught up with Karine to learn more about how she turned a traumatic event into a reinvestment of herself, ultimately focusing on what she always loved.
Your career has taken you on many turns, can you tell us about that journey?
After 16 years of classical ballet in the hopes of pursuing a career as a professional ballerina, I severely broke my right Achilles a couple of days before a crucial examination at the Opera of Paris. Doctors said at the time I would not be able to dance again for more than 8 months. With a shock, I realized my dream was over and took the first plane to London to try and start a new life. It was very painful to not be able to move my body again.
I totally switched paths and studied journalism at university. I had the extraordinary opportunity to work for CNN after graduation, and met the father of my two sons, a CNN journalist. Though I worked and met high-profile people and traveled extensively, I realized after a couple of years that I was not living my life to the fullest, my body was asking to move and train everyday as it was used to. I was deeply missing a daily routine, the shape of my body was changing and the truth is I was also more interested in watching Noureev ballets than reading the last BHL best seller.
A couple of years later I started Pilates training and took my first GYROTONIC® teacher training course. Thanks to this method, I again found the joy to move my body and train hard whenever I wished…
What inspired you to become a GYROTONIC® instructor?
It was actually during my Achilles recovery that one of my friends who used to take ballet classes with me invited me to New York. The owner of the studio there was also a former dancer. This was where I discovered those elegant GYROTONIC® machines and started to train on the Pulley Tower. I fell in love with the method as the long road to my recovery was starting to come to an end. I realized the three-dimensional method that GYROTONIC® offers was the perfect combination of movements inspired by yoga, swimming, running and cycling as well as a very important part of dance training such as working on points, turn outs, and arabesques.
In this method, I found a safe space to train my body again.
In your own words, how would you describe the GYROTONIC® method?
The GYROTONIC® method allows you to stretch and strengthen muscles at the same time as stimulating and strengthening connective tissues and incorporating breath work. It provides you with aerobic and cardiovascular stimulation at the same time. One of the most original machines, the Pulley Tower, is adjustable and can meet the needs of many people with varying body types and levels of strength.
So everyone can give it a try from beginners to advanced athletes. The resistance used completely eliminates the jarring sensation that takes place at the beginning and end of exercises performed on conventional equipment. This is when a lot of injuries happen actually.
How is GYROTONIC® different from other physical practices that use machines, like Pilates?
It’s definitely different due to the three-dimensional moves that characterize the method—circular, spiraling, and undulating movements whereas Pilates is much more linear. GYROTONIC® helps to increase the awareness of your spine, contributing to a spherical and three-dimensional awareness of your body.
How has doing GYROTONIC® been helpful/beneficial to you personally?
In a few words, it allows me to work my body every day from head to toe. It is such a wonderfully complete method, you can choose to work only on your legs and toes, or only your core and upper body, or you can choose to work on your whole body. Body engagement is key and it will awaken full body awareness.
Every day it reminds me that my body is my closest friend and the importance of taking care of it.
What advice do you have for women who have to give up their first careers and reinvent themselves?
For me, reconversion has to do with re-investing in yourself rather than re-inventing yourself. Invest in yourself, be authentic, look for your inner competencies, acquire new competencies, be productive, be passionate, be patient, and be adaptable. Just like a body needs to adjust after pregnancy, because of aging or because it is facing an injury. You don’t need to necessarily be creative, you need to be attentive to yourself.