Romana Kryzanowska 1923-2013

I knew the legend of Romana long before I ever met her.

My first Pilates teachers Lesa McLaughlin and Kerry DeVivo spoke of her fondly. They would tell their apprentices and clients stories about studying at Drago's gym (now True Pilates NY).

Sadly, I was only able to meet Romana a handful of times. My study at Drago's was just at the time of her retirement. She had recently moved to Texas and was no longer in the studio everyday. My dear colleagues that studied regularly with Romana for years have truly received a special gift.

I got just a little taste of her magic, and even that small amount was huge!

Romana Kryzanowska visits San Diego, California…

Moses Urbano brought Romana to San Diego in 2006. We had a big party and Mat class at the Hotel del Coronado.

It was my first time to meet Romana and I remember I did the Rocking with such a will that I rocked myself into a crazy calf cramp.

It was still my best Rocking ever and hey…

It's Romana!

I don't see her everyday and I made sure I got myself into top shape before the event.

Jerome Weinberg, one of Romana's top teachers, was next to me in class. Romana looked at him with a twinkle in her eye as he did the Teaser.

“Get your legs together. Work a little.” Jerome also had a twinkle in his eye and a smile, and of course, worked even harder for Romana.

2008 New Orleans

Romana Kryzanowska 1923-2013

It was Halloween in New Orleans and it was my first Romana's Pilates Conference. I had completed their training program the previous year and I was super-psyched for this event. I did not know Romana personally, so I took every one of her classes. My favorite was a class on the Reformer, about 30 of us, again, striving to do our best as Romana watched and inspired us to do it better than we ever had before.

Just in case you're curious about the photo above, my ‘popo' is the first one on the left.

After class Daria was kind enough to introduce me to ‘Grandma.' I had heard a colleague say that Romana was slowing down some and not the tour-de-force she once was in the 1990s.

Well, neither was I.

Romana shook my hand, firmly I might add, and took one look at me after teaching that big class.

“Honey, you need to relax your neck.”

Oh she's still got it.

Romana Kryzanowska 1923-2013A bit later in Los Angeles 2008

Romana is in the state of California! And there was much rejoicing!

Michael Levy hosted the yearly continuing education and Daria and Romana were in Los Angeles. Wooo Hooo!

This time it was a Mat, Reformer and Reformer Mat extravaganza.

Early on in the Mat workout – during Rolling Like a Ball – Romana had us do somersaults and come up to standing. It was early in the morning, this was not a move I was familiar with yet and Romana was shaking us all up.

Alas, she was not very happy with our efforts. But after about 20-30 more of them we got a little bit better.

All that happened before 10am.

By afternoon most of us were on the Reformer. If you were not on the apparatus for all the exercises you were expected to follow along doing the Reformer exercises on the Mat. Yum yum. Much to my surprise Romana encouraged me to fold myself up smaller than I thought possible in Coordination. Such an innocent exercise, you might think…

Now I understood all that talk of “Squeezing the juice out” of the exercise. I had worked harder in that one exercise than I had all afternoon.

“Now it's¬†Something!” said Romana.

Arlington, TX 2009

Seeing Romana in Texas was perhaps the best time ever. My in-laws live in a tiny town in Texas about 2 hours from Metroplex Pilates in Arlington. 2 hours? Perfect. I was in the same state as Romana, there was no way I was not going to see her. We were in Texas during the Christmas holiday, so Romana's daughter Sari was in town as well. I was hoping to get a private lesson with Romana. Oh boy. Christmas indeed.

Good Cop Bad Cop

As it turned out, I would have my lesson with Sari, although Romana would be in the studio. Ok, still great. Although I had been eating a lot of BBQ since my arrival in Texas…hmmm…

When I arrived Romana greeted me wearing the beautiful Robin's egg blue color I always saw her in. She also sported some really awesome cowboy boots. Red ones, I believe. Sari gave me a lesson on the Reformer and Romana sat beside us.

Romana soon became my cheerleader.

Whatever Sari picked on, Romana applauded. To my horror, after the debacle that is the Snake/Twist, I began to take requests.

Me: “Should I do the Backbend with the Straps?”
Sari: “Why do you want to do that when you can't even do the Snake/Twist?”
Romana: (applauding) “I want to see it!”

So I did the Backbend with the Straps – and even Sari had to agree that it was better than my Snake/Twist.

Romana taught a duet after my lesson to Cha Cha (owner of Metroplex Pilates) and Sari. That was a fun treat as well. At one point Romana decided that Sari needed some help with (irony alert!) the Snake/Twist…

“Honey, help her.”

To my surprise I was now giving Sari a spot for the Snake/Twist.

See, it's everyone's favorite exercise ūüôā

 

Thank you so much, Romana, for all your hard work through the years to disseminate Pilates to the world.

You have given me and countless others a passion, a discipline and a livelihood while enabling so many to become the best person they could be.

My thoughts go out to you Sari, Daria, Monica and your families. Peace and warm wishes to you all.

Love all around.

 

Share your thoughts or stories about Romana in a comment below. Thank you so much for reading and sharing the love.

7 Spot-On Pilates Quotes to Keep you Honest

Literal. Clear. To the Point. I love it when a Pilates teacher does not mince words.

I thought I'd share a few of my faves.

1. My personal favorite and a Sandy Shimoda special.

7 Spot- On Pilates Quotes to Keep you Honest

I have heard this one many many times. Weekly actually. Making the exercises as painstakingly perfect as you possibly can makes for a tense, slow turn of events. Oops, almost forgot Sandy has another fine quote for that too.

The suspense is killing me.

This one popped out due to the glacial pace of my Thigh Stretch on the Reformer. Her comment was memorable. And my Thigh Stretch is the better for it.

2. My own commitment to connection.

7 Spot-On Pilates Quotes to Keep you Honest

It's easy to poop-out in the middle of the exercise.

To anticipate the lying down in the Roll Up. Oh, mat so comfy

To rest when you roll up to sit in Spine Stretch. Cause sitting up tall is soooo easy…

To lie down for a little too long between reps of the Teaser.

Whaaaaaat??

Oh you know you've done it. We've all been there. I'm aghast when my teacher points up a little secret rest that's crept in unbeknownst to me. Gah!

My quote takes inspiration from Kerry DeVivo who was the first teacher to explain an ultimate goal of the Pilates workout. Use the exercises to find connection when you begin your workout and never let it go until the workout is finished.

Yup.

3. Karen Frischmann of Vintage Pilates fame in top form.

Lessons with Karen are jam-packed with revelation. This one pertains specifically to the action of the upper back in the 2nd of the Stomach Massage Series on the Reformer. Mostly we (I) want to squeeze the shoulders together and back, essentially squishing the upper back.

Squishing is not really engagement.

It's just squishing.

7 Spot- On Pilates Quotes to Keep you Honest

Long the Back! Yes!

Squish the Shoulders!

I don't think so.

In the 2nd of the Stomach Massage series as well as its other exercise friends (Reverse Push Thru and Long Back Arms on the Cadillac, Backward Arms on the Wunda Chair) there is more to be had in the broadening of the upper back effectively relaxing the shoulders (in lieu of the squish) which will result in greater more yummy stretch across the chest.

And don't forget to Long the Back!

4. Kathi Ross-Nash gets extra points for gravitas.

I just think this one is hilarious.

7 Spot-On Pilates Quotes to Keep you Honest

I've tried to steal it, but I don't quite own it and it falls flat… But when it comes from Kathi I have to giggle. She says it in a sweet and gentle (mocking?) voice of false comfort while you wrestle with an exercise of outrageous proportion.

Reformer on the Mat anyone?

5. Cynthia Lochard gets right to the point.

7 Spot-On Quotes to Keep you Honest

I am guilty of this myself (of course) and it's a wonderful mantra for clients. It may seem like you need to take a moment to rest.

But maybe you don't.

What would happen if you willed yourself to continuously move for the entire hour?

Endurance. Stamina. Perseverance.

Tenacity. Grit.

Not too shabby.

 6. Jay Grimes always has a gem at the ready.

7 Spot- On Pilates Quotes to Keep you Honest

It's one of my favorites, really and it's always delivered in a silky-soft soothing voice while you sweat it out doing no less than the Twist with One Arm on the Reformer РALL of it mind you.

 7. Romana quoting Joe Pilates. This one's a keeper.

Pilates is hard, yo. And full of tough love.

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger…yes?

7 Spot-On Pilates Quotes to Keep you Honest

Heard any Spot-On Quotes that really upped your game?

Leave a comment below and keep us in the loop. Then go workout. You know you want to.

1 Moment of Clarity with a Pilates Twist

1 Moment of Clarity with a Pilates TwistIn a race to the top of my Most Challenging list are the Pilates Side Bending exercises and the Pilates Twisting Exercises.

Naturally a part of me loathes them. A pretty big part of me until recently. They are difficult and therefore exactly what I need to be doing.

Even the nasty ones.

Twisting feels good to my already-twisted-a-bit back.

Me? Twisted?! Thanks for the feigned shock, I appreciate it.

As my understanding and execution improves I am (slowly) beginning to love them (a little bit). I almost enjoy the Criss Cross on the Mat. Ridiculous!

The secrets I am discovering? You'd better sit down for this one.

It's all about LENGTH.

Yup.

No more tricky twisty cranking around to get more “twist”. The power of posture is remarkable.

Lifting up and forward can solve the world's problems.

I am now sure of it.

1 Moment of Clarity with a Pilates Twist

On Saturday August 24, 2013 I am thrilled to present a mat class at Prana Pilates, home of the lovely Karen Ellis. Hope you can join me. Sign up here and click on the WORKSHOPS tab.

Check out Karen's new site Pilates Nerd that “aspires to shake things up and redefine what it means to be a¬†nerd.¬†A Pilates Nerd is a highly intelligent individual, does Pilates, gets¬†really¬†excited to learn, and is fascinated with most everything related to Pilates.”

3 Quick & Dirty Tricks that ROCK! So you will too.

3 Quick & Dirty Tricks that ROCK! So you will too.This one is for Sarah.

I found rocking on the front of the body to be a shocking development in my first Pilates classes.

We had already been rolling on our backs since day 1, so of course why not rock on our fronts? This realization did not make the rocking exercises easier to do…

But I get it. 

That Joe Pilates, he thought of everything.

Part 1: Let's Rock!

The Rock(ing): a challenging exercise done primarily on the Mat.

And yes, technically the Swan Dive is also a rocking exercise, but what say we give that one an entire post of its own? (Oh boy, already excited about the photos for that post…can you feel my joy?)

Quick & Dirty Trick #1: WWJPD?

Do a little homework. Consult Joe Pilates' manifesto Return to Life Through Contrology.

Take a look at the 4 figures of Joe Rocking and let's consider his directives:

3 Quick & Dirty Tricks that ROCK! So you will too.

Fig. 1:

  • (a) Take position illustrated
  • (b) Rest body (face downward) on mat or floor
  • (c) Press arms to sides with palms upward
  • (d) Stretch legs (close together) backward
  • (e)Keep toes (pointed) forward and downward

I have emboldened the directions that were news to me. I found these to be particularly insightful.

When I begin in this position as Joe suggests, I lengthen my body on the stomach just as I would do on my back preparing for the Hundred or the Teaser. Cool. No big deal…I'm just on my stomach…

As I “stretch legs (close together) backward” I feel my seat engage. Brilliant. Guess what it's gonna have to do by the time we get to Figure 4.

Fig.2:

  • (a) Bend legs forward toward head
  • (b) Grasp feet

Ok, pretty per usual. But “feet”, mind you, he does not say ankles. Duly. Noted.¬†Let's press on.

Fig. 3:

  • (a) INHALE SLOWLY
  • (b) Thrust chest out with head thrown back as far as possible
  • (c) Stretch legs (close together) toward mat or floor

Thrust chest out with head thrown back as far as possible?!!

How many of us would never want to use these words to teach our clients? Sounds scary, I know.

So I tried it.

With the first action of thrusting the chest out, trying to throw my head backward only resulted in more lift of my whole shape similar to the Down Stretch on the Reformer. More on this later, as it was one of my favorite parts. It did not result in a crank of the neck, as I had anticipated. Interesting…

…and I am a bit of a neck-cranker.

I like direction (c) he uses here as well. “Stretch legs (close together) toward mat or floor” is very clear and effective. Thanks Joe!

Fig. 4:

  • (a) Rock forward until chin touches mat or floor
  • (b) Rock backward as far as possible
  • (c) INHALE SLOWLY as you
  • (d) Rock forward and
  • (e) EXHALE SLOWLY as you
  • (f) Rock backward

Okay, let's talk about all this stuff. At the risk of getting √ľber-precious about the breathing (Resist!) the rocking exercises on the stomach (as well as all the rolling exercises) have their roots in Joe's philosophy of correct breathing:

3 Quick & Dirty Tricks that ROCK! So you will too.

Honestly, who can think about breathing while doing this exercise? I only hope to survive and make it to the Control Balance. One thing I can actually count on is that I will keep breathing. All the other stuff, ehhh, not so much…

Must… Move… Vigorously! Lift up, everybody – Up!

However, following Joe's directives made the exercise feel good:

INHALE slowly as you Rock forward

EXHALE slowly as you Rock backward

I am sure I have been exhaling my face into the mat for years. This change of where the exhalation comes made a big difference in the exercise for me. It gave me more lift and ease in the exercise and a big, full, toxin-clearing exhalation like the Down Stretch on the Reformer as I said earlier. Which brings me to…

We only have one exercise

You saw that one comin', huh?

Quick & Dirty Trick #2: Lengthen and calm yourself.

You've done the research. You've made it this far in the mat. Just 3 more exercises and you are golden…don't freak out. It's only the Rocking. All the exercises you have already done have led you to this moment. You are ready. Lie on your stomach and stretch yourself long.

Quick & Dirty Trick #3: A backbend is not a free-for-all.

Don't lose your sh**, K? Work fiercely to engage all that which wants to pooch out onto the mat. Try to forget the exercise is a backbend when you are in the starting position (Fig. 1). Find straight first, when bending the knees for the initial stretch – ribs in, stomach in, seat tight – find the stretch in the thighs and hips if it is not already palpable, or ridiculous. That backbend will find you soon enough…

Who's in charge here?

The Pilates exercises that Rock and Roll are stunning examples of ultimate control. Both ends of the body must work constantly in opposition to move us about. Find the 2-way stretch here just as you would in any other less-fancy exercise: lift the back and then reach the toes to the sky.

In the Rocking it is the reach of the big toes that will help you find your seat and the work of the lower body while you Down Stretch your way to success with the lift of the upper body and chest a là Swan.

Ready for Part 2?

Click here for my exploration of the Pilates rolling exercises and why they are so freakishly good for us. They make a good pair, the rocking and the rolling. They work together to encourage the strength and flexibility of the entire back.

Mmm…a massage for back and front and the toxic air goes bye-bye!

3 Quick & Dirty Tricks that ROCK! So you will too.

3 Quick & Dirty Tricks that ROCK! So you will too.

Got some Quick & Dirty Tricks of your own? Share them in a comment below.

5 Actions to Take RIGHT NOW for Pilates Excellence

1.

5 Actions to Take RIGHT NOW for Pilates Excellence

Pilates Enthusiasts

Get this one done. Schedule the lessons and keep yourself on the path to excellence. The benefits of Pilates are too numerous to list here, but consistency is the key (see #5). Learn your mat exercises to maintain your workout during the week between lessons and you'll have a workout 3-4x/week. If this doesn't sound like your M.O., you might want to schedule 2 lessons/week. Or more…

Jus' sayin'.

Teachers

This one is a biggie for me. In a recent issue of Pilates Style there was a question about what to do if you cannot afford regular lessons, or how to find discounted lessons. Although the question was answered in a very detailed manner, I was surprised that regular lessons were not given a higher regard.

…private sessions do not need to be taken on a regular basis and can be one-off, special events.

It was also advocated that 1 lesson per month would be sufficient. I have to disagree. I believe 1x/week is the minimum and I'm gonna tell you why.

  • I would not recommend that a client come 1x/month for lessons. As a teacher, we must be held to a higher standard.
  • Weekly lessons are an investment in your business.
  • Your depth of understanding of the method skyrockets exponentially.
  • To teach effectively we need to remember what it's like to be a student.
  • Joe Pilates was his own walking billboard. It can't hurt.

Thanks to technology internet lessons are also an option. Put a line item in the budget. Make it happen.

 

2.

5 Actions to Take RIGHT NOW for Pilates Excellence

Today there are continuing education events offered throughout the year in hundreds of locations. You may not even have to travel very far. You can find inspiration and learn from online video classes as well such as the lovely Pilatesology – as a supplement of course, not a substitute for actual they've-got-their-hands-on-me-and-I'm feelin'-it workshops with 1st and 2nd-generation teachers. Of course if possible run to as many workshops as you can, but at the bare minimum go to 1. I like to joke that I need a sponsor to support my ever-increasing Continuing Education habit.

Sponsors, if you are reading, Kathi Ross-Nash would also like one for wardrobe. Thanks.

Workshops contribute to our experience, expertise, they inspire us and connect us with peers and mentors.¬†Which brings me to #3…

 

3.

5 Actions to Take RIGHT NOW for Pilates Excellence

Surround yourself with teachers that are better than you. Ones that have more experience and want to see you to up your game as well. A true learning environment is a great atmosphere for a studio. The clients can feel it. When you are around teachers that genuinely enjoy what they are doing it is infectious and everyone will rise to the occasion.

 

4.

5 Actions to Take RIGHT NOW for Pilates Excellence

Fill your schedule. Jay Grimes refers to the diploma you receive from your training program as your Learner's Permit. Now you will begin to teach and it is your clients who will truly be your teachers. The more you teach the more experience, confidence and expertise you will gain.

And then you can take all those private lessons you have been fantasizing about…

 

5.

5 Actions to Take RIGHT NOW for Pilates Excellence

Practice your exercises diligently with the fixed and unalterable determination that you will permit nothing else to sway you from keeping faith with yourself. At times you may feel tempted to “take a night off.”

Don't succumb to this momentary weakness of indecision, or rather, wrong decision. Decide to remain true to yourself.

Joe Pilates, Return to Life Through Contrology

Workout at least 3x/Week minimum. A little bit every day is even better. You'll have a laugh at the ridiculous I-have-now-drunk-the-Kool-Aid things you say:

I feel amazing!

Hey, this Sh*!! really works! (Duh…)

Consistency. The benefits of the Pilates Method are cumulative. This one fits perfectly with #1. Your weekly lesson can help to inspire you and jumpstart your own workouts.

With a full schedule of teaching it can be challenging to attend to your own workout after a long workday. Feels kinda like you are still at work, I know. Don't be fooled by how many others you make do the Neck Pull.

It doesn't mean you have actually done it yourself.

Consistency will keep you in top form, ready for even further challenges presented by your teacher. There is so much to be had in every exercise of the method. I am always surprised by the depth and intelligence I continue to find within these wonderful exercises.

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