The Essence of Romana Kryzanowska
Today, 30 June 2022, Romana Kryzanowska would have turned 99 years old! It is my privilege to compile a short tribute to her!
Sadly, I never had the chance to meet her, so I can’t speak of my experience with her. I wish I had met her, learned from her directly, and breathed in the essence of Romana. After all, a large part of my Pilates education comes from her lineage. Several of my teachers and mentors were once apprentices, students, and allies of Romana. She has been part of my bucket list’ regrets before I knew I had a bucket list!
So much has been said and written about this incredible woman and still is. I bet there isn’t a day that her name isn’t mentioned in a Pilates studio or a conversation about Pilates. This text isn’t to introduce new information or highlight her lifetime achievements. Romana, undoubtedly, made it a lifetime project to keep the Pilates Legacy alive. The proof is in writing, videos, photography, and the “work” that many teach daily to a vast group of Pilates enthusiasts.
Over the years, I heard many stories about Romana; some were fascinating, funny, endearing, and some less complimentary. She was a human, after all, and although worshipped by so many, it did not make her a saint. However, each time I spoke to someone who met her, learned from her and spent time with her, their eyes lit up a little more, and their voice tone changed to pensive and caring. It sounded like we were entering a secret garden of precious memories. It enchanted me.
It made me curious and want to hear more but not necessarily the same stories. So I decided to ask three simple questions:
- What is your favourite “thing” about Romana?
- What do you remember being her biggest pet peeve?
- What is a Romana cue or a saying that stayed with you and still resonates with you?
The number of teachers I could approach was large. Romana taught with so many apprentices over the years, and many are well known worldwide. Some I approached answered back, and some did not. It’s ok. I am delighted and grateful for the answers I received.
Memories are an interesting concept. They pop up in and out of our minds without warning. I believe that if I asked the same questions a day, a week before or after, the answers might have slightly been different. Depending on their day, where their minds took them, and their teaching focus at present, respondents might have chosen to share another quote or used other words to express themselves. However, I am sure the same “essence” would have translated into all the messages. The thread linking Romana’s spirit to them all would be as evident. She was undeniably a force of nature, someone that moved her students and apprentices physically and spiritually.
To my delight, the thread was crystal clear, just like a shiny champagne glass!
Romana expected hard work and commitment from all. The lack of either was part of her pet peeves, along with bad clothing or footwear choices! LOL! She was an incredible motivator, and her cues and quotes represent her playful spirit and what she learned from Joe Pilates. Above all, she was a vibrant woman who loved life, celebrations, and champagne!
I invite you all to read the answers below and feel how special Romana was. Also, in 2019 Cathy Strack published a biography on Romana’s life. Chapter 18 is titled “In their own words”, and compiles beautiful memories of Romana from students, friends, and other first-generation teachers. It is a very touching read.
On this note, let’s celebrate Romana, the woman, the teacher, the mentor, and the friend. The loving soul, Romana!
Brooke Siler Essapen, Brooke Siler Pilates, UK
- Her energy and zest for living life!!!
- Lazy apprentices.
- SO MANY! But in keeping with her playful spirit, I loved: “Laughter is a great way for your clients to find their stomach muscles.”
Chris Lavelle, PAA Vice-President, Somersby NSW Australia
She loved anyone willing to move and listen! Below is what I wrote the day Romana passed:
“Some lessons I learned from the wonderful Romana – my Pilates Maestra who is now flying high and inspiring us from that pure positive place in the sky!: Live in joy and celebrate at every opportunity, be strong- like bull, don’t breath like a steam train, move with grace and ease (even when no-one is watching), drink champagne – preferably every Friday around 11 am (just because you can!), don’t grunt or pull faces- it takes you out of your powerhouse, bend in the breeze – like a willow, stand tall – walk taller, don’t just eat the raisins from the cereal, flirt a little – love a lot, dance at every opportunity (goes along with the joy and the champagne!), expect that your body will do as you ask it to and don’t talk about your (or others) limitations – they are irrelevant to movement, be poetry in motion….. VIVA ROMANA!”
And finally, a classic Romana quote: “Are you just holding them up so they can do it? If you are, then it’s your workout, not theirs” RK
Chris Robinson, Pilates and Sports, S6 Pilates, San Diego, CA, USA
- Her ability to motivate and guide us to give our very best. I just wanted to work so hard for her and was able to do things I thought I couldn’t.
- Her students not keeping up with their physical training. She could tell if she hadn’t seen you in a while and you hadn’t been working out.
- The thing I remember the most about her cueing isn’t so much the cueing but how she used her voice to move the student. That will always stay with me.
Kathi Ross-Nash, KRN NY Pilates LLC, The Red Thread, Florida, USA
- Romana was a person, not just a Pilates teacher. She was a woman who had a full life. She had an amazing work ethic but always had time to enjoy life.
- Viruses in the work. That is what she would call something she would repetitively see happening. For example, when people began to wear heavy shoes so they lost foot mobility and stood with hips forward and collapsed in their lower back. Today it would be the forward head position and rounded shoulders from texting or being on the computer all day.
- One piece of steel from the head to the heel!
Marda Willey, Marda Pilates, Victoria, Australia
- Romana was tough and knew what she wanted from the body and from apprentices. I appreciated the consistency of her toughness knowing she was also a funny vibrant woman.
- This is what comes to mind often and makes me smile. Once when the girls wore low slung hipster leggings, Romana commented that the pants showed too much gut and when they stood up the gut fell out and the back became swayed. She also made everyone with flared pants at the ankles (also part of fashion with hipster leggings) roll the pants up so she could see foot, ankle, knee alignment.
- “In with the good air and out with the bad air”, no matter how we are taught to breathe this just makes sense.
A big thank you to everyone who contributed their memories of Romana!
PAA Committee Member, Mentor and Teacher Trainer at Authentic Pilates Studio, Melbourne VIC