BOOK REVIEW: Pilates An Interactive Workbook by Christina Maria Gadar

Book Review: Pilates An Interactive Workbook by Christina Maria Gadar

Received one morning on vacation in Paris:

Hi Andrea,
I was wondering if you would like me to send you a copy of “Pilates An Interactive Workbook.” 
Warmest wishes,
Christina Maria Gadar

Pilates An Interactive Workbook is a wonderful new book by Christina Maria Gadar. I had been secretly wanting this book since it was released on August 29, 2013.

Good-fortune hovers closeby when in a magical city.

Need. More. Christina.

Christina Maria Gadar is one of my favorite Pilates practitioners. She completed her rigorous Pilates training under Joseph Pilates' protégée and Grand Master Instructor Romana Kryzanowska in 2000. She operates a world-class Pilates studio in Sarasota, Florida.

Should you be a Sarasota local I highly recommend you stop by for a lesson.

Although we have not met in person I have the highest regard and admiration for her thoughtful social media postings. The high standards of her studio are evident in her flawless videos, each featuring a different Pilates apparatus. She is a shining example of a connected and precise transition.

Have a look:

She nimbly zips up the mountain like a sprite in Mountain Climb on the Wunda Chair.

Calm focus is about her as she busts out even Swakate on the Arm Chair. It becomes an elegant exercise. Even as I watch I can feel its deliciousness…

BOOK REVIEW: Pilates An Interactive Workout by Christina Maria GadarSpeedy Delivery

The book arrived the very day she said it would, one day after my return from Europe.

It was bigger and more weighty than I expected and really said ‘serious.'

She even signed it – another fun surprise!

Although book reviews are not my usual style of posts, the idea for this review was entirely mine. Christina said she would be very happy for me to review it.

“I know there is no guarantee of a positive review, and I prefer it that way.”

Alignment trumps all. 

Pilates An Interactive Workbook sports the perfect tagline:

BOOK REVIEW: Pilates An Interactive Workbook by Christina Maria Gadar

Her POV – and indeed the POV of the Pilates Method itself – are in perfect alignment.

Oh gosh, I needed that pun.

A place for everything and everything in its place…

Christina has created a Pilates workbook that is part Exercise Manual and even more importantly part Exercise Journal. A place to keep all your thoughts, notes, corrections, etc… on a given exercise for handy reference.

Often the process of writing down the notes can help to cement them in the mind. Christina also wisely suggests that you write all your notes in pencil, “as your notes will change as your body changes.

There is no end to learning Pilates. Learn to savor each moment and each progression in your Pilates education. Then you will find yourself getting to the heart of the method.

The intended purpose of Pilates An Interactive Workbook is plainly stated. In bold, mind you.

“Please remember that this book is meant only for those who are already students of a certified Pilates instructor. Pilates cannot be learned from a book or video – only from a teacher.”

The italics are Christina's.

The Heart and Soul of the Method

All of the fundamental Pilates exercises on the Mat and the Reformer are in attendance. If the Reformer is at the heart of Pilates, the Matwork is surely the soul of the Method.

The Matwork is divided into a ‘basic' and an ‘intermediate' system. Also included are additional series aimed at the Pilates client/home exerciser which require only a small prop or a wall: Magic Circle exercises, Standing Arm Weights and the Wall series. Huzzah!

The Reformer section includes both fundamental as well as more challenging exercises such as Teaser, Semi-Circle and Side Splits. It is again a solid group of exercises on the Reformer that Pilates teachers use daily when working with nearly every client.

In the above photo you can see a sample of the page layout that is used throughout the book. This kind of organization is appealing to me. Nearly half to three-quarters of every left-hand page is reserved for your notes and observations on each particular exercise.

The thought of having all of my notes on the Backstroke together in one place is practically more excitement than I stand. Over time some notes would replace others of course, but collecting all of the notes would allow you to see what is improving over time, and what notes you got the very first time that you are still getting today…


Get ready, here's another one.


I'm someone who's nerdy about the details.

The above photo also shows the ‘Detail' section located on many of the bottom left-hand pages. Christina is pictured here demonstrating the transition into the Corkscrew. Other Detail sections examine correct placement, show other secure and effective transitions between exercises and include tips for proficiency.

It's almost like having a teacher with you.

Imagine that.

Pilates for Life 

A large Detail section delineates the the various parts of the Reformer apparatus itself: head rest, carriage, the well, leather straps, etc… This section deserves to be quoted in its entirety:

In addition to being familiar with your individual workout routine on the Reformer, it is important to be familiar with the set-up of the Pilates apparatus. Knowing the set-up for each exercise will enhance your concentration and self-efficiency. It will also reinforce the proper techniques necessary for lifting, bending and and reaching. Before you know it, you will find yourself incorporating Pilates into every minute of your day.

Another gem:

The Reformer section does not begin at the Footwork Series. It starts with the very first moment of the workout: Lying down on the Reformer Apparatus. It is given the same prominence, value and design layout as every one of the exercises. Boom.

Pilates teachers everywhere are thanking you 🙂

A must for the self-proclaimed Pilates Nerd and enthusiast of all stripes, Pilates An Interactive Workbook clearly communicates the ideas and skills inherent and crucial to success in the Pilates Method:

  • Quality over quantity.
  • The imperative of learning a new exercise with a trained instructor before doing it on your own.
  • Practicing at home to make the most of your investment in Pilates lessons and take true ownership of your workout.
  • The Pilates Method is a complete system.

I am very happy to have this book. And to put it to good use. My Swan on the Barrel page is filling up!!

For more information on Christina Maria Gadar visit her at Gadar Pilates.

Book Review: Pilates An Interactive Workbook by Christina Maria Gadar

Do you own this book? How has it informed your own Pilates practice? Share your thoughts and join the conversation.

You can order the book for your favorite Pilates student here. (Even if it's you.)

Teaching Joe Pilates

Let’s read that again. First some info.

Teaching Joe Pilates

Joe = Husband

I teach Pilates

I teach Pilates

My challenge? Teaching. Joe. Pilates.

I hear the front door open and my husband calls out.

“You’re a genius!” Pause. An unfamiliar greeting…I am alarmed yet…curious.

“Go onnnnnn…” This should be good.

The day’s golf has been stellar. Okay… Joe reminds me of my suggestion to use his back muscles to hit the ball instead of his grumpy old shoulder. Evidently he hit the ball farther, and now after 18 holes his shoulder actually feels better.

I know very little about golf. I know a lot more about backs and shoulders. So how nice to receive this unprecedented salutation. Not bad for a Tuesday.

How many apprentices does it take to Teach Joe Pilates? Two.

In the early Aughts, Joe was my practice student at Excel Pilates in Washington, DC. A fellow apprentice, Kristina taught him as well. Kristina was quite fierce. With a keen eye and the face of an angel she was there to kick your ass. We made it our mission to whip Joe into shape.

No more Pilates. It's hard and your wife's telling you what to do for an hour

Easygoing Joe would become bad-tempered and moody just moments into the Hundred. His whole face would change. He declared himself ‘inexplicably grumpy’. I considered scheduling a couples therapy appointment for immediately after his Pilates lesson. *sigh* Eventually Joe turned to qi gong, no working out and yoga as alternatives. Ach mein Gott!

Fast forward to Spring 2010

My studio is now integrated into our home and Joe is literally surrounded by fantastic Gratz Pilates toys. My schedule is full and I can’t bear to squeeze another hour into my day to teach someone that will most likely be grumpy for free. Now I need to add that I oh-so-ridiculously love my husband. So when Joe expressed interest in learning the mat, this time I had a different solution:

“Here is a list of exercises. Do these now. In a few weeks maybe I’ll add more.”

And that's when the magic started to happen.

See Joe do the Roll Up!

2-Way Stretch, yo!

2-Way Stretch, yo!

Playing the game where you drink every time I invoke Jay Grimes?

Jay Grimes tells a wonderful story about Clara Pilates, the quintessential teacher. Generous with her knowledge, Clara would expertly guide you to the very precipice of discovery without giving it away. A Pilates surprise would unfold gorgeously before you and you never saw it coming. You found your own Pilates secret “all by yourself.” Jay describes the work at Joe Pilates’ original studio as a journey of self-discovery, which is all but lost in many present-day Pilates studios.

In Joe Pilates' studio you would initially learn your workout by having a finite number of private lessons. After that you were expected to know your workout. There were helpful charts and photos around to remind you. A few teachers supervised the entire room of students, each working through their own prescribed workout. If you needed a push or a pull you got it. If you forgot (again?!) how many springs for the Knee Stretches they would certainly help you out. It might be 3 months before you got even a single correction from Joe which might be “Use your gut!” But by simply doing the work, on your own, gradually something would begin to happen…

Check, please!

Part of being a good teacher is knowing when to back off. I worked as a waitress for about a nanosecond in the mid-90s. I was really quite dreadful, actually. But once I figured out they were not there to have dinner with me – and therefore I did not hover ad nauseum – I got a little better. My tips actually increased, which I found amusing. I mean, who doesn’t want to have dinner with me?

Make a Man feel like a Man: The Standing Arm Springs

Exercises created by a man for men

Exercises created by a man for men

Nothing makes a man feel more like a man than the Standing Arm Springs, so Joe got a few of these too – with minimal directions from me, from across the room…while reading my book – and some Leg Springs.

Now he has the Mat exercises and a fun finish on the Cadillac. Awesome. I have managed to zip it and not get all up in his grille with regard to form. He works well, he is not dangerous, he is moving and sweating.

2 thumbs up.

The waitress effect

Joe is thrilled. “The springs are working!”

Oh it is all working, my sweet. He is having more fun and not feeling demoralized by an hour of corrections from his wife.

Remember back when you are first learning to teach and you struggle to get the words out? Well, then we all get so good at it that we just can't shut up. Now it is a gargantuan effort to keep silent and allow the student to do their workout, to begin to cultivate their relationship with the apparatus.

But it's hard to allow little things that you want to fix just fly right by you. You feel like a bad teacher, or lazy. But sooner or later there will be something that you just can't hold back on. Prioritizing.

And maybe, as whatever-it-is flies by, you get an idea about where in the studio you'll go to fix it. Later. Problem-solving.

I tell you, the more I ignore him, the more fun he seems to be having.

Joe + the Pilates mat exercises + a few springs = a voyage to self-discovery…Uhm…Jay said it would?

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Leave a comment below if you'd like to share your story of teaching a loved one…Thank you for reading!



2 Resolutions to Forever Endear you to your Pilates Instructor

2 Resolutions to Forever Endear you to your Pilates Instructor

January: the time of year when we've all got big plans on the horizon. ‘Exercise More' often tops our lists of resolutions. You, the Pilates devotee are well ahead of the curve on this one. No pun intended. So check out these sure-fire ways to be a super-awesome Pilates student in 2013.

1. Learn your order

Chances are if you have been a regular Pilates student for a while, you have at least some idea of which exercises you do. Some are more memorable than others, some are clearly unforgettable and others are perhaps painful memories that you block from your mind. Regardless, honing your focus to learn the order of the exercises will enhance your Pilates prowess immeasurably. You will add challenge to your workout as you move with from one exercise to the next with purpose. You will increase your control and build stamina.

Yes, there's a lot to think about, but it is your workout. Remember you are learning skills for life, not just party tricks where you Open Leg Rocker on the kitchen countertop.

We all do that, right?

2. Do a mat workout *gasp* at home between visits to the studio

2 Resolutions to Forever Endear you to your Pilates Instructor

Challenge yourself to begin with just 5 exercises (7 for you overachievers): 100, roll up, single leg circle, roll like a ball, (single leg pull, double leg pull) and spine stretch. This should not take you more than 15 minutes even with a cheat sheet. Ultimately you could begin every day with just these few exercises and be done in 5 minutes. And feel virtuous…!

The mat exercises were considered homework in Joe Pilates' studio. They are a great way to check in with your body without the distractions of the studio and your instructor all up in your grille.

Diligent work at home may uncover questions about a particular exercise to ask your instructor and therefore deepen your understanding of the exercise, the Pilates method, and ultimately your body.

Use the video links above for expert guidance from Alisa Wyatt and myself, via Pilatesology. You may surprise yourself and remember all your exercises, even the nasty ones. I find the hardest part to be just lying down on the mat to begin.

In the words of my budding-Pilates-Superstar husband, “Sometimes the Hundred is enough.” But you know, while you're down there…

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