Tribute to Romana

Welcome to my blog!

For my 1st ever blog, I thought it would be very fitting for me to pay tribute to my Pilates mentor and teacher, Romana Kryzanowska, who passed away this past August 30th at the age of 90.  After all, The Wellness Scoop started as strictly a Pilates studio, and Romana is one of the people most instrumental in launching my Pilates career.

But where to start?

Romana was a remarkable woman, and there have been so many wonderful tributes written and fascinating stories shared about her already, that it’s difficult to say anything that hasn’t already been said about her.  At her memorial service on Sept 13 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, we heard three beautiful eulogies.  And at the celebration of her life that followed at True Pilates (formerly Drago’s), Romana’s granddaughter Daria, provided us with a slide show of sorts, while she took us through an unscripted narration of her grandmother’s extraordinary life.  I learned several interesting things about Romana that day that I hadn’t known before.  (Like the fact the she married her husband Pablo almost 70 years earlier at St. Patrick’s!  And that it was only 2 months after they had met!)

Then I remembered that Romana always encouraged us to never stop learning.  She often told us that she learns something new almost every day and with almost every client.  Wow…. The Grand Dame herself, the master of Pilates, still had things to learn!  That was incredibly re-assuring to me as an apprentice and new teacher, back in the day when I often thought, “Will I ever get there?  Will I ever stop questioning myself and my abilities as an instructor?”  The good news is that the answer is “no”.  If I ever feel like I’ve somehow “arrived” and know everything there is to know about Pilates… or about anything for that matter… I hope someone, maybe a loyal client, will smack me, metaphorically of course, and tell me to snap out of it.  Because that will be the day that I am no longer effective as an instructor.  If Romana learned something new every day, than so can I. And I certainly learned a lot from her, about Pilates, about teaching and giving back, and about living life to its fullest. So that is how I’d liked to honor her here, by sharing with you, in no special order….

What I learned from Romana:

  • Move with elegance and grace.  She always did and often demonstrated to us just how to do that… with your head held high, neck long, shoulders relaxed, arms swinging loosely by your sides, taking long graceful strides.  n.b.  A strong core from Pilates helps with all of the above!
  • Pause for 3 seconds after each rep of Short Spine Massage, to re-focus and to mentally and physically prepare for the next rep.
  • You can practice and teach any other form of exercise or movement.  Just don’t call it Pilates.  That made sense to me.  Romana was dedicated 100% to teaching Joe’s work exactly the way Joe created it.  She taught us that Pilates is complete just the way it is.  I feel blessed and privileged to have spent so many hours under her tutelage…. a direct link to Mr. Pilates himself.  And now I feel a real responsibility to carry on her vision to bring pure, original Pilates to as many people as possible.
  • Do the Stomach Massage series every day.  (Or at least every time you do a reformer work-out.)
  • What is the Hundred good for, in two words?  Heart & lungs.
  •  What is Pilates, in three words?  (She was big on brevity.) Strength + stretch + control. “And the most important of these is control!”
  • And speaking of brevity – Use as few words, and as little touch, as possible when teaching.  She urged us to find just the right cues for each client, that are short, clear, to the point and produce the desire result.
  • She often quoted Joe, mimicking his German accent, with, “Yuu haf to in zie air before yuu can out zie air!”  Translation, you must inhale before you can exhale.  Sounds like a big “Duh!” but you’d be surprised how many people do more exhaling than inhaling… including at one point, yours truly.
  • Single Leg Circles – When you swing your leg around and cross back over the body, don’t just bring the leg up…. Engage your powerhouse and LIFT it up with some “oomph”!
  • “You’ve got to squeeze the juice out if it!”  This was Romana’s way of pushing us to put everything we’ve got into every exercise.  And a fitting analogy for the way she lived her life!
  • Love life and live it to its fullest.  This wasn’t necessarily something she said, but something she embodied.

And of course…

  • Never stop learning.  She would often ask me and my fellow apprentices, after a long day of observation, working out, student teaching and assisting, “What did you learn today?”  The 1st few times she asked me, it caught me off guard.  I usually fumbled for an answer, wanting so much to give her some incredible pearl of wisdom that I had picked up that day and would carry with me forever.  But what I eventually learned just from her asking that question so often, was to pay more attention to what I was learning, so that I could internalize it, realize that I had in fact learned something, and be better able to pass it along others.

In some sub-conscious way, it was her example as the “expert” who always had room to learn more, to grow more, that infused my consciousness with what would eventually become my vision for The Wellness Scoop as a place for self-growth of mind, body and spirit through learning & self-discovery.

So… what did you learn today?

“Love all around”,


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