Inside the Pilates Studio: Christina Maria Gadar
In some ways this interview is one of my favorite “gets.” Christina and I have actually never met in person. We do share a similar training lineage, but I know her only through her facebook page and her wonderful videos that she has posted on both FB and YouTube. Her work as a practitioner and her beautifully selected Pilates content clearly reveal a deep devotion and love for the Pilates Method. I simply must get to Florida so I can catch up with this fascinating woman! Family, a thriving Pilates business and “The Flying Squirrel” what more could you hope to find in a Pilates instructor? So I couldn’t resist and I sent her a message…thank you so much Christina for the time and thought that you gave to my questions 🙂
“Ten years after her initial introduction to the Pilates Method, Christina Maria Gadar began her Pilates certification under the tutelage of certified teacher trainer Roxane Richards-Huang before obtaining full certification directly from master instructor Romana Kryzanowska in New York in 2000. Christina has resided in Sarasota, Florida since 1996 and has been specializing in private instruction of the original Pilates Method since 2000. She enjoys the balancing act of running her Pilates studio to the highest standards while staying actively involved in the lives of her two children.”
1. What is your favorite Pilates exercise and why?
Christina Maria Gadar: The standing semi-circle performed on the Cadillac or guillotine apparatus is the most delicious exercise. It encompasses the three most important Pilates skills: deepening the powerhouse, articulating the spine, and opening the chest. The first time I saw it performed I fell in love. To get the most out of it you need to perform it with rhythm, as Romana says: “Do it with music in your soul.” It is absolutely divine!
I also love the “wave” performed with the push thru bar during the squirrel on the Cadillac apparatus because it has made me push myself to develop my powerhouse more than any other exercise in the Pilates Method. For eleven years I convinced myself that I could never perform that “wave” because I was too flexible and didn’t have a gymnastics background. I knew Romana believed I could do it some day since she had me try the preparation exercise for it, but I completely lacked the confidence in myself. I had to develop the mental strength as well as the physical strength and I had to move out of my comfort zone. I recently performed the full version of it (six years after Romana introduced it to me).
2. What exercise is your least favorite? Pick only one.
CMG: I think our least favorite exercises are the ones we need the most. The stomach massage series has been one of my least favorite exercises because it challenges me all over. It truly works every part of the body. I have a funny picture from my first private lesson with Romana back in 2000. I’m in stomach massage position, sitting closer to the edge of the carriage than I ever had experienced before working with Romana. At first glance it looks like I’m smiling, but truly I was using everything (including my teeth) to help me stay upright.
3. What turns you on creatively, mentally or physically about the Pilates method?
CMG: What turns me on about the Pilates method is that you never reach the end. When I was a young dancer I was in such a hurry to become a professional only to realize that my time in ballet school was in some ways better than being a professional. Since the very beginning of my training as a Pilates apprentice I have savored each moment. Currently, my favorite Pilates challenge is working on the Pilates principle of flow (creating the maximum effect through minimum of motion). It is one of my favorite Pilates principles because it requires all of the other five Pilates principles (control, concentration, centering, breathing and precision). It is where the science of Pilates becomes an art form.
4. What is your idea of earthly happiness?
CMG: My idea of earthly happiness is fulfilling one’s potential. I believe Pilates plays a direct role in my happiness. Jerome (one of Romana’s protégés) explained to me that one of the beliefs in Greek philosophy was that to attain supreme achievement you needed energy. Pilates helps you reach your potential because it gives you energy. When you do Pilates very well, you only use 25% of your energy and the remaining 75% of energy goes in a reserve to fulfill your achievements in life. In the words of Joseph Pilates: “Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness.”
5. What to your mind would be the greatest misfortune?
CMG: The greatest misfortune (in relation to Pilates) would be to see people get more sedentary and lose the mobility in their joints. Joseph Pilates observed the natural movement of children and animals. The Pilates Method is nature. It is safe and natural movement done within the frame of the body. Unfortunately people seem to be getting more and more out of touch with their bodies. My goal is to improve the quality of people’s lives through the work of Joseph Pilates.
6. What is your favorite Pilates word?
CMG: My favorite Pilates word is “oom-pah,” a word Romana has used a lot to put rhythm into our movements. I have notebooks filled with quotes from all of my Pilates mentors and my absolute favorite quote comes of course from Romana. I love when she says: “Squeeze the juice out of the exercise, don’t just tickle it!” Her cue makes me go so much deeper into the movement. Performing the exercises (and transitions) with rhythm, accents, and shading adds a whole new layer to the work. Pilates truly is much more than just a workout.
7. What is your least favorite Pilates word?
CMG: Hearing the words “neutral spine” sends horrible chills down my own spine. It reminds me of the tainted and hybrid forms of Pilates that certainly do not measure up to the original intentions of Joseph Pilates. I love what Romana says with respect to all the people who are putting their own twist on Joseph Pilates’ work. Romana just says “make your own name famous.”
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
CMG: I would love a profession that incorporates the Portuguese language because I am so passionate about Brazil (I have dual citizenship with Brazil). I also have a passion for animals, so a profession that involves animal rights would be very fulfilling. In the meantime I’ll have to settle for teaching the elephant, monkey and seal in Portuguese to my Brazilian Pilates students!
9. If Heaven exists, and by some chance when you arrive at the pearly gates Joseph Pilates is also there, what would you like to hear him say to you?
CMG: Romana has said that “Joe is churning in his urn” with all the altered versions of his method that are being taught. My hope is that he would be proud of my commitment to teach his method in its purest form as he delivered it to Romana, and she delivered it to me. Perhaps in his heavy German accent he could say something like: “You verked der bodies vell!”
10. What did you learn today?
CMG: It is true that I am constantly learning (and re-learning when reviewing my notes). My current teaching goal is to use my energy and touch more than my words to communicate with my students. As I was reviewing my notes today I came across a note on breathing through the nose. I’m always telling my students that breathing through the nose works much deeper and that breathing through the mouth is a more shallow way to breathe. I also tell my students that “relax” does not mean “collapse.” But I was reminded today that we breathe through the nose to avoid collapsing in the powerhouse. Just think of the control it takes to lower the wunda chair pedal when coming down from a pull up. The exhale through the nose during the lowering of the pedal does indeed help one stay in the powerhouse.
See Christina in action in an exercise it can take years to master: The Squirrel
I’ll let you know when I get there…