Sunday, March 21, 2021

Finally, I’m above water & able to catch my breath. I’ve missed you.

Here’s what’s been happening with me, I hope you’ll let me know what’s been happening with you.


Brain: The size and location of the masses in my brain remained stable between my November and January MRIs, however the January MRI showed a loss of white matter which, as directed by the surgeon caring for this part of my brain, I’m trying to rebuild and thicken through daily aerobic exercise. White matter loss could be because of years of pain from my hip, years of my brain marinating in toxic death hormones, or just because I’m old. The loss of white matter is not the cause of my cognition problems, and it’s not nearly as serious as the loss of gray matter which does indicate dementia. My next brain MRI is in May and, since early February, 6 days a week I’ve been getting in a solid 90 minutes to 2 hours of no-impact aerobic training. I’m work out on either my craigslist rebound air or my $15 thrift store gazelle edge elliptical. Hopefully, the May MRI will show that my white matter is rebuilding and, of course, I’m also hoping that it will confirm that there has been no change in the location or size of the pituitary and pineal masses. If I string together 3 or 4 consistently stable/improving brain MRI’s, I’ll only need to have one every year unless symptoms return or worsen.

Hip Rehab: I nailed my strength and ROM tests last week and as a result, I’ve been discharged from physical therapy, and I’ve been fully cleared to continue with my more aggressive strength work. I see my surgeon in July at the 1-year post-surgery anniversary for a final set of images to confirm the thicker, longer implant shaft from surgery #2 isn’t in mashed against the cortex of my femur, and to make sure my capsule has healed well enough so that compound movement restrictions can be removed. At that point, all treatment from this injury will be completed. My ongoing strength training includes daily work on an incline bench with 8, 10 and 25-pound weights, all of which support from my GFM has funded.

Vision: The eye exercises I was given in November made my vision so much worse that by the time they retested me in January, my left eye drift and resulting double vision had gotten so frequent that I was on the verge of having to patch my left eye. Between November and January, I also lost what little remained of my depth perception. They asked if I was willing to try a different set of eye exercises that work on the brain in a different way, I didn’t think I had much to lose so we gave it a try and, February tests show a rather remarkable improvement in my brain’s ability to align my left eye. It still drifts but not so much as to produce a double image and, amazingly, it’s not glassy and all dead-fish-eye looking anymore – I’m counting this as a miracle. The exercises are to train my brain’s convergence skills and once my brain gets good enough at converging both my eyes onto a single target, the hope is my depth perception will begin to train back up. I perform convergence and depth perception exercises many times every day, I keep a spreadsheet on frequency and duration, I’m tested again in April.

Vision, Part 2: My insurance only covers medically-necessary eye care, it does not cover the type of eye care that results in glasses or contacts even if the reason I need new lenses/glasses is because my vision is impacted by a medical condition. My eyes are so supremely complex that it’s really hard to find an ophthalmologist willing to do the work to understand my histoplasmosis and how it has damaged my vision; I’ve always been the practice’s only histo patient. My doctor and I agree that my convergence exercises have everything in my optic nerves all juiced up and that’s making my everyday vision so unstable that, even within a single day, I change between 3 different strengths of multifocal lenses. My eyeglass lenses are almost 3 years old; they’re way out of tune. Thank you to those who’ve donated to my GFM – your support has paid for me to get this care, and to buy these 30-day trial sets of experimental contacts.

General Health: Bladder: I’ve finally gotten in with a urologist to help with overactive bladder symptoms that started almost 4 years ago, just this week he started me on some medication that’s supposed to help, my $1400 a month medical plan didn’t cover over $200 of the prescription cost. The support from my GFM makes it so I can still get the drugs I need – thank you if you’ve donated. In April I’m seeing a physical therapist to learn some muscular start-stop triggers that will hopefully holistically help control urge/frequency. I can close the strongest resistance gyne-flex and I can also “lay an egg” so my problems aren’t from lack of pelvic floor strength or hypertonic issues.  Skin & Hair:  Last week I also saw a dermatologist to help with the rash, welts and hives I’ve had for months, she thinks it’s related to my compromised immune system and the ton of allergies I have. I’m on some prescription creams and she’s got me taking 4 antihistamines a day to try and get the itch under control.  My hair is regrowing where it fell out! I look a bit like a Dr. Seuss character.

Live/Work situation: Thanks to the GFM, it’s warmer and brighter in my amazing space, I’ve paid several months ahead on my utilities and I paid my car insurance for the year. I’m stable enough to be able to make some progress on putting together a workout “set” where, once I recover enough to be consistent in teaching, I can begin to film/live stream classes, courses and meetups. Hopefully, when Apple comes out with its new MacBook models in mid-2021, I’ll be able to replace my circa 2011 laptop with one that’s able to handle the post-production of what will become my new digital body of work. I began digitally sharing my work back in 2003; I am the Pilates industry’s original NFT.

That’s all I got for now, I’ll be back here when I have more news but until then, and always, always, always, please email or call if you want to connect, I’d love to hear from you, I am always interested in your life and what you’re doing, and I would love to hear your voice and see your beautiful face.

[email protected] 206-963-0755

PS The annual Rainier sea lion load out has been going on since February, 25/8 they just wail and bark and rumble, with their massive heads up, mouths wide open, screaming exuberance at the heavens. I’m in love with them, I’m in love with you, and thanks to the help of so  many, little by little, I feel myself falling back in love with being alive.




I’m not doing great, but I pray you are.

First and most importantly, regardless of how much time has passed, please know that I’ve never forgotten about you, about us, about all the places we’ve been together and the many places we’ve hoped to go. This post is titled “Aftershock” because that’s what one of my brain docs suggested I might be experiencing, medically, but, honestly, over the past 4 years and across all aspects of my life, my personal richter scale has been registering a sustained 9.0.

The next most important thing for you to know is that nobody thinks that any of the things wrong with me have anything to do with cancer, or are life threatening or even life shortening. It’s just stuff that makes you sick and less able, but it’s not stuff that makes you dead.

Another thing I want you to know, up front, is that overwhelm is very real for all of us and while I want you to know, and hopefully learn from and maybe even be inspired by what I’m going through, it would break what’s left of my heart to think the process of learning about it would burden you. I invite you to receive this information by mirroring my emotional and psychological pre-set. Word: I believe it’s entirely possible that my medical problems stem from not being able to use my body for over 3 years, and the life-imploding stress of that opened wide the death-hormone production valve in my brain that didn’t get shut off until friends stepped in, late 2019, to ensure my access to care. Consistent with this theory, this most recent uptick in symptoms is caused by my August – September hotel-homelessness when the prospect of finding housing seemed most dire. Now that I am so completely relieved to have housing, even though my space is not ideally appointed, my symptoms are abating and I believe my next brain mri (Dec 13, 2020) will confirm stable masses and my next cortisol tests (Jan 2021) will show normal levels. If you’re able to join me in that belief, you’ll be part of helping to soothe my psyche, to close my brain’s death-hormone valve and to help me get strong in my physical body again. And because of the way human brains conspire, you’ll receive what you give. Hallelujah, everybody – for me, for you, for all of us!

The story lines of my life the past couple of years – hip, brain, vision, loss of income – crisscross and blend and build, it’s impossible to talk about them separately and I know that makes them difficult to follow – I’m sorry about that.

Ready? I’m not sure I am.

Hip: After blowing out my left hip labrum in September 2016, I didn’t have insurance to cover a replacement, I couldn’t walk well enough to continue to travel to teach, my revenue dropped by over 80% for the next 3 years when I became too ill to work at all.

Brain: In addition to limited mobility and constant hip pain, my body started changing in 2017, I started feeling sick in 2018, and by the end of 2019 I was seriously ill – I had put on over 40 pounds of central obesity, my face had distorted to the point that I was unrecognizable, my skin had thinned such that the backs of my hands were broadly abraded by friction from fabric or upholstery and the frame of my eyeglasses opened the skin on my nose and above my ears, muscles in my limbs atrophied to the point I could encircle my thigh in the ring of my thumb-to-thumb-index-to-index, I had recurring cognitive problems, severe fatigue to the point where I slept for 14 – 16 hours at a time, some days not able to get out of bed or stop sobbing. I still didn’t have insurance but I sought care at the local public health clinic where, unfortunately, their mission to serve does not include diagnostic pursuit or treatment for the types of things that were wrong with me. As a result, I was without care and my symptoms continued to worsen until November 2019 when friends stepped in to literally save my life.

Financial saviors: Friends Neil & Jojo and John & Andry paid for me to have the preliminary tests and scans that confirmed the presence of a metabolically raging pituitary tumor. I wasn’t well enough to live alone anymore so they paid for me to move to Oregon where another friend offered to take me in. My friends paid for medical insurance coverage so I could finally receive surgeries and treatment, all of which has been at Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland. The Oregon housing offer proved to be not-well-intentioned and when it came to an untimely, unexpected end, it triggered a chain reaction of costly and health-compromising problems that I’m still convulsing through. When I had no other housing options, my friends paid for me to live in a hotel two different times for a total of over 2-1/2 months. They’ve paid for my unmet living expenses for over a year. Their help has been an extraordinary act of kindness and support, and one I’ll never be able to fully repay.

Most people think that getting care leads to getting better, but sometimes it’s not that simple.

Brain: My tumor went into “spontaneous remission” in February, the data suggests it can take up to a couple years for symptoms to completely reverse out of you but for me, it happened more quickly. By April my cortisol and ACTH levels had normalized, and by May the inflammation was gone and I was back to my normal weight. I looked like myself again too, my skin thickened right back up, and I began to build back muscle in my limbs. Unless symptoms returned, I wasn’t scheduled for a follow up until the end of this year. After being hotel-homeless August – September, symptoms returned in October – 10 pounds of inflammation came back, my face changed again, my skin thinned. A November 3rd mri revealed 2 new masses on my pituitary and a pineal cyst.

In case you don’t know it, our brains are the consistency of soft serve, so having masses in there isn’t like trying to close a walnut inside a book, it’s more like putting a cherry on top of whipped cream. Lots of folks have masses in their brains and don’t even know it.

I do not assume the new masses are symptomatic because my surgeon said symptom aftershocks can happen because past cortisol poisoning damages the entire brain, not just the part of it pumping out the hormones. That means symptoms can be caused from past high levels, not necessarily because levels are currently high or in the process of building back up. He said these aftershocks can last and recur for any length of time. Or only once and never again.

The story I’m telling myself is that this is an aftershock, that it will pass quickly and it will probably be all the way to never before I have another one. In the meantime, we’re watching the masses to chart any changes, I expect my brain mri on December 13th and my January 2021 cortisol saliva tests to come back showing stable masses and normal levels.

My cognition issues are episodic; catch me in a bad-brain-moment/day and I glitch, struggle with word-finding, go completely blank and resort to charades, but in a good-brain-moment/day my words flow without hesitation and I’ll sound like I did before all this started. I can tell when the transition is happening – sometimes in mid-conversation – and it’s weird as hell, it’s almost like I’m seeing my ability to organize my thoughts ride off into my mind’s distance. I’m also newly, severely dyslexic, writing or typing anything takes an excruciatingly long time.

Because not all of these changes can be reasonably attributed to the normal aging process, I’ve been referred to a cerebral cortex neurosurgeon for cognitive testing but that department was completely closed for 6 months due to covid so I’m at the bottom of a wait list that’s been building since the early summer. I believe these cognition episodes are linked to the stress I experience when I don’t have stable housing. Autonomy is a critical component of mental health, and I’ve had very little of it for several years running.

Hip: I was originally scheduled for hip replacement in April but the surgery got covid-pushed until June. The surgery went great and my recovery was well ahead of schedule when, eight days after the surgery and while on a therapy walk, I was charged by 2 large, snarling off leash dogs and in the process of running backward to get away from them, the implant sank about 1/2 inch into the shaft of my femur. That meant that there was now almost 1/2 inch of space between the new ceramic ball of my femur and the new ceramic socket in my pelvis – my brand new hip that I’d waited almost 4 years to get now clacked like billiard balls on the break. I had to wait another 5 weeks to recover enough from the first surgery (anterior approach) to have them (posterior approach) saw out the first implant and put in a new thicker and longer shaft, and a new socket.

I stayed awake for both surgeries, I watched most of the first one and all of the second one, I have my femur ball from surgery #1 in the freezer and I also have the original implant that was removed in surgery #2. After both surgeries, I managed my own at-home care. I made audio recordings, daily, of my post-surgical experience, and have captured 100% of the details pre- and post- surgery, all of which will be included in my “Total Hip” bundle which I do not yet have pulled together but hope to by mid-2021. I have all the contraindications of both anterior and posterior approaches, and virtually every provider has told me I’ve asked questions none of their other patients have. As a result of my background plus my injury and the delay in getting help, I definitely have a unique perspective on hip injuries and replacements, and I can’t wait to offer that perspective to you and through you, to your community.

As far as continuing care for my hip, I’m in physical therapy to try and balance out my strength which was extra skewed from 3 years and 9 months of limping and not being able to extend my left hip. We’re also working on rebuilding the strength I lost to the muscular atrophy of cortisol poisoning and we’re focusing on my balance which is tricky because of my left eye going wobbly. I’ll be in physical therapy until July 2021 which is when we’ll know if my joint capsule has healed to the point where I’m cleared of all movement restrictions.

Vision: I started losing muscular control of my left eye in November 2019, and when my left eye goes wandering it causes me to see super blurry and sometimes double. I’m being cared for by the kind of eye surgeons who can correct for the drift but I may not be a candidate for the surgery since I have histoplasmosis-caused retina damage (subfoveal) in my left eye that complicates their calculation for which muscles to cut. When I see double, the fix for it is to close my left eye, and I’m getting better at remembering to do that. The 2 specialists who are helping me with this – orthoptist and strabismus – have designed some vision exercises we hoped would supercharge my brain’s uptake of data through my left eye and thereby motivate greater muscular control of it. We were going to repeat in another couple months the measurement testing to figure out if the exercises are helping but unfortunately, the exercises began provoking double vision so, unless we come up with something else that doesn’t make me see double, I’m not able to do anything actively to try and save the placement of my left eye. I hate that.

My next eye doctor appointment is December 22nd, and to give you an idea of what I’m facing as far as medical expenses go, his fees are between $300 – $500, per eye, and neither my medical insurance nor medicaid covers his treatment. I believe 100% of my vision problems are from the normal progressive deterioration of my histoplasmosis damaged macula, and I don’t think there’s any brain mass contributory issues in play.

If and when the time comes that my left eye is so googly that it distracts me because it distracts you, I’ll patch it.

Housing: Finding housing during a pandemic is hard enough, but trying to find housing during a pandemic when you haven’t been well enough to work for a year is a whole other level of impossible.

I’ve moved 6 times in 7 months.

For 2 weeks before and for 4 weeks after hip surgery #1, I was hotel-homeless but, every day of those 6 weeks of hotel living, I scoured online listings for rentals and I finally found a landlord on craigslist who was willing to take a chance on me. He spent hours on the phone with my friends who assured him they’d cover my rent, so he approved me to rent for $1200 a month one of his 5th-wheels that he had on acreage outside Rainier, Oregon.

There was no hot water when I moved in, the electrical had been ripped out of half the trailer, I learned from the county that the entire trailer was against zoning and land use laws, the power and septic were unpermitted. What’s worse, the wiring was so unsafe that the county, citing a “life safety” issue and giving less than 2 hours notice, had the power shut off. Throughout all that, the landlord remained unconcerned and unresponsive.

You don’t really get an optimal outcome from a third attempt at fixing the same hip, so I was 100% compliant with post-surgical restrictions and I micromanaged my recovery from surgery #2. When the county shut off the power at the trailer, it was too soon after hip surgery #2 to risk a fall by staying there without lights, and I didn’t have anywhere else to go so my friends paid for me to move back into a hotel. I was still using a quad cane to walk and was still on lifting restrictions so I wasn’t able to take much with me from the trailer to the hotel. With the trailer dark and unoccupied, someone broke into it and stole a bunch of my things including my checkbooks and most of what I’d need to restart my life – my video camera and some of my other tech. They caught him, he had an arson 1 warrant pending – that’s school, church or someone home – and because of that arson 1 charge, he spent several weeks in jail before they covid-released him. Through the help of his girlfriend, I recovered some of what he took, including my video camera. Now that I’m completely unpacked in my new place, I’m discovering more missing things. I don’t think I’ll ever know for sure what all he took.

It was at about that point that my dear friend Trina Furgerson, acknowledging how utterly hopeless my circumstances had become, said she wanted to start a fundraiser for me. We asked for help from our other dear friends Jennifer Hildebrandt and Merianne Paul Haug, and, after working on it since September, the 3 of them together are responsible for launching my Go Fund Me. Regardless of how the fundraiser goes, I am so very grateful for their concern and their help in getting it launched, and my gratitude for any contributions is really just indescribable.

Current Housing: After the county pulled the electrical service to the trailer, I spent another month in a hotel, the whole time again searching for a landlord who would consider renting to me but this time, I found one who is full of integrity and grace and kindness.

It’s the first stable housing I’ve had in over 2 years and it’s more spacious and historically gorgeous than anyplace I’ve ever lived – and I’ve lived a ton of places. .

I was never a fancy person or someone who attached my personal happiness to wealth. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for simply having a safe, quiet place to live, to be renting from a kind woman who sees beyond what I currently am to what I might be once I’m better, and, mostly, for my friends who have saved me by paying for me to live and get care. When I have a safe place to sleep and rest, it provides me with my best shot at recovering enough to be able to get back to work. And about work, I have extraordinary plans for what I hope to create as “work” in my future and, as I hope you agree, these challenging experiences provide extremely rich nutrients for the ways I’ll be able to help others in the future.

Having space large and private enough to create revenue producing work is one thing but I’m also an artist, and I can make any place or anything beautiful. I’m piecing together a gorgeousness right here where I’ve found myself. I’m doing this in honor of myself, my friends who’ve sustained me, and my landlady who has so graciously welcomed me. I’m claiming it all in service to those I seek to serve – you!

I’m in full renaissance mode. Most of my belongings sat in a wet barn in Astoria for 9 months and many of my soft goods were ruined. To illustrate how filthy and hostile the environment was, in my framed photos, there were dead bugs and mold between the glass and mat and print. I have had to take everything apart, clean everything and put it all back together again. There is no carry over, I assume nothing. I’ve had to begin completely again, and again, and again. And again. What remain as usable belongings are enough, are more than enough, and out of them will come immense value in ways I can’t even begin to understand.

Last thing on housing. Let me be clear, I’m not too proud to be unhoused; I’m immune-compromised and I’ve been too injured and too ill for too long to be unhoused without putting my health in seriously increased jeopardy.

About my Go Fund Me: In case you’re wondering, the fundraiser target is enough money to secure my access to medical care, cover the costs insurance doesn’t cover, and to secure my housing and housing related expenses for  2-1/2 – 3 years which is the length of time we anticipate it will take for me to fully rebuild myself, assuming no more serious setbacks. If there’s any left over, it goes to homeless shelters. It’s our hope that the Go Fund Me will establish autonomy for me until I’m well enough to re-establish it for myself. Like we used to do in my Seattle studio, I’m hoping that some of you consider hosting fundraising classes so that the joy, and burden, of helping someone financially can be shared even more widely.

Of course, there are prizes. Any donor of $1000 or more will be entered into a raffle where winners can choose anything they want from my educational archive, it’s full of hundreds of hours of educational and “turnkey” programming content that will spice up any teacher’s repertoire. There’s also a raffle for donors of $5000 or more, the prize is collaboration for a limited series, featuring the donor, on my streaming channel that I cannot wait to be well enough to launch. I know that’s nothing more than vaporware right now but please trust me when I promise you that my instability has proven to be rocket fuel for my creativity, ambition and passion. Let’s. Fucking. Go.

I’ll write again soon to share the words from some of my colleagues who I asked to support me by explaining directly to potential donors what I’ve done for them, my colleague, in the past. But something unexpected and quite lovely happened as a result of their written testimony. As a giver, it’s been my greatest humility to learn to receive – the fixer needs fixed – and while their words were intended to influence you, their words helped me get to the point where I could accept help without practicing self-recrimination for needing and receiving it. They helped me accept that I simply got hurt, then I simply got sick, then I simply couldn’t work. They helped me recognize the pure blessing of having the help of Neil & Jojo, John & Andry, and of anyone who is able to contribute, in any way, to securing my care and stability. When I recover from the effort of writing this, I’ll share with you what they had to say as a way to help remind you of how powerfully our acknowledgements of each other can help transform situational angst into emotionally -neutral acquiescence. For certain, what we say to and about each other has all kinds of crazy, stealth, positive power.

So that’s what’s been going on with me. I’d love to know what’s been going on with you and,  if there is anything that I can do to help you, I absolutely will.

Here’s how to reach me if you want to reconnect; 1-206-963-0755, [email protected], and my mailing address is Post Office Box 866, Rainier, OR 97048.

Lord God, Jesus Christ, Holy Spirit, all our angels, guides and all other benevolent deities whoever and wherever you are, help us all, help us now and help us help others. Prayers, blessings, virtual hugs and kisses all desperately wanted, appreciated and returned a thousand times over.

I love you.

Thank you.






“Making” Time to Study

I bet you feel like you don’t have time to study, right?  I bet you feel like you don’t have time to work on passion projects, right?  I bet you fell like you don’t have much time for anything, period.

Let’s break this down.


Do you enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning?  Maybe you have medications that you need to take at certain times of the day.   Are there shows you stream or watch the old fashioned way on television?  Do you hand water parts of your garden?  Do you lay in bed for a few minutes before falling asleep?

What all these have in common is they’re all opportunities to harvest time to study or work on particular projects you otherwise don’t think you have time for.

Listening, watching, reading can all happen during these activities or, when it comes to watching movies or television shows, in place of these activities.


How I study

Here’s what’s on my dining room table.

At any given time, I’ve got 2 books going; both non-fiction but one will be more demanding intellectually than the other.  You can see two books on my reading stand, one opened in front of the other.  When I’m highly charged, I’ll choose the more intellectually rigorous text but when I’m more low key, I’ll pull the lighter read from right behind and I’m good to go.

But what’s the point of reading if you don’t have a way to extract usable info that you want to use to upgrade your game, right?

Let’s look at my super simple system that I use to capture usable wisdom from any book I read.

Three highlighters and a note pad are all I need in order to extract from the full text what I want to build on for my own work.  Each page of my notes is sequentially numbered, and each handwritten notation I make includes the page number from the book where my notation is found.  Handwriting passages of interest helps me layer the information into my brain; some of my notes are just a few words long while others are entire sentences.  All of my handwritten notes correlate to highlighted passages in the book so, working from my notes, I can easily find the passage of origin.  Sometimes, I type up my notes but most of the time I simply fold the pile of paper-clipped notes and put in inside the front cover of the book.  Whenever I loan a book, my notes go with it.  Sometimes people want my books instead of ordering their own copy because they want the benefit of how I’ve marked my books up with my own highlighted notations.  Whenever anyone has asked me for my own copy of a book, I’ve given it to them but I’ve kept a copy of my notes which is all I really need to have handy to guide me through what I learned from that particular reading.

From there, my notes travel up several other avenues of application.

I have 1) a folder titled “By the Factor of Another Day” and in it, I have notes on information I want to immediately implement into my teaching.  2) I work from my handwritten notes to insert into workshop materials any references I want to include.  3) I tweet about what books I’m reading and for any books I find highly influential, 4) I include them on my recommended reading/viewing list which currently is over 24 pages long and includes more than 150 links.  That constantly-updated list is included in all my long format courses, and is available as a stand alone purchase for $250USD.  I also might write in 5) emails or 6) on my blog or 7) podcast or 8) video about a particularly interesting book.

The system you use to harvest wisdom, and apply it, from any book you read or lecture you hear/watch has got to be simple and organic to your process.  What works for me may not work for you but if you don’t have a method, using mine will at least get you started.


Now let’s talk about having the time to read or view video or listen to lectures like Ted Talks or podcasts.

Watch this RIGHT NOW – you DO have time!


Laura Vanderkam helps us realize just how much time we really do have, so there’s that, but here’s a way to help you think about time a little differently in hopes you’ll be able to harvest, like I do, parallel or lost time from tasks you’re already making time to do.

It’s not that we don’t have time, it’s that most of us are so very disorganized in how we manage our time.

Every day I have to take medications that require food to be in my tummy and I’ve found my day flows most effectively when I get them in me in the morning.  Every morning that I’m home, I make espresso, pour it over ice, eat cottage cheese from the small, individual sized portion container but with a beautiful fancy tiny spoon, and read while I take my “with food” morning pills.  This ritual might take 8 – 10 minutes before I know it, morning after morning of doing it gets me through the book, even long, technical, intellectually challenging ones. Sometimes I’m the rabbit but mostly I’m the hare!

I travel a bunch and I do not take my books on the road with me but BONUS: My note taking strategy helps me remember where I left off so I’m never lost or need to re-read anything to find my place.

That’s how I get reading into my schedule; here’s how I get in everything else.

While I’m doing dishes, cleaning or cooking, while driving or before drifting off to sleep, I’ll listen to a podcast or Ted Talk.

Instead of watching a movie/show in one sitting, I’ll watch educational video for part of that time.


Because I work almost all the time, I’ve divided my days into layers of tasks that correspond with times that I’m naturally most accomplished at achieving them.  In order to do that, you have to know what times of the day you’re best at problem solving, creative thinking, physical work, communication, etc., and then you have to build your schedule around those peaks.

I normally do what most people consider to be “work” 12 – 15 hours a day, so I have the added difficulty of factoring in energy levels – sometimes I’m just too plain old tired to be smart!  NOTE: I do not consider the way I spend my time to be “work” and I am nothing but invigorated, astonished, fascinated and delighted by doing it.  I’m never bored, I’m never exhausted by it or unmotivated about it, I’ve essentially built a castle and get to play in it every day.  If you don’t understand/believe that, you’ll look at my schedule and think it’s some sort of hell on earth, punishing slog when the precise opposite is, in fact, true.  Consider this: if I weren’t delighted by how I work and live, I wouldn’t have been able to maintain this pace since 2000.

Make sense?

Once I’ve worked through the many phases of what we’d normally consider to be work-type productivity, I still have things that need to be accomplished.  For me, living alone and not having any help, I have to do every fucking thing myself which is both a blessing and a curse.

Because I have to do everything myself, I routinely have to work until I figuratively and literally drop, but I do it in layers.

When I’m too tired to be smart, I clean.  When I’m too tired to clean, I straighten.  When I’m too tired to straighten, I stretch or practice concentrated breathing and let my mind settle.  When I’m too tired to do that, I sleep.

When I lecture on this, I describe my approach to any night’s sleep as a mini-death to the life that was my day.  With that attitude, and on that immediate cycle, the bigger concept of “life” and “death” becomes immediately understandable, accessible, confrontational and very, very motivating.

Here’s what that means:

If you don’t like the way your day went, you won’t like how your life is going.

If you’re not happy with how your day settled out as you go to sleep, you won’t be happy leaving your life when death forces its way onto your “must do now” list.

The trick to living well is in taking responsibility for wisely, aggressively structuring what you can about how you spend your days, practicing pristine self-care and making sure all your actions are driven by emotional maturity and impulse control.

Fuck, right?  Right.

I’m not saying it’s easy, I’m saying it’s possible and I’m definitely saying I can teach you how.

Back to how I do it which will hopefully help you do it.

When I’m teaching, my schedule is set but when I’m not teaching courses, I’ve arranged my schedule around my own peaks in productivity, and organic desire for hard, sweaty physical work, so that every day, I’m running on high octane and being my most productive at any type of task.

You, too, can set your schedule this way.  I learned about it from reading articles by productivity specialists who work for the folks that started and run companies like Google and Facebook.  Reading an article about the famous movie director Baz Luhrmann’s creative process taught me that he and I have set up some of our basic organizational structures the same way.

If we don’t streamline our tasks, we don’t have the resources to do the great work that it takes to be our most creative and accomplished.  Without supreme time management skills, you simply won’t succeed.  Period.

I’m well practiced in helping others develop these skills because my box set video bundles include 40+ days of content and my hallmark service includes helping you actually use everything I offer so here’s how I suggest they make their way through all that valuable information.

Much of the value of my work is “listen only” so as long as you can hear what’s going on, you’re getting everything out of it.  The minority of my work is “must see” and for that, you’ll definitely need to stare at the screen.

Also, much of my work is topic driven so unless you’re ready to focus within a particular topic, you can set completely aside big segments of my work until the time comes that it’s more relevant to your needs.

All my courses are spliced by topic so it’s super easy to pull up exactly the hours you’re interested in.  My classical repertoire course comes with an Excel spreadsheet that lists each of the 150+ exercises it includes, with a data point breakout that includes lecture topics, who modeled the exercise, the piece of equipment, the start and stop time, the video file segment number, etc. so you can perform a quick search for what you’re looking for and with precision – bam – find it.

Each of the 15+ Desktop Pilates exercises that are part of my 2-day Desktop Pilates training are divided into their own file folder which is named after the exercise – how obvious is that?  With me, you never have to worry about an inefficient structure because I always set everything up for ease of retrieval.

That should help you understand how easy it is to find your way, organizationally, thorough my full archival box set of content,  Now, let’s find time for you to get smarter.


Any parallel or lost time embedded in routine tasks (as listed above), use it to listen to the audio of video; you don’t have to watch the screen!

If you normally get a manicure every week, watch/listen/read/study while you’re being worked on.

If you normally grocery shop, order online and use the time to watch/listen/read/study. If that’s not an option, put in earplugs and play content while you shop.

Delegate to family members every possible household task you normally perform and use 100% of that time to watch/listen/read/study.

Run errands?

Take baths?

Wait in lines?

Wait for kids to finish school/sports/lessons?

Those are all opportunities to watch/listen/read/study.

Do you help your kids with their homework?  Work on yours at the same time.

With my stuff, you can even fall asleep listening to it and much of it will still get in there.

If you love working in groups, form study groups with others who attended the same course you did, or I’ll put you in touch with others who attended the courses you’re studying the video of, so that you can review materials on a mutually agreeable schedule together.  That usually works out to a morning a month when they meet via Skype.

For box set purchasers, I recommend taking a 4 – 6 hour day a month and work through the more meaty content all in one go.  If you set the same day each month as your “in service” educational day, it’ll be easier for you to protect the time on your schedule.  Let’s say you choose the 3rd Sunday of every month as your “get smart” time, your family and friends will be able to easily remember that you’re not available at that time and they’ll support you in scheduling events around it IF they know when it is.

To recap, you DO have time to do everything you want to do, get organized, figure out your unique daily ebb and flow of productivity and build your day around it, bite off teeny tiny portions and just by living another day, you’ll be that much closer to finishing the intellectual equivalent to War and Peace.

Does this help?  If not, let’s set up a time to talk so I can learn more about your situation and customize an approach that will work, just for you.


Questions or need help?

I’m right here.

+1 206 963 0755

[email protected]

“Making” Time to Study

Pilates 101 In Your Own Words | Originally Published February 16, 2007

Wednesday, February 1, 2017 | I still give my now-famous Pilates 101 lecture to every single client I work with, almost all the teachers I’ve worked with have adopted their own version of it.  Mine continues to evolve, I still have all the paper and electronic versions I reference in this 2007 piece and I love going back over them so I can see the arc of my own process and progress.

My 100% spine safe, 100% functional, 100% authentic Portfolio Pilates program integrates the information conveyed in a Pilates 101 lecture into every session and group.

Questions or need help?

I’m right here.

[email protected]

+1 206 963 0755



Friday, February 16. 2007

Pilates 101 In Your Own Words


Tom Petro, authentically trained teacher, writes:

I am a Pilates Instructor here in Reading , PA and  I just read your Pilates-Pro article “Pilates 101 for New Clients” (   It sounds like a great idea. Do you have copies or E-mail of your lecture so I can use yours as a basis to form my own (I’m terrible at writing that kind of thing).

The Pilates Nun responds:

Hey Tom, I was born in Steubenville, Ohio – we’re practically neighbors!

I’m going to totally hook you up but before I do, some praise is in order.

Good for you for realizing the value of orienting your clients to the work and for wanting to develop your own Pilates 101. I am also impressed by your ability to be candid about your writing skills; I’m certain you’re a way better writer than you think.

I’m going to set out an easy process for you to use in creating your very own Pilates 101 lecture but I’m NOT going to wholesale give you mine.  Here’s why.


My Pilates 101 consists of my words, it sounds like me, it articulates my research, my understanding of the work, my personal experience with it, it supports the mission of my teaching and that of my studio and school.  Every session I teach, and I mean every single one, supports my own Pilates 101 lecture.  

My path to Pilates 101. 

To develop the basic content of my Pilates 101, I spent the 10 months during my primary training researching and I read thousands of pages from many, many books, articles and studies.  Once I had the beginning version down pat, it took another year or two to tweak it into what’s ended up being absolutely perfect for me and my studio.  And I’m still adjusting as I continue to learn and expand my library; I just recently added 3 pictures from a cadaver book (balanced psoas, imbalanced psoas and a cross-section between L3 and L4 that shows the quad support of the psoas and multifidi – thrilling!). 

I’ve got the anatomy portion on Power Point and I show that either on my laptop or studio computer, we’ve got 2 complete copies on individual pieces of paper that we can flip through sitting side by side with our client, I’ve got it pasted up on a fold-out display board like you’d set up on a table top and I can even go old school and show it on overhead slides when I’ve got a big group and no data projector.

I’ve given my Pilates 101 hundreds of time to individuals and to audiences of up to 80 or so people.  It took three years of working side by side with me day in and day out for Sister Heidi Sidekick, the fabulous Miss Heidi Byrnes, to feel comfortable enough with the information to give our Pilates 101 lecture.  To date, Heidi is the only teacher I’ve ever employed who’s cared enough to thoroughly learn the technical stuff and to develop her own communication skills so that she can sit anyone down and get them through it quickly and effectively.  God Bless Heidi!

Most of our Pilates 101 presentations are 10 minutes or less but occasionally, when clients are super detail oriented or injury specific, they can last 15 or 20 minutes.  We also dip back into our anatomy slides often as we teach established clients, pulling out the pictures to go over the details more clearly – we’re a visual culture and seeing what’s inside really helps most folks. 



Your Path to Pilates 101. 

Your Pilates 101 can come much more quickly than mine if you are content to go strictly with what you know today and let the rest unfold and develop as you continue to learn.

The only unequivocal element of your uniquely successful Pilates 101 is that it be true to yourself, your style, your wisdom, your spirit. 

Don’t you dare worry about technology – I mean it!  It’s there to help you, not freak you out!  If you don’t have the required computer skills to set it up in PowerPoint, simply photocopy pertinent pages from any book you’re referencing and flip through the photocopies with your client sitting by your side – low tech is beautiful!

And I know, no matter what you think about your ability to come up with the right thing to say, once you know the gist of it, the words will come and they’ll perfectly articulate your unique abilities as a teacher. 

Suggested Pilates 101 Basics. 

Here are the basics of what it should, at a minimum, include and I’ve found, after a whole lot of switch-a-roo-ing, this order seems to most closely follow most clients’ mental path through the information.

  1. Introduction – a bit about Joe & Clara, the industry being unregulated, your training and general philosophy of teaching.  In my Pilates 101, this takes about 1 – 2 minutes.
  2. Anatomy of Pilates – show pictures of the Powerhouse muscles (transversus, multifidi, primary hip flexors, diaphragm, pelvic floor), explain briefly how they work, how to engage them, their role in structural stability, strength, physical health and performance.  You can tailor this part of the lecture to each client’s specific goals.  Demonstrate on your own body the engagement of the transversus and multifidus, do some knee floats and stirs the right and wrong way to show the proper and smooth deployment of the hip flexors and you can also easily demonstrate the Pilates open chain principle of body weight against gravity =  resistance.  It’s show and tell!  In my Pilates 101, this takes 6 – 8 minutes.
  3. What to expect from a dedicated Pilates practice – make sure you explain that Pilates is not a substitute for cardio, strength or endurance training.  Discuss frequency so their expectations are in line with what we know as being possible.  In my Pilates 101, this takes 1 – 2 minutes.

Speaker Beware! 

As all good teachers know, you are responsible for how you’re heard and that is never more important than at the beginning of relationships.  If you do not yet truly understand the work and/or you’re not yet an accomplished speaker beyond the parroting style most primary training programs out of necessity encourage (because they’re too big, too busy, too impersonal), it’s best for your ego and self esteem to percolate a while on your Pilates 101 before subjecting yourself to what will be certain failure. 

Do not overload.  Pilates 101 should not result in glazing.  With every word out of your Pilates 101 mouth, make sure your cilent is with you and ready for what’s next.  Make sure you ask all along the way if what you’re saying is making sense to them and if they have any questions.

Your very own Pilates 101 is on the way!!

Tom, you’ve got an interesting project ahead of you and I know you can do it.  Make a schedule to work on it over the next couple of weeks, practice with friends and supportive clients to work out the kinks and before you know it, you’ll be super comfortable with it.  Best of all, your clients will be well prepared for what to expect from the work and the way you teach it, your book will be more stable and the world will be a better place.  The Pilates world, at least, which is saying quite a lot.

Good luck and let us know how it goes.


Pilates 101 In Your Own Words | Originally Published February 16, 2007

In the Beginning | Originally Published November 1, 2006

Wednesday, February 1, 2017 | Our wonderful friend Basil died in September 2016, and when I searched for his obituary online, here’s what I found:

Screen Shot 2017-02-01 at 11.37.39 AM


How odd that #1 on the Google search results was none other than my 2006 pilatesnun post which mentions Basil.  Regardless of how curious I am about the legitimacy of that ranking, I decided to dig into my pilatesnun archive and unearth the referenced piece which appears, in its entirety, below.

Consistent with my philosophy of content generation, the value of the piece remains significant regardless of the insanity that has transpired in our industry in the ensuing 10+ years since its original publication.

RIP Basil.

RIP Romana.

RIP the integrity of the Pilates industry.



Wednesday, November 1, 2006

In The Beginning . . .


In order to properly understand the genesis and evolution of Pilates, you simply must get Joe’s books and read them. Each is a one-night read yet they’re both very long on meaning and by reading them, you’ll understand how he wanted his work, his method, used.

If you think Pilates is a discreet physical experience, reading Return to Life and Your Health will immediately cure you of that silly notion. Reading Joe’s books are the very best way for you to begin to know Joe and to use him to help figure out how you, in your brilliantly perfect uniqueness, fit into the ever-broadening world of Pilates.

The main goal of the Pilates Nun is to help you find yourself in this work and, believe it or not, Joe and Clara are the best people to help us on our way to achieving that goal. It’s definitely all about Joe & Clara.

I’m not sure this will work, after all, I’m the Pilates Nun, not the Pilates Geek, but I think, I hope, I pray here are links to the Amazon entry for Joe’s books. Should these links deliver you deep into my personal Amazon account, please buy your books on my studio account – not my personal one – so I can expense them! Kidding! Yikes! dp/096149378X/sr=1-1/qid=1162169704/







Buy them now and when you receive them, read them right away.

Brief sermon: If you’re going to be the best Pilater you can be, you’re going to have to be effective and efficient in all things. And that begins with this. Right here. Right now. Get the books. When they come, read them right away. Amen.

To hear Joe’s voice through those books is to glimpse his genius and his frustration. You’ll clearly sense his passion, the forcefulness of his will and his famous charasmatic style as he gives example after example of the benefits, great and small, of his method.

The overarching thesis of Joe’s books is that his method of exercise creates and supports a happy, healthy and long life. Whole body health and wellness is what we’d call it today, but Joe used a ton of words to say the the same thing; practice his exercises faithfully and the benefits of your very best life will automatically flow.


Beyond his books, both Joe and Clara had a whole bunch to say and they were both interviewed extensively over the years, especially in the 1950s and 1960s. Thanks to the generosity of Gail Anderson,, a marvelously gifted teacher and a mentor of mine, I have copies of a bunch of those articles. It is my sincere intention to post those many articles in their glorious entirety right here on Pilates Nun but it is a huge job, I said it’s a HUGE JOB, to secure permission from the many publications. And, some of the most interesting articles have been copied so many times they no longer include publication information; I don’t even know whose permission to ask.

Until I have the time or dedicated help (apprentice project, anyone?) to secure the absolutely necessary proper legal permission, I’m simply going to pull quotes for you so you can get an idea of Joe & Clara’s mission as they articulated it beyond his books.

The Pilates Nun would never, ever break the law but the relatively minimal use of quotes is perfectly permissible so that’s the way we’ll go until the gift of time is visited upon me. Pray for that, will you?

Here are just a couple of my favorite Joe & Clara quotes followed by my reasons for loving them.



“How can we have world peace? No one is happy. No one is healthy. Not one man in the United Nations can do my first five exercises!”

Joe Pilates, The Eighth Avenue “Contrologist” by Evelyn S. Ringold, New York/Herald Tribune, January 5, 1964.

This article was published about 3 years before Joe’s death and I absolutely love how strident he is, even well into his 80s, about the link that exists between health, happiness and the larger issues in life and in the world, in this case world peace. And, as someone who loves the matwork above all else, I love that his “first five exercises” clearly refers to a basic mat routine.

The next quote is from Clara.

“I was trained as a nursery and kindergarten teacher. All my life I have thought of myself as a mother. I was the oldest in a family of nine, and people have always felt they could depend upon me like a nurse. This work came naturally to me.”

Pilates Bodies article by Toni Kosover, publication unknown. Clara Pilates at “either 89 or 90.”

How could she have put it any more clearly? Clara’s maternal traits were satisfied through her part in the creation of this work and, indeed, her motherly caring and kindness were at the substantial center of her relationships within the studio. It’s such a noble goal; to care about our client relationships in the same elemental way a mother cares about a child or a nurse cares about a patient.

Another one from Clara, and this time it’s from a personal letter that ended up in the public archives. It’s dated March 12, 1941, and it’s addressed to “Dearest Miss Ruth,” and in it Clara writes:

“Thanking you very much for your invitation for March 14th. Of course we will be there!

Joe gave me the order to bowl (sic) you out for not having been in the studio for so long, believe it or not, I don’t know how to do it so I think it is better to leave this to the big strong He-Man Himself.

We are anxiously looking forward for a delightful hour with you!

With love and admination, Joe and Clara”

How personally revealing and utterly adorable is this? Clara’s famed sensitivity transfers beautifully to her writing and she’s able to convey both sincere appreciation for a invitation as well as relaying disappointment from the “He-Man” about Ruth’s absence from the studio. And my favorite part is how Clara innocently admits she simply doesn’t know how to reprimand.

And this last one (for now) is from Joe’s obituary as it appeared in Dance Magazine.


“You feel depressed? Forget it. Get to work!”

Joe Pilates. From Joe’s obituary in Dance Magazine, November 1967.

Not to minimize the seriousness of depression and the great lengths many go to for treatment, but Joe believed if you just moved and kept moving almost everything would be fine.

So it’s the late 1960s and now what?

Now what, indeed.

How the work transferred from Joe to those who carried it forward into today’s modern market is the perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the social history of Pilates. Do you know any of these stories? Do you care? You should.

Lengthy Sermon: Precious and dear lambs of God, you must know that misinformation plagues our industry and you must know that misinformation happens for a variety of reasons and you must know that sometimes people who are really good souls, truly wonderful people, become perpetuators of misinformation either out of ignorance or on purpose to serve their own interests or because they do not have the skills, the nerve, or perhaps the energy or the time to correct or fix the misinformation.

Should you learn of misinformation here, through your Pilates Nun, and should you learn that someone you respect has knowingly or unknowingly perpetuated that misinformation, do not dispair. My very purpose and the essence of my service to you is such that I will help you understand how this can happen and I will help you find ways to still respect the misinformer, no matter who he or she may be.

We must all get along and we all must find common ground. We must. Do 5 Roll Ups.

Much in our past is undocumented. We rely on the highly fallable human memory which deteriorates with age and we rely on the retelling of stories which often shift over time. We must trust the story teller, yes, but we must also be aware of changing stories, shifting “facts” and we must, with appropriate love and respect, scrutinize the story teller.

There is a reason I write for myself as the Nun and not under an editor and certainly not for a magazine. The reason is that, writing this way, I can lay it all out, just as I’ve researched it, just as I’ve been told it and in my own time and in my own way.

In depth and factual with unbiased analysis . . . that’s my motto. My sources are revealed and my motivation is transparent.

I want the truth. I want it for Joe & Clara, I want it for myself and I want it for you, whether or not you know, whether or not you care.

Sermon over; back to our history.

To minimize the most significant transition in technical and emotional ownership of our work by casually saying the work passed from Joe at his death to Romana, or to say, as Romana often does, that Joe “left” or “willed” her the work, is wrong, wrong, wrong. Do 10 Teasers.

Prior to Joe’s passing in ’67 and in an effort to secure his legacy, Joe asked more than one long-time client/teacher to take over his studio. We have no proof – no letter of intent, no contract, nothing in writing – of who Joe asked but at least three of our “First Generation Teachers” have said that Joe asked them to run his studio.

Ron Fletcher and Eve Gentry had already moved on to LA and Santa Fe, respectively, so when Joe asked Romana Kyrzanowska, who was still in NY, a succession plan of sorts evolved and that’s how Romana came to work along side Clara in succeeding Joe. Romana eventually took over the studio completely once Clara was no longer able to keep a schedule.

And we all, each and every one of us, owe Romana a debt of gratitude so great that we will never be able to fully repay it. Simply put, our industry would not be what it is today without her. Now, that can be said about several of our leaders, but what I’m talking about here is that without Romana, our industry would be unrecognizable from what it is today. I’m talking vastly different and without the historic work at its center.

During those pivotal years while all of Joe’s other top teachers were out in the world doing great things, Romana stayed put in NY and she taught like the war-worn soldier that she is. She trained many brilliant teachers and although she continued to make lousy, expensive and embarrassing choices about business and business partners, she was a rock and she held our entire industry together when nobody else could or would. For that, she has my respect and she deserves yours.

God Bless Romana.

But now, well into her 80s, Romana’s become a Pilates revisionist.

Before I lay out specific examples, let’s decide to not get upset about this or anything else. After all, your Pilates Nun is all about peace and happiness and getting along with each other. No spikes in blood pressure, no running for the vodka. It’s not worth it. Besides . . . there but by the grace of God go I, go we and go us.

Lord willing, we’ll all live to be her age and perhaps we too will occasionally struggle with the “facts.” In exchange for the enjoyment of the benefits from decades of her selfless labor, join me in giving Romana and any other of our 1stGen’ers the benefit of the doubt. I forgive her these departures from the truth because I can still watch her and listen to her objectively and I can point out to anyone who cares to listen when she’s wrong and when she’s right.

Taking total responsibility for my own thinking and the formation of my own beliefs about this work allows me to be kind to those with whom I disagree. If discussing the “issues” in our industry brings about in you something approaching apoplectic rage, you might consider getting some help – it’s not normal, it’s not healthy and it’s not helping anything or anybody.

Try doing it like me.

I am not a parrot and I do not dutifully repeat what I’m told. I think for myself, I’m in charge of what I believe and what I question and if I’m wrong, it’s my fault, not anyone else’s.

I stick to the facts, I stick to what I know and the all the rest of it very easily takes care of itself. This simple plan of action works for everyone. Truth is easy. Truth is brilliant. Truth brings peace. Praise the Lord!

Should you have fallen prey to blind trust, here’s a little something just for you.

Let us pray: Lord, keep me from abdicating my own inquiring intelligence. Keep me from blindly believing every word out of Romana’s – or anyone else’s – mouth. Help me look for proof. Help me find out if there’s a self-interest angle. Help me develop my own trusted sources. Help me become a trusted source. Above all, help me use my God given common sense in this and all matters. Amen.

Here are a couple of examples of Revisions by Romana.

Romana and her followers believe she is the only person entitled to Joe’s work and that all subsequent teachers who hope for legitimacy must be trained through her organization. She has made this claim for years and she makes this claim on the strength of her version of Pilates provenance.

Romana frequently says that Joe “left her” or “willed her” his studio and his work. She’s brazen; she’s even put it in writing. Romana penned a letter in 1993 endorsing a teacher she’d trained and in that letter, which was widely circulated and yes, the Pilates Nun has a copy of it, she stated that “when Mr. Pilates died he willed both his Method and Studio to me.”

This is untrue. It’s a self-serving lie that only helps to falsely create and falsely enlarge Romana’s standing in a business market that’s she’s chosen to separate from and, as a consequence of her self-imposed isolation, is leaving her behind.

And in the telling of such nonsense, repeatedly and over many years, she disrespects Clara’s 10 year survivorship of Joe and she also disrespects all those who helped, loved and sheltered Clara in the last years of her life.

When Romana tries to create exclusivity or rarity in her credentials, she opens the door for scrutiny.

Romana’s 15 year absence from the Pilates Studio from 1944 to 1959 begs for comparison with the other first-generation teachers, each of whom experienced continuity in working with Joe and Clara well beyond Romana.

The dates I cite are from the findings in the Pilates, Inc. vs. Current Concepts, Inc. decision, which also states that Joe did not leave a will.

Precious Lamb of God, if you have not read this document, you must. It’s as important to your understanding of our history as reading Joe’s books.

You can find it at,

Related to but not in direct conflict with the misinformed Romana version of our shared history is the one Ron Fletcher brings forth. On his website,, Ron shares copies of letters from Clara Pilates which give us a glimpse into the intimacy of their relationship and Clara’s hopes for the future of “Contrology.”

And it’s clear in Clara’s letters that if anyone was given this work, it was Ron. Clara told him he was the right person to carry it forward and to protect it and to expand it. And Clara told Ron that in letters dated 1971 and 1972.

Do you see any significance in the timing of Clara’s letters to Ron?

Here’s the line that connects the dots: In the several years following Joe’s death in 1967 and while Romana was running Joe’s studio, Clara wrote letters of support and encouragement to Ron Fletcher telling him that he was the best person to foster the Pilates Method.

Ron has shared with the world Clara’s actual letters to him so we can all see, and we can all know, the truth. Reading these letters is super important to your understanding of our history. Go to, click on Ron’s bio, then on Clara’s letters.

And, in the letter under the “Quotes” section above where Clara admits that she’s unable to reprimand, she gives us a clue as to why she didn’t directly address Romana about any preference Clara may have had as Romana continued running Joe’s studio in the years that Clara survived Joe.

Romana has also stated, authoratively and unequivocally – and yes, your Pilates Nun has heard her say it – that Joe & Clara had no immediate or extended family. But we know from the Clara quote above that Clara was one of 9 children. And immediately after venturing outside the Romana force field that was my primary training, I learned about Clara’s family here in the US and even met them at the PMA conference a few years ago. If that’s not family, what is?

Again, Romana does not need to falsely inflate her importance or contribution to our industry. She totally rocks just by being who she is and having done what she has. She can relax.

Another less impactful untruth that Romana is at least partially responsible for has to do with the hiring of Gratz Industries.

In the past 6 months, I’ve read twice in Pilates Style magazine that Romana hired Gratz after she’d taken over Joe’s studio. In the December 2006 issue, page 36, in the interview with the smart & lovely Colleen Glenn, the story goes “While Gratz became the first manufacturer of Pilates’ equipment after the founder’s death, the door opened for others to create and improve upon the original apparatuses.”

This is not true; Joe personally hired Gratz in the 1960s.

I met Basil Blecher, President of Gratz Industries, in 2000 when I was in my primary training program. Basil is a great guy, loads of integrity and he always, always tells the truth. The Pilates Nun is very curious about all things and I always ask lots of questions about everything and I wondered how Basil’s company became part of the Pilates legend.

What he told me then back in 2000 is the same thing he re-verified for me when I phoned him for confirmation the morning of October 30, 2006. It’s the truth, then, now and always. Here it comes.

Gratz is and has always been a high-end metal fabricator and in the early 1960s they were called to Joe’s studio to work on a handrail of some sort. While Mr. Gratz was there taking measurements and assessing the job, Joe asked if Mr. Gratz would be interested in manufacturing Joe’s equipment. The Mr. Gratz that was in the original Pilates studio that day was the grandfather of the Mr. Gratz that is Basil’s business partner today. Gratz worked off of Joe’s original plans for the equipment, and those original blueprints were signed by Joe. Basil places the year at 1963 or 1964.

That’s the truth.

But can you see that other equipment manufacturers may benefit if they are able to create the perception that none superseded another?

Gratz was first. Gratz was hired by Joe. It matters. It counts. It’s the truth.

But it doesn’t in any way discredit or demean the excellent work subsequent manufacturers have done and are continuing to do.

And, it’s important to be reasonable in our expectations.

Pilates Style magazine is not going to print these types of corrections. They rely on peaceful relationships with advertisers and if they alienate even one major spender, survival of the magazine is in jeopardy. As we say in the South, don’t poke the bear.

I can’t enforce ethics on anyone else, I can only do my part to be honest and teach the truth; as such, I do not expect the magazine to fix these types of things. I expect to fix them myself, and I expect all those who care about the truth to help in that effort. Can I get a witness?

And these types of deviations from the truth are an example of a serious problem we have in our industry, and in our culture generally,and it has to do with how much is enough.

Just as all good studios are busy and even good teachers within bad studios are busy, all good equipment manufacturers are doing well.

There’s room for us all. We don’t have to put one down to elevate another. We don’t. We shouldn’t. And any reward we enjoy if we do is false.

And much farther down the impact list of mistruths comes this.

There a Romana incursion into the name-claim of equipment, albeit obscure.

In 2005. I ordered a Gratz Breath-a-cizer and when it arrived I was shocked to see “Romana’s Breath-a-cizer” etched on it. I called Basil and said “yo, s’up with this Romana stuff?” (the Nun is definitely street). To which he said, she’d gotten to Donald Gratz years ago, asked for the change, Donald agreed to it and it’s been the Romana Breath-a-cizer ever since. It’s Joe’s Breath-a-cizer, not Romana’s, and putting her name on it is wrong. I asked permission to return it and he graciously allowed me to send it back.

It seems like a small thing, but there’s linkage that extends further up the chain.

I will not support Romana taking credit for something she did not invent. I wonder why her own achievement aren’t enough for her. I wonder why she feels the need to encroach on Joe’s. I wonder.

So, you can see with matters great and small, it’s important that someone is the keeper of the truth.

There are many influential leaders and innovators among us – who’s to say there’s not another Joe among us? – but of utmost importance is that we know where we came from. Without someone holding firm to that truth, shifting versions will distort us and what we lose will change what we become.

I have a bias and it’s to Joe & Clara.

There’s room in this vast industry for us all. There’s room, at all levels of the spectrum, for good teachers and kind souls. There’s a place for the part-timers. There’s a place for the obsessed. There’s a place for the innovator. There’s a place for the traditional. There’s room. Welcome one, welcome all. No need for trying to shoulder your way in front. Relax. Breathe. Settle in and settle down.

Instead of trying to one up your fellow Pilater, how about trying to help them. How about trying to be your best by helping others be their best. What a revolution we could start. I say, bring it on. I say, be part of it. I say, through us Joe & Clara live the good and strong life in peace, in relevance, in perpetuity. Amen!

And to finish up with this abbreviated version of our history . . . after Joe’s, then Clara’s passing, schools started up, groups organized, branches formed, some people rose and other people fell, stuff happened, tears were shed, money was wasted, millions were made, some people got sober, others burned out, word spread and in the blink of an eye, it was 2000, the Pilates Method Alliance formed and our industry began its journey to legitimacy and we’re all part of the history that is to follow.

The section titled State of the Industry will pick it up from this point on, so patiently await its posting.

Until then, carry on the Lord’s work, recite the principles of Pilates 3 times, do 10 Teasers and take a nap. Amen.
in In the Beginning at 13:25

In the Beginning | Originally Published November 1, 2006

State of the Industry | Originally Published October 8, 2007

Wednesday, February 1, 2017 |  This epic piece is still valid except for, sadly, the PMA changed its mission and is no longer the least bit interested in establishing accuracy, safety or effectiveness standards for Pilates teacher training “schools” but, don’t despair, I am more interested in it than ever.   Stay tuned.


Monday, October 8. 2007

State of the Industry





Hotel Aldobrandini

Florence, Italy

In finalizing this piece, I was at once amazed, shocked and disgusted to realize that I began writing it over a year ago. I’ve been behind before, but this redefines my idea of “late!”

I wrote the outline for it in September ‘06, I substantively filled in the first half of it by the end of ‘06, I rounded out the next quarter of it on a weekend train trip to Portland to see the Sonics last road game in April ’07 (we lost) and now, in early October, I’m finally finishing it, all 6836 words, in Italy. Truth!

I spent last week in Venice, the world’s most gorgeous city. Bellinis at Harry’s Bar and people watching in San Marco? No way, I’ve got a Nun post to finish! Two days ago, I moved to Florence, the heart of the Renaissance but forget the David, I’m sequestered in my room, writing, praying, doing intermediate mat on my bed, swattin’ skeetas and occasionally bustin’ a move when my favorite Black Eyed Peas songs queue up on my Shuffle. I only leave my makeshift office for 2 meals and 3 gelati a day – my guess is that my brand new muffin top is 100% gelato!

As I write this long overdue post about our current state of affairs, I am filled with hopes and dreams for our industry, for you and your place in it, for me and my endless desire to continue to learn about it, and for all of us together to continue to live in the spirit of Joe & Clara.

God’s blessings on you and yours, thank you for your patience and please let me know your thoughts.


State of the Industry

An Overview

Welcome to the jungle. AC/DC

Did you read about the Washington DC judge who sued his dry cleaner for $54 million dollars over a lost pair of trousers?

Thank God he doesn’t do Pilates.

Imagine an industry where physical risks abound yet consumers have absolutely no reliable way to determine which providers are even minimally qualified.

Imagine an industry where consumers’ uninformed assumption of practitioner competence coupled with their own desire to buy the service offered stokes the pipeline at even the most unprofessionally, even illegally run businesses.

Add a cast of overdeveloped, overexposed divisive characters who refuse to exit stage left, mix in a cadre of leaders who rule with muddled minds and front transparent biases then top it all off with a dysfunctional social history that’s a mash up of Sex in the City, the Sopranos and Valley of the Dolls, and, dear people, we’ve arrived . . . welcome to the world of Pilates!

And not only have we arrived, but we’re all here together – the good, the bad, the ugly – and we’re all part of this industry equally and indivisibly. The highest lifts us all, the lowest depresses us all. I am you, you are me, we are it.

Do Mary Bowen’s Balloon Breathing!


Our Link to the Past

Save the Drama for Yo’ Mamma

State of the Industry: There is unprecedented and highly visible cooperation among all levels of teaching and industry-related commerce. There is also discord, from slight to serious and both public and private.

Have you noticed the dissention in the world of Pilates, especially at the top and by top I mean first generation teachers? Even though it’s not widespread among that esteemed group, it is plainly obvious because the main perpetrator of it is blatant in her display of it. And in addition to the one major rift, there also exists discord of a more minor nature.

All of it – the big and the small, the bold and the oblique – is equal in my mind and guess what?

There’s a precedent in our industry for this type of behavior. Joe himself was guilty of it and so I guess it’s not surprising that some of his disciples carry on that most embarrassing, deplorable aspect of our history.

Simply put, the divisiveness we witness among our beloved first generation teachers must stop . . . and it will.


One way or another.

An eternal optimist, I remain hopeful that our first generation teachers will take advantage of the powerful opportunity they have to lead us to righteousness, to demonstrate their emotional maturity and intellectual depth by healing their relationships themselves, but if they don’t cure the divisiveness themselves by rising above their differences, it’ll still be taken care of but in a much more passive way.

Personal responsibility is the over-arching message of this article but this is one problem that is most definitely going to be solved even without anyone taking responsibility for it.

I apologize if talking directly about people dying is offensive, viewed as disrespectful or is in bad taste. I intend no disrespect.

We’re all going to die and the only real mystery about it is the timing of said death.

Timing is everything! I also realize that there is no particular order to such things.

That said, here’s something we all can agree on: It’s impossible to maintain a disagreement, no matter how intense, after we’re dead. So, if not before, once our most senior leaders pass on from this fantastic and wonderful world, their particular controversies will disappear right along with them and it will fall to those who outlive them to repair any residual damage.

Cleaning up the mess will not be pleasant but it must be done. Until then, let’s work together to minimize the damage.

Here’s what I propose: For those of us who do not own any aspect of these disagreements, rifts and grudges, let’s agree to steer clear of them at all cost. Let’s also realize that when conflict happens – and it will and it should and it’s natural and normal that it does – we must use our best skills to manage it, we must be gentle with each other and know that only by working together do we stand a chance of surviving the type of exponential growth our industry is experiencing, with all of us together, successful and productive on the other side.

Let’s promise ourselves and each other that our commitment to getting along with each other, to building each other up and helping each other out will override any temptation to front issues that are not ours.

Deal? Deal!

While we need to be aware of such unpleasant things, we also need to honor our most experienced teachers – even the ones who exhibit deplorable behavior – and that may pose a challenge because we’re often tempted to throw out the baby with the bathwater. In this case, that would be a mistake because we only have so many first-hand accounts of this work and we need to maximize our exposure to them while they still exist.

This may help you figure out productive ways you can learn from each of our beloved first generation teachers, in spite of the derision that exists among them.

Personally, I aspire to emulate the grace, cooperative spirit and soothing styles of Mary Bowen and Lolita San Miguel, the technical wisdom, physical elegance and long-lived passion for teaching of Ron Fletcher, the perseverance, humor and problem solving ability of Kathy Grant and to be able to tolerate a hangover as well as Romana.

These are all positive aspirations, they are all things I need to work on and they are all ways I can appreciate, respect and be inspired by our industry’s most esteemed leaders.

These leaders should be guides for you, too, so think about what you’d like to learn from each of them, research their websites or their work online, catch them at a conference or register for one of their weekend workshops and get your own first-hand dose of first generation magic while it’s still around.

And to guard against following in their footsteps in less admirable ways, when push comes to shove in our own sheltered studio lives, it definitely helps to remember that the market is vast and there is room enough for us all regardless of which lineage we follow or innovate off of. There is enough business to go around. Relax. Do whatever it takes for you to regain perspective. Above all, be nice.

Consumer Protection & the Teaching of Pilates

Houston, We Have a Problem

State of the Industry: The Pilates industry is unregulated, entirely, completely, totally.

The fact that our industry is unregulated is a huge problem and anyone who says it isn’t has probably made millions of dollars in our unregulated market and is financially threatened at the idea of change. Follow the money!

Can you think of a single valid argument against regulation in an industry where the physical risks are this great?

In its simplest form, there is absolutely no doubt that if there were consumer protections in place there would be fewer client injuries and insurance losses would decrease.

I’m going to expound greatly on the finer points of the issue of regulation, but from the outset I want to be clear that, more important than any of other aspect of this complex and emotional topic, there can be no adequate compensation when someone suffers an injury as a result of teacher negligence.

The conscientious teacher is forever changed, studio ownership is potentially financially ruined and the staff and clients of the studio are also damaged, albeit indirectly. Our entire industry suffers, right along with injured client, at the hands of incompetent teachers.

Worse still, the most rapidly growing segment of this work is in gyms where the quality of instruction is greatly compromised if for no other reason than because of the group class model.

But the lack of consumer protection extends well beyond the point of sale for the discreet service, e.g. a Pilates session, and when you realize that teacher training programs are also unregulated you begin to understand the magnitude of the lack of regulation in such a rapidly growing industry.

Beyond advocating for regulation of the teaching of Pilates, I also advocate for the regulation of teacher training centers. Period.

To try and make sense of all this, let’s start where all Pilates sessions begin, or should anyway, which is with a well-trained teacher.

Leading the Way to Industry Standards,

Leadership & Organization

Alex, What is the Pilates Method Alliance?

State of the Industry: There are no mandatory standards for the teaching of Pilates or the operation of teacher training centers.

The Pilates Method Alliance formed in 2000 and its mission is to create professional standards for our industry, to preserve the historic work and to inform the public about the nature of our industry. That is a hugely powerful mission and each aspect of it is critically important to the overall success of the industry.

The PMA is a membership-based not-for-profit organization and as such, the work of the organization can only gain traction when its membership is robust both in numbers, financial support and purpose.

If you are not a member of the PMA, join now. And by now I mean now, as in right now. Go to and sign up. We’ll wait right here for you.

I want to be perfectly clear about the fact that I was a huge PMA supporter years before I accepted a seat on its Board of Directors.

When I joined the industry back in 2000 and began learning about the challenges we face and the role the PMA can play in solving them, I knew I would be a strong supporter of the organization. The PMA has been, and remains, our best chance at a strong, vibrant, independent and successful professional industry.

Being involved as a member, conference attendee, conference presenter and since November 2006, as a Board member, I’ve learned a whole lot about how the organization works, what it can and can’t do, and how I can best use my time and efforts to support it. By the time I step down in November ’07 to resume my focus on PMA committee work and service in a less restrictive way, I will have served on the Board for a year.

You’ll hear me speak both critically and glowingly about the efforts of the PMA. Just because I am a long-time supporter of the organization, have served on the Board and am a member does not mean I can’t cause a ruckus, make a fuss and generally agitate on behalf of my own agenda.

That’s the beauty of a membership organization; become a member and your voice is heard, serve on a committee and you become a leader, sit on the Board and be part of planning for the future of this industry. It’s a thrilling concept and I have absolutely no reservation in suggesting that any and all of you would be enriched, invigorated and forever changed by getting involved.

Just Do It. Nike

As clear as the PMA mission appears to be, there has always been confusion about what it really is, what it does and how it does it. The PMA has done a terrible job of informing Pilates professionals about its purpose, efforts and goals.

Let’s go over that right now.

The PMA is probably most clearly understood by first understanding what it isn’t.

It does not train teachers.

It is not involved in education at all.

It does not intrude in any manner into the business of studios or curriculum of training centers.

In its most simple distillation, the PMA is for objective professional standards and is for keeping the historic work in tact as the unifying foundation of the Pilates industry .

It’s the Switzerland of the Pilates world: it’s neutral, it takes all comers, it welcomes everyone regardless of our educational background, lineage loyalty or favored spinal mechanic. Studio owner, training center mogul, equipment manufacturer, gym teacher or client: there’s a place for all of us under the PMA umbrella. PMA conference presenter standards are the very highest in the industry, which means when you attend a PMA conference you’ll be learning from the industry’s most elite, best-reviewed and most highly respected educators.

Because Joe Said So

Historic Pilates and the PMA

State of the Industry: There are no regulations governing the use of the word “Pilates” or what that word defines.

Some people, especially the movers and shakers and more influential graduates of the morphed/ adapted/evolved teacher training schools, are particularly polarized about the PMA’s mission to preserve the historic work.

But the PMA does not in any way bar or block anyone from teaching whatever they want to call Pilates, in any location, in any way, in whatever order, style, manner or method they so desire.

The PMA does not interfere with free will in the marketplace.

The PMA endeavors to preserve the historic work because the historic work forms the base of our entire industry. And the preservation of it should be rather easy since it is so well codified. Joe was multimedia before there WAS multimedia!

There are thousands of photographs and hours of moving film footage of Joe, his clients and his process. There are the 2 books Joe wrote plus countless newspaper and magazine articles on and about Joe and Clara, many containing long rambling revealing quotes.

The work as they developed it – famous in part for its many iterations, variations and modifications – resides in the muscle fiber and brain tissue of our first generation teachers because Joe and Clara themselves put it there.  Although the essence of the work can accurately be best described as problem solving, the skills, tools and techniques used to solve our clients’ problems were all within the bounds of the historic work, the tool box Joe and Clara built and passed down to all who know their exercises as they created them.

Let me explain the purpose and value of the historic work to you as simply and clearly as I see it.

Historic Pilates = the alphabet.

When we know our alphabet, we’ve got the base, the foundation, to put together a wide variety of intelligent, interesting, exciting and inspiring words to express our own unique selves. What one teacher might do with it is guaranteed to be vastly different than what another teacher might do and I certainly hope you remember what the Pilates Nun says about this . . . vive la’ difference!

But underneath all those Pilates adaptations, evolutions, morphs and flat out changes lies the common bond, the alphabet, the thing that unites all of us.

If we call our industry “Pilates” but we’re all speaking different languages, we’re not only not going to understand each other but the public won’t stand a chance of experiencing anything remotely similar to what Joe & Clara, the eponymous Pilates, created.

If we lose the historic work, our language, so to speak, will be lost and at that point Historic Pilates ≠ Pilates Today.

The best predictor of the future is the past. Dr. Phil

We can only know where we are and where we’re going if we know where we’ve been.

This simple fact is the reason we study history, why, culturally speaking, we teach kids about wars long ago fought, atrocities long ago committed, the way boundaries and alliances have been formed, even centuries after any of it would seemingly matter.

History totally rocks and being ignorant of it in our culture, in our place in the larger world, dooms us to repeat it. The cliché is a cliché for a reason!

Without knowing where we’ve been in the evolution of Pilates, our natural tendency to drift, adapt, venture, explore and dilute will result in a loss of meaningful connection to our base and at that point, we’re just basically screwed. P-Nunny talks smack!

So, regardless of whether you fly your freak flag, morph at will or are the second coming of Joseph (Pilates, that is), you’re still very, very smart to support the preservation of the thing that got you started, the solid and stable place you jumped off of – the historic work. This thread leads us right back to support of the PMA.

Let’s Stay Together. Al Greene

Who’s on First? Lou Costello

Where you lead, I will follow. Carole King

Can’t we all just get along? Rodney King

Without an umbrella organization like the PMA, our various lineages lack a cohesive bond and without a cohesive bond we’ll more easily fall prey to the larger industries that surround our discipline, all of which are professionalized, standardized, regulated and, goodness me, so very much more organized than we are.

Physical Therapy licks its chops on one side while Personal Training and the gym/club world lie in wait on the other. Yikes!

Here’s the simple truth:

We will lose our collective soul if we’re subsumed by any industry that does not have at its core the work Joe and Clara created and gave to us all. Can I get a witness!

The PMA Certification Exam

What’s in a Word? or “I Thought I WAS Certified!”

State of the Industry: There is no mandatory national standards exam and there is no accountability or penalty for training centers that mislead apprentices about their ability to “certify” you.

The Pilates Method Alliance Certified Pilates Teacher exam was created in 2005 and it is the only 3rd party national standards exam for the Pilates industry. Before the PMA sponsored the creation of the exam, pig farmers were more regulated than the Pilates industry!

Our industry desperately needed a 3rd party certification because of the uncontrolled growth of the industry in general, the uncontrolled growth of the teacher training segment of the market and the fact that the presentation of the work was moving away from traditional single-purpose studios and splintering rapidly among gyms, physical therapy clinics, chiropractic practices, community centers, dance schools and the like. As discussed earlier on, the body of work created by Joe – referred to as historic, classical or traditional Pilates – was in danger of being diluted into oblivion.

We call what we do “Pilates” and yet Pilates, as Joe and Clara created it, is very different from what many teacher training schools teach. Xerox, Kleenex, Coke and Tampon have all fought in the marketplace for distinction of their particular brand. Similarly, Pilates exercise was in danger of becoming a generic term for all manner of exercise and movement that was called Pilates but much of which in fact had little or no basis in the historic work.

The PMA’s bold and expensive move to create the exam is singularly responsible for stabilizing our industry and creating a platform for the continued development of our still rapidly growing industry.


I believe this bold move by the PMA is, in and of itself, sufficient reason for all Pilates teachers to support the PMA with ongoing membership and conference attendance.

Since the creation of the PMA Certification Exam, the word certification used in relationship to a Pilates standard has a specific legal definition. Like it or not, there’s nothing any of us can do about that. As professionals within the industry, we’re all bound to the proper use of the word and yet it continues to be misused often and by many.

When it is misused in advertising by a teacher training center, the error is especially damaging because it perpetuates the problem and confuses readers of the ad that the “certification” offered by the training center might be equal to or in place of the national PMA certification. Clearly, teacher training centers even more so than individual teachers should be held responsible for strict compliance to the rules governing proper use of the legal terms “certify” and “certification.”

But who’s going to police such things? The PMA is not an Orwellian big brother. Magazines gladly take advertising dollars, regardless of the accuracy of this type of specific content. Most of us read such things and usually don’t give it a second thought.

But being aware of the problem is the first step in solving it. Change most definitely comes through awareness and the PMA does have the ability to educate the masses. If you’re on the PMA mailing list, the PMA could have done an effective and timely job at educating you.

But it didn’t. In fact, the PMA has done a horrible job of educating the general public and its membership about the proper use of the word certified or certification.

The exam was a radical step forward in professionalizing our industry and as such, the PMA should have bombarded us with information about how and why the exam was created, how teachers can prepare to sit for it, how to maintain certification once teachers have successfully passed the exam and the value of being PMA Certified.

The PMA should have aggressively pushed this information to its membership and to the industry in general; it hasn’t and I fault the PMA for the lack of widespread adoption of the exam, the lack of widespread understanding of the value of the test and the widespread misuse of the words “certify” and “certification.”

Regardless of how the PMA chooses to defend itself against this criticism, the fact that the test is still largely misunderstood and the fact that the words “certify” and “certification” are still largely misused are proof that the PMA has failed to successfully implement the exam.

The results speak for themselves and I hold the PMA responsible for the education of the industry in general about these important issues.

In my efforts on the PMA Board as well as before my Board service, I am sad to report that I have failed miserably in bringing change in this regard.

But that doesn’t mean I’ve given up and that doesn’t mean I no longer support the PMA.

To a large extent, speaking to you through is one way I try to make progress toward this end.

Once the market embraces the exam as it currently exists, the next step is for it to become mandatory and for a more advanced level of certification to be created.

Teacher Training Centers

The Good, the Bad, the Despicable

State of the Industry: Teacher training centers are unregulated and as such there is no industry-specific consumer protection afforded potential apprentices. Some States regulate Pilates schools under secondary or vocational education department guidelines, and when so regulated apprentice rights are guaranteed to such things as full disclosure of content, refund policies and value gained upon successful completion of the curriculum but not as to the value of the content or its applicability to the national standards exam.

As referenced above, teacher training centers use the words “certification” and “certify” to describe the status, title or value of the result a student achieves or earns at the successful completion of the subject teacher training program. Many teachers assume the “certification” their training centers offer carries weight in the marketplace and are shocked to learn that it doesn’t.

Apprentices are often completely ignorant about how the curriculum of any particular school will help prepare them – or not – for the PMA CPT exam, the only real certification in our industry.

Making sure the curriculum will prepare you to sit for the national standards exam is one thing. But there are other factors, many of which play a more urgent and potentially damaging role in the decision making process.

Here are a few ways to tell if the teacher training program you’re thinking of entering is a good one.

  • If they give you a long list of references, call every one and if they all rave about it, they all detail their enjoyment of successful Pilates practices and they all continue to support the organization with their continuing education dollars.
  • If you are invited in and favorably impressed by a period of observation over at least a month’s time where you attended a full cycle of apprentice meetings, observed portions of an intensive and talked freely with apprentices currently in the program.
  • If the school provides you with written policies that include refunds, supplemental measures to help struggling apprentices and tracks percentages of apprentices graduating on schedule and the vast majority do.

On the PMA website, there’s a list of questions to ask prospective training centers. On my studio website,, there’s a super long list of questions to ask an individual teacher, all of which apply to teacher trainers.

Are you doubting the existence of a problem with training centers? If you’re already convinced of the problem, are you wondering why it hasn’t been solved?

Do the math.

Pick 3 of the major teacher training centers whose ads you see in regular advertising rotation. Get online and research the cost of tuition and multiply that by a very conservative estimate of 150 apprentices a year. These numbers will be ultra conservative because the bigger schools may pump out many hundreds or even thousands of teachers in a year and many have been in existence for up to a dozen or so years but, for our purposes let’s err on the most conservative side.

What you’ll end up with after the equal sign is the realization that there is a ton of money to be made in the teacher training business.

Whenever there’s a ton of money to be made, regardless of the industry, the bad people of the world will find a way to exploit the situation and this has happened in our industry.

Some of the oldest, most profitable teacher training schools are built on rituals described variously as a “tradition of abruptness” (read: verbally abusive), a principle of “maximum physical challenge” (read: physically abusive), are ambiguous about content (read: you’ll get what they feel like giving) and/or require you to demonstrate a financially strong commitment to your goals (read: add-on’s that combine to exceed the base cost of tuition = a scam). Between all my training experiences, I’ve personally witnessed every one. Were you lucky enough to go to a school offering all 4? Lord Have Mercy.

If you came through a lovely school run by lovely people and are a lovely person yourself, this will sound like it’s a bunch of hog wash.

But it’s not.

It’s true.

And sadly, subjecting an apprentice to these deeply ingrained behaviors are often enough to completely ruin an aspiring teacher’s future. This is entirely unacceptable and it must be stopped.

Regulation of teacher training centers is one way to begin to weed our industry of schools that perpetuate these practices.

Here’s a brief list of some compelling reasons that training center regulation makes sense:

  • Verbal abuse: public, private, criss-crossed and overlapped including but not limited to apprentice-on-apprentice, teacher trainer-on-teacher trainer, teacher trainer-on-apprentice, master teacher-on-apprentice, master teacher-on-teacher trainer. There is no overstating the damage caused by the long and well established practice of verbal abuse in our industry; it is shocking, it is unacceptable, it must stop.
  • Physical abuse: under the guise of learning exercises apprentices are pushed well beyond known strength, flexibility, fitness conditioning levels. Some injuries become chronic. Some prevent apprentices from finishing the program in a timely fashion or at all.
  • Scam programs/policies:
    • The program is advertised as a 650 hour program and it begins with an 8 day intensive but it turns out that the teacher presenting the intensive is not permanently attached to the training center, she’s hired specifically to teach the intensive and she’s filmed for the entire intensive, the apprentices attend the intensive and participate in the intensive and they are given a total of sixty dvd’s of the intensive which they’re supposed to watch for the 650 hours of apprentice training their program is to include. The program cost $7000.
    • The program is advertised as a 400 hour program but it turns out there isn’t actually any in-person training included in it. The apprentice is given manuals to study for 400 hours. The program cost $4000.
    • The program is advertised as a 600 hour program but the training center closes before the cycle of training completes. Leaving apprentices with no other options, they have wasted their $5000 tuition and are left with no recourse.
    • An apprentice drops out of their training program during the first weekend of training and are refused even a partial refund of their tuition.
      • My finishing school Pilates Excel is regulated by the State of Washington Workforce and Trade School Commission, the application process was arduous (it took over 8 months for me to complete the application) and I pay expensive annual fees not only to continue my certification but to bond my school for the tuitions paid it inside the State of Washington. Many states are regulating Pilates schools, both primary and secondary (like mine) because student rights were being violated by such schools.

But this aspect of regulation does not address the viability of the education offered in the national certification arena. Any individual state does not have the purview or jurisdictional authority to make sure the curriculum offered at a licensed Pilates school would prepare a student to pass the national certification exam.

    • Large nationally-known school – you’ve seen this school advertized hundreds of times! – does not teach exercise transitions, exercise order (in which to teach or in which to perform) or progression theories. This results in thousands of teachers not knowing how to safely build or flow a session, which leads to session disorganization which leads to client and teacher dissatisfaction which leads to teacher attrition. This is a huge problem because our industry is significantly weakened by the thinning of our teacher ranks in the 1 – 5 year range.

Are you thinking “Buyer Beware?” It’s a temptation, to be sure.

There is a listing on the PMA website of schools that do adequately prepare graduates to sit for the exam, but, once again, the PMA has not done a good job of getting the word out about that listing. Sadly, the average apprentice does not have enough experience in the industry to steer clear of these potentially expensive and emotionally damaging situations.

Many people who face the types of challenges detailed above simply walk away from their programs; from the monetary investment, from the investment of time, from the ideal of becoming a good teacher. Countless apprentices have not finished their primary programs. Countless apprentices of bad programs have lost thousands of dollars, years of time and carry emotional wounds that are slow to heal or never heal.

And perhaps the worst aspect of this whole predicament is that most teachers, having been through such experiences, will not persevere.

They quit because it’s too hard to keep going. They quit because they can’t find the help, the support, the understanding to help them survive the difficulties. They quit because it’s not worth it to stay. When we’re hurt, we naturally want to stop doing the thing that causes the pain – we quit and the pain stops, but it’s replaced with feelings of failure, inadequacy, regret.

The Pilates industry needs a strong and stable

 base of teachers.

We need every single good teacher

we can find, make, help,

support and nurture.


Let us pray.

Lord, we’ve wasted precious time carrying the pain we suffered in the name of our training programs, we cannot go on like this and we ask to be healed. We have gathered together all the Nun readers out there who have suffered ill treatment from those they trusted, those they paid, those they looked to for help, inspiration and guidance. Between us, we have been, including but not limited to, emotionally betrayed, physically injured, verbally abused, deeply insulted and financially ripped off. As a result, our attitudes have suffered, our bodies are damaged, our spirits are trashed and we are often totally bummed out. We are all together here in this prayer, all sitting knee to knee with you, staring into your knowing and kind eyes, asking to be relieved of this hurt, this burden, this heaviness. We need to get over these wrongs. We need to move beyond them so we may be free and open in our hearts, minds and bodies so we can serve our clients, our families, our communities. Lord, please take this hurt we’ve carried, please heal our hearts, our souls, our bodies. Please help us forgive those who hurt us, especially help those of us who must continue to work every day with those who’ve hurt us. Lord, as we sit here knee to knee with you, as we inhale, we pull into our every cell, our very soul, our full selves the power and promise of your wisdom and love, and as we exhale we release the hurt, the pain, the burden wrongly placed on us. In Joseph’s name we pray, amen!

Doesn’t that feel better? I know, I know, it most certainly does. But it might not hold forever so if you ever feel yourself slipping back, just reread that prayer, take some deep cleansing breaths and it’ll put you right back into a beautiful place. It works every time. I promise.


Any Way Around It?


State of the Industry: Without teacher training center regulation, we will continue to lack the security and stability that rests on a strong and vibrant base of new teachers who fuel the growth of the overall industry.

I know it’s unpopular to advocate for regulation in any industry. Generally, Americans feel over-regulated, we feel our individual rights are being encroached upon by all manner of intrusive regulation and I realize I’m taking an unpopular position by asking for your support for increased regulation.

But I am.

The PMA is the appropriate organization to certify training centers. When that effort begins, please support it.


The Fix

State of the Industry: The PMA is currently the only organization in existence that is dedicated to solving these issues. The PMA is a membership-based not-for-profit and as such, its power lies in mobilizing its membership. To date, its resources are minimal and positive results have been inconsistent.
in State of the Industry at 13:17

State of the Industry | Originally Published October 8, 2007

Can’t See For Looking

Have you heard that old-fashioned saying before?

My Dad used to use it both as a motivator and as a reminder, and I heard it a lot when I’d work side by side with him as his tool runner.

He’d be building or fixing something, tearing something apart, or climbing something and he’d realize he needed a particular tool but didn’t have it with him, and that’s where I came in.

He’d describe what he needed – I eventually did learn the names of everything –  he’d tell me where he thought it was, and then he’d wait somewhat patiently while I tore off to the shed or to the garage or onto one of his trucks to retrieve it.  The plan was that I’d quickly retrieve it and run it back to him.

Plan notwithstanding, here’s how it usually went.

Invariably, I’d listen intently, then invariably, I’d run to where he told me to go to find it, then invariably, I couldn’t find it then, invariably, I’d run back to him, telling him it wasn’t there.




Then he’d have the Italian version of a bat-shit-crazy fit, then he’d take me to the very place I’d just two or three times gone to on my own, and right the fuck there it would be.

Then he’d say “you can’t see for looking.”

He’s been dead since 1993 and I still can’t see for looking.

Can't see for looking.
Can’t see for looking.

On Saturday morning, I woke up on fire, in a very very good way. It felt like the whole world was brand new and all mine.  I made my usual 6 shots of espresso, dumped them over ice and launched my day.

I had planned some super challenging creative work for myself and whenever I do that, I like to perform this silly little ritual that helps me feel like I’ve got a clean slate, a fresh start, nothing held over – I power down all my computers the night before, giving them – and symbolically me – a clean break by letting my little vintage single wide junkyard jewelbox unwind until we’re completely, electronically detached, until we reach complete pixel tranquility, until we come to a full stop.  I love when we do that.

So my first task on Saturday morning was to fire everything back up and when I did, for some reason, on launch, my fastest, main Mac didn’t recognize my trackpad.

Never fear, I restarted.  But still no trackpad.

I troubleshot my bluetooth settings and was able to successfully recognize the track pad, just not complete the connection to it.

I tested and replaced the batteries in the trackpad.

And then I restarted the computer again.

And then I changed my approach.

I have a trackball – remember those? – that I keep for just these types of situations and, praise the Gods, I’d used the trackball just last week, mere days ago.  All I had to do to begin was find the trackball.


Find the trackball.

Find the trackball.


But I couldn’t find the trackball.

I couldn’t find the trackball in any of the logical places where I keep things like that – tech and gadget storage boxes –  so I performed a military style “hard target search” (which is also a sort of the same house cleaning strategy used by the big national house cleaning/maid services) where I started up high at one end of the office and worked my way around, then moved down a swath and circled back around.

Over and over and over again until I was on the fucking floor like an infant just figuring out how to crawl, kneeling and reaching in and behind everything and I was down there so long, and on CONCRETE, that I aggravated my patellar tendonitis – thank you, fireworks behind my knee cap – and about 90 minutes in, I just gave up, sat at my desk, went through the start up process one more time, and when the computer launched perfectly – as it always does – I went through the bluetooth discovery process one more time, and this time I held down the “find me, you motherfucker” button on the trackpad extra hard and extra long, and this time, you motherfucker, it worked.

I didn’t need the trackball after all.

My day was still perfect, I roared through all manner of creative endeavor and I was super super happy even though I still had no idea where my trackball was.


Today, sitting at the very same desk, working in the very same set up, I look at my keyboard for what must be the bazillionth time, and what do I see?

The trackball.

Where is it?

Right in front of me.

Why couldn’t I find it Saturday?

Because I can’t see for looking.


PS I miss my Dad.


Can’t See For Looking

Brain Science & You & Me

What used to be my screened porch is now a real 4-season room, and I’ve moved my office and art studio into it, and my new “Sun Room” is so big that I was finally able to move my library out of storage and arrange it neatly at my fingertips.  Talk about luxury!

In going through one of my favorite books, containing all my treasured correspondence with my figure skaters, I found this.


Holly Larson Letter.Brain Science


Laura Harris’ mom told me to write to Laura and tell her this story, and to be sure to give her Holly’s info.  As soon as Laura Harris received this letter, she got in touch, and because she is such a “giver,” she gave Holly and her family the gift of a weekend at Campbell’s.

Holly recovered fully, although it took years.

I’m still in touch with Holly, her sister Hayley and her mother Doris, we were all Facebook friends right up until I left Facebook and now that I’m Facebook-free, they know right where to find me if they ever want to talk, Skype hang or visit.

Moral of the story: be guided by your genuine interest in others, ask a ton of questions, help everyone you can, any way you can, and the more you learn about how our brains work, the more powerful your help will be.  And don’t worry about typographical errors, unimportant things like that will never mess with your flow.

If you’d like to learn more about the research based on the effectiveness of living and working this way – of being a “smart giver” like me – read this:

Cover of Give and Take by Adam Grant



Have questions or need help?

I’m right here.

+1 206 963 0755

[email protected]

Brain Science & You & Me

What You’re Watching, What We’re Supporting

As fans of the NFL, we simply must come to terms with how, as fans, we’re part of creating an environment where, for our entertainment, this type of injury is common.

Thanks to a smart mouthguard, we were able to understand, for the first time, exactly what happens in the brain of a player who takes the kind of brain-rattling hit that happens every team, every game, almost on every play.

I still watch NFL but it’s becoming more and more ethically difficult to justify my continued viewing when the league is doing such a poor job in dealing with this problem.  Setting aside the bigger philosophical issues and focusing on what’s realistically possible, when a helmet-to-helmet hit happens, the offending player should be thrown out of the game and possibly suspended.  We have plenty of evidence that simply penalizing his team 15 yards is not enough to change behavior.

I couldn’t get the link/permalink to work so you’re going to have to copy and paste the permalink into your browser.





What You’re Watching, What We’re Supporting

Gone So Long

As I watched NFL playoff games yesterday, I was rooting for the underdog Dallas Cowboys. It was a thrilling game, one of the best in NFL history, and as I watched, matching my understanding of athletic performance with play by play analysis from the experts, I realized that one of the reasons I love watching football is because of I used to watch sports on television with my father and grandfather.

My dad died on a Tuesday in November of 1993 and we watched NFL football, specifically a Cowboys game, the Sunday before he died.  And the Sunday before that.

As a little girl, I remember sitting in my grandfather’s lap after my evening bath, with him drying my wet hair, while watching boxing.

The thing is, while watching the Cowboys game yesterday I realized I couldn’t remember if Daddy rooted for or against America’s Team.  He’s been gone so long that I can’t remember his Cowboy preference and I’m certain that I’ve lost track of countless other details that made Daddy Daddy.

But that doesn’t really matter.  All that DOES matter is a little bit of Daddy and Poppa are still mixed up inside my heart and in my head.

I think this is what smart people mean when they teach us that all that matter is love.


Gone So Long