How I Found My Way to Romana’s Pilates

I Don’t just teach Pilates, I teach Romana’s Pilates.

When I first wanted to learn Pilates, about 16 years ago, there were only two studios in my area, both about an hour away from my house. I remember thinking that it was hard to choose between the two, the websites were not very detailed and I had no way to judge which one was better.  So I just picked one on instinct.

Romana Krysanowska with Joseph Pilates using the roll back bar.

I lucked out and found a great teacher. From time to time, my teacher would tell me about her experiences training with someone named Romana in NYC.  She would talk about Drago’s gym and all the great people who studied there, many of them were on TV or making videos, as was my teacher. My teacher also was involved with a certification school and when I decided to become a teacher, I enrolled in the institute she was working with.


Romana fooling around on the trapeze table with Moses Urbano on the right at a symposium. She loved to hang on the “Cadillac”

My teacher was really amazing, she could see the body so well, like magic.  I would watch her work. She immediately recognized imbalances in the clients and would craft a workout for each person on the fly, helping each one in the way they needed that day.  She never had a book or a log, she remembered every body and she was able to help each client feel better after every session.

I completed the certification program in several months and received my certificate after taking a scary practical exam with the institute owner.  I had to do all the exercises in order and answer difficult questions about them. I passed the test! I felt really accomplished and ready to take on the world, or at least a few clients.

As I taught my clients, even though I was now “certified,” I kept feeling like there were a lot of holes in my knowledge.  I had studied anatomy in my coursework. I memorized the muscles, the planes of movement, the bones… I memorized all the Pilates exercises and the order. I knew how to set all the equipment up for the clients and what muscles were targeted in different exercises. I thought I had studied all angles of Pilates and had a good grasp of the method.

Joe doing arm frogs on the Wonda Chair in his signature workout attire.

When I was teaching, I felt that some clients were benefitting from my help. But for other clients I was really lost.  I went through motions with them but I knew that I was not understanding how to help them.  Even though my teacher was great and I completed the training program and passed the tests, I was not at the level of understanding that I knew I would need to be the teacher I wanted to be.  I realized that I was not the getting the whole picture of Pilates. I sensed that there was a bigger picture – and I needed to figure it out.

One day I had an idea.  I thought, if my teacher was so good and she learned from this Romana person, maybe I could go to her and learn from her too;  go to the source and get the direct line information.  I knew the studio was in Manhattan, about 2.5 hours from my house, barely doable, so I found it online and made an appointment.

Romana teaching in Drago’s gym which changed ownership and became True Pilates NY

I was extremely nervous when I went in there. I had heard rumors that this studio was very serious and that they looked down on people who were not doing things perfectly and the way they wanted.  On my first day, a woman named Sari came over for a minute to spot me.  I was not totally sure who she was, but I knew she was one of the master teachers there.  She had platform sneakers on and a flowing jacket.  She held my feet while I did a terrible teaser on the long box.  I was sure she was going to yell at me for being so bad but she actually said something like “nice sweetheart” and walked away when my teacher came back.

Working on Pedipole at True Pilates – balance, stretch and strength

From that time on, I took many private sessions at Drago’s/True Pilates.  I would watch the apprentices practicing mat classes together.  I analyzed the teachers there, they were all just like my amazing teacher, they could see the body and correct it.  Each teacher had a different style and perspective but each one was equally amazing. I wanted to re-do my certification here.  I had found the place that would give me the rest of the picture.

Joseph Pilates taught mat classes at Jacobs Pillow in the summers for the dancers there.

It turned out that I was not even ready to join the certification program, they said I was not strong enough yet.  Really?  How could that be?  I was already a graduate of what I thought was a great training program.  I was very disappointed.

About this time, I moved to Barcelona, Spain for a year.  I found a Romana’s Pilates school there run by Javier Perez and Esperanza Aparicio and took private lessons there three times a week.  I was on a mission.  I took once a week from an apprentice to save some money and twice a week from a full instructor.  It was so great!! Best year of my life! When the year was over I was almost ready to enter the training program.  No lie.  They told me that I was ALMOST up to the level to enter the program. I was not daunted.

Javier and Esperanza have authored books and videos on classical Pilates in Spanish and English

When I came back to NY, I finally did enter the training program. I took the “entrance test” from Nancy Jean.  She was also a bit scary.  I wasn’t perfect but I made the grade, and I got in.  That started me on a two year, up at 4am, catch the train to the city, study Pilates for a bunch of hours, run back to the train and get home in time to get dinner on the table and take my son to TaeKwonDo, odyssey.

The program takes you through three levels; basic, intermediate and advanced.  Each level has a test or combination of tests to pass to get through to the next level.  The final tests are so difficult that many people take several tries to pass.  And it is not embarrassing to fail, it is part of the learning experience.

The whole time I was an apprentice everyone was kind and caring.  Sari, (it turned out she was Romana’s daughter and running the training program since her mom passed away), was concerned that we all understood how to “teach to the body.”  She and Cynthia Shipley were the anchors of the program in NY.  Jerome, Yuka, Jeannie, Nancy Jean and many other teachers would help the apprentices and offer their perspectives.

At symposiums there are so many teachers all working out together, it is very exciting.

Master teachers would visit several times a year and be available for lessons.  Taking lessons from international teachers was so enlightening.  I experienced different styles of executing the movements and relating to clients.  Symposiums full of amazing teachers happened periodically. Seminars were ongoing and we could all repeat them as many times as we wanted.  (That would be infinity, for me.)  The program was full of people from all over the world who would save up money to come to NY and train with the best, the master Romana’s Pilates teachers.

Romana, Sari and Daria. The family of Pilates leaders.

I completed the program and received my certificate with champagne, hugs, smiles and a few tears. I became part of the Romana’s Pilates Family. I have so many mentors now who I can rely on for help and ongoing education. Even though I have completed my apprenticeship, my Pilates education is a continuous process supported by the vast network of teachers who studied side-by-side with Romana and Joe and Clara.

Now when I teach clients, though there are still challenges and questions, I know I am helping every person. I can see what their body needs.  I use the equipment for the body in front of me, I know how to use the apparatus for the person, not the other way around.  I know how to analyze on the fly, watch the body in motion and decide how to bring it to balance.  Every client is an adventure.  Every person is a puzzle and together we find the ways to correct imbalances, organize the body, and feel great as a result.

It is always a great celebration when you receive your certificate from Romana’s Pilates

If you are looking for someone who can really help you with your body, you  need to find a Romana’s Pilates trained teacher.  If you cannot find a Romana’s teacher near you, then by all means try your local studio. But when you go on vacation, or a business trip or just for fun, go to a Romana’s Pilates studio and take lessons from teachers there.  They will give you things to work on that will help you in your practice.  You will really feel the difference.  I guarantee it!

Doing Pull Straps on the long box.

At Port Jefferson Pilates you will only find Romana’s Pilates teachers.  

We spend every minute of your session focused on you and your needs.  You will be amazed at how much your body changes and improves in a short time.  If you have any questions, would like help finding a studio near you or would like to set up your first session at Port Jefferson Pilates, please feel free to contact me.