Archive for the ‘General’ Category
August 31, 2013
Romana Kryzanowska, referred to by Joseph Pilates as his most “devoted disciple” died yesterday at the age of 90. Romana made it her life’s mission to carry on the work of Joseph Pilates in the most pure form: she taught the basic structure and then taught how that structure is adapted to each individual.
Much in the way one learns ballet or music, there are foundational principles that are learned, the skills honed and then one learns how to piece together the elements into a dance or song.
This teaching style is what set Romana apart from other Pilates teachers, I think. There were other teachers of her generation who are great in their own right but it has been my experience that these other teachers taught a form of Pilates as adapted to their own bodies as THE Pilates Method. Romana taught the basic alphabet, the root of the Pilates Method.
I was one of the first instructors certified by the Pilates Studio of New York in the first Pilates certification program back in 1993. I remember in one of my early meetings with Romana that one of the other students asked whether she could still do the reformer exercises – whereupon she hopped onto a nearby reformer and performed a one-legged tendon stretch to the side in perfect form with complete control.
She was seventy at the time.
Romana was the type of woman that up until that time I’d only read about in Dance Magazine and biographies of dancers I’d admired. She was old-school and full of wonderful stories of not just Joe, Clara and the old Studios but the dancers, musicians and theatre people who walked through the doors of those studios.
One year during a trip to New York, I was invited to celebrate her birthday with a group of people after closing time at Drago’s Gym, where Romana did her teaching at that time. The festivities began in Romana’s apartment and we climbed five flights of stairs I think – maybe more – but the apartment was a wonderful throwback in time. Photos and art work given as gifts to her decorated an area that looked like what one would have called a “salon” back in the 30s. We were all letting our hair down and getting to know one another on a casual basis when Romana gave me probably her greatest gift to me.
She was sitting in a chair looking like a queen and, as I bent over her to wish her happy birthday, she looked into my eyes and said “You are a very good instructor and you have a very good memory for the work.”
Okay, so maybe it wasn’t like being told I was going to be the next Beethoven or anything but it meant the world to me because I admired her so much. I didn’t even know that she’d noticed me when I was working at the studio; I was just going through the whole apprenticeship thing – working with a 6’3” soccer player from South African for ten minutes and then – BAM – switched off to work with a frail-looking eighty-year-old woman for a block of time. And so on and so on. It wasn’t unusual as this tempo was pretty much status quo for everyone at Drago’s where clients from all walks of life – and not just dancers – came in for a workout.
Yes, Romana understood dancers best of all but more importantly, she understood bodies, period. She could relate to a baseball player, a person confined to a wheelchair or an older person suffering from osteoporosis. She knew how to make their bodies sing and enjoy the movement possibilities they had. And she passed that appreciation of all types of bodies onto her students.
I am forever grateful to be one of the many Pilates instructors that she trained, mentored and imparted her wisdom to.
1. Ask the Trainer for their credentials – education, degrees, certifications – although too many certifications are suspect due to the lack of standards in the accreditation process. While the subtext of “certification” is that the instructor is knowledgeable and qualified, this is not always the case. I sat in a yoga seminar where a “certified” teacher asked the presenter why it wasn’t okay to take her whiplash-injury student into a headstand to help strengthen her neck! And don’t even get me started on those instructors who teach “intermediate” Astanga classes to students who can’t even do a safe Cobra let alone an Upward Dog!
You might even consider asking the instructor where he/she got their certification and research that.
2. Unlike teaching aerobics where the instructor can just learn a pattern and repeat it, good Yoga and Pilates teachers practice. Practice makes an above average teacher. A lot of practice makes a good teacher. A lot of practice for years makes a great teacher. Don’t hesitate to ask your teacher about their practice.
The fitness industry has, I believe, let us down big time in its hurry to always market the Next Big Thing. There are many fitness professionals who are very passionate about their work but there are just too many so-called fitness pros who are more passionate about making a buck. The fitness industry, instead of working to clean up the snake oil, seems to just shrug its shoulders – maybe they make some ad money off of these guys, I don’t know. I just wish they’d do more to protect the fitness consumer.
There is a movement to license personal trainers, yoga and pilates teachers and I for one am all for this as I think it will immediately clear out those “weekend certified” trainers. I am a bit unhappy that the oversight committee will be made up of physical therapists because I’ve had experience with too many of them who’ve been certified in yoga and Pilates themselves over a weekend. Somehow they think they know the body better because they are PTs. Maybe. But that doesn’t mean that they automatically understand Pilates or Yoga. But considering the apathy of the fitness industry, it may be necessary to join up with the licensing board.
What I know for sure is that a qualified, passionate trainer in any specialty will be happy to answer any questions you have about their training, practice, education, etc. and you should not hesitate to take the time to ask.