Inside the Pilates
Studio: Christina Maria Gadar
by Andrea Maida
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.
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
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
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…