Growing up I was often away from home: training in the gym or traveling for competition or shows. Beside my parents and close family guiding me, I always had a Role Model: a person to admire, look at and learn from. Since I was about 10 years old I started being away from my parents for extended periods of time and, when I was home, every day I was spending about 4 hours at the gym, the rest in school. My coach, Antonella, was so much more than just a trainer. She taught me gymnastics, practical stuff and life. One decade later was Giulia, my choreographer, having my eyes on everything she was doing, thinking and creating.
If we jump to the next decade and my Pilates career, one person I look at with admiration is Kathi Ross Nash. I consider Kathi somebody to admire at for three main reasons:
I did Pilates for at least a year and a half before I met and started working with Kathi. I learned a lot in that time but it was only when I started working with her that my body really started changing. As both a teacher and a practitioner I started appreciating the possibilities and potentialities of this amazing method. She hooked me, and many other students, to this discipline, showing how simple (logical) this method is if you understand the “thread”.
I met Kathi before her book signing at Pilates Challenge on October 11th and interviewed her on the “The Red Thread of Pilates” and her last book on the Mat. The questions were so many that this long interview will be divided into 2 parts.
1 – Q: When did you decide to do this book?
A: Around five years ago I settled on the concept, but my original thought and work began around ten years ago..
2 – Q: There are many ways nowadays to instruct or to hand down material… Videos on many forms, apps… Why did you choose the book?
A: A book is an easy reference to have on hand for a Teacher. With modern technology, it takes more time to find exactly what you are looking for. There are distractions involved when using videos. With a book the reader focuses on what I find to be the most important and clear visual part of the exercise. The other part, a huge part, is our own imagination. This is such an important part that Romana included it as one of the five parts of the mind needed to become a true Teacher. A book allows the individual to read the words and see it in his or her mind.
3 – Q: How long did it take to write the book?
A: 5 years
4 – Q: Kathi, let’s start explaining this title and subtitle. Why red?
A: “The Red Thread” is what I envisioned when putting together Joe Pilates’ emphasis on the circulation (red) blood and the connection of all the inherent movements of his work. In his book “Return To Life”, Joe titled a section “Bodily house cleaning with blood circulation”. In it he explained how his exercises pumped fresh blood to every single muscle fiber. He noted that his work, done exactly as he prescribed, forces out the debris (toxins) that accumulate in the body, giving the equivalent of an “internal shower”. We know from biology that increased blood flow brings oxygen to stagnated and underused body parts. It wakes up dormant areas. Robust circulation cleans and rejuvenates. It rids us of fatigue and aids in rehabilitations.
5 – Q: I love how the quotes, they give light to a very technical book. It’s like being in the studio with you. How did you have this idea?
A: I remember a while ago, after the Romana’s Pilates videos came out, I was teaching a workshop and a student came up to me and said they were shocked at how funny I was because of how serious I was in the DVD’s. Well, in the DVD’s I was Romana’s body, I was executing the work, and not showing my real personality. But I realized how important it was for people to see the personality of the Teacher. There are so many great Teachers that we choose one who teaches as we wish to learn. Well, I like to have fun! And Pilates should be fun, otherwise why bother doing it!!!!
6 – Q: This is a very unique and different approach for a Pilates book. It can be client friendly but it’s more addressed to teachers and instructors. I referred to your book as “the pilates bible”. Why this choice?
A: There are so many wonderful Pilates books available. Why would there be a need for another, unless it truly addressed a need. When I began teaching the Red Thread ( one of the first at True Pilates NYC) years ago, I realized I was able to verbalize and communicate not just the exercises, but the method. When Jay saw me teach it at the Chicago Classical Conference he told me that I had just verbalized what he has been teaching for 30 years. I saw this was a missing piece and I did not want that important piece- the Method of the Method, to be lost.
7 – Q: You refer multiple times in the intro of the book that “everything you need to know in Pilates” you learned it in the first day. What did you do that first day? What do you remember more clearly?
A: Well, my first day was wild and yes I do remember it. I did a fairly advanced Reformer, Mat ( a ton of side kicks) and on the Caddy I did long spinal massage with all the legs springs, high chair and the wall. My lesson was about control as I was so flexible.
8 – Q: I want you to tell people that still haven’t bought the book about certain very exclusive and important aspects of this manual. I would personally advise people to stay for about a week on the intro that explains how to use this manual (book). Read that part, reread, learn the approach. and then jump into the exercises. thoughts?
A: Agreed! That intro is the most important element. It explains how to use the book! There are sooo many facets! if you don’t study the intro, it would be like being presented a 12 course meal and only eating one!!!!
9 – Q: Let’s go over one by one, how to use certain tools of the manual. I want to focus on the thread and add on because I think that if people don’t pay attention to the instructions on how to use them they can miss out a lot!
Thread and Add on. Give us examples about the two.
A: The Thread refers to the Spinal functions. The “Thread” is what to add to challenge what is strong and to build a stronger workout. For example, if you can easily achieve The Roll Up, but lack the ability to Roll Like a Ball, you would add the Add Next Level of Articulation challenge, The Neck Pull, and use the apparatus to work on what weakness is causing the issue in Rolling like a Ball.
Each exercise is listed as a Spinal Stabilization Exercise (S), a Spinal Articulation Exercise (A), a Rolling Exercise (R) Rolling In Extension (RE) or Rolling in Flexion (RF), Extension Exercise (E) that is always combined with another spinal function, or a Spinal Rotation/ Twisting Exercise (T). These spinal categorizations are there to aid you in building a safe, effective and challenging workout. For example, if someone can’t Articulate through their spine or Twist due to an injury, but can keep their spine stable, then the list of Stabilization exercises is utilized to build their Mat.
Add on : Each exercise has a number, which indicates what exercises to Add Next to create a balanced workout. These numbers are only suggestions, that logically develop the work utilizing the spinal functions and build according to difficulty.
On High Scissor, Student A is unable to maintain the Stability of the Spine. Do not add beyond Side Kick Series Big Scissors, which is the same exercise with side body support. Look at why the Student can’t stabilize in the High Scissor. If it is lack of hip opening, use the Leg Series on the Spine Corrector. If it is lack of strength, use the Table on the Wunda, etc.
Use the Thread to build a personalized workout. Remember we train the entire Student, not just where they are weak. A workout should challenge what is strong and strengthen what is weak. The Thread can help you achieve this. Look at exercises and see the connection and build with exercises.
Let us know how you are using the book if you already purchased it. Stay tuned for the second part of the interview.