Discussion #1761

MeJo Wiggin on Romana

25 min - Discussion


The first time MeJo Wiggin saw Romana Kryzanowska waltzing through the door at the Pilates studio where she trained, she knew she had to meet her. MeJo shares stories about the time when Good Morning America came to film at Drago's, and how she was invited to dinner at Romana's with the apprentices before she even thought about becoming a Pilates teacher. MeJo tells us how Romana was more than an inspiration to her, and how she had a way of making everyone feel special.
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Sep 01, 2014
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I'm major Wigan. Um, I live in Connecticut. I've been doing Pilati since 1990. I had a studio and in Greenwich, Connecticut for over 13 years. And um, I've been teaching now since 1995 and I still love it just as much as the day I started teaching. I was a dancer for a long time, but I knew it was something I did not want to do professionally. I moved to New York City to become a fashion designer and I was in college.

I was at fit. I stopped dancing and I started going to a gym and my body changed for the worst. I started becoming just bulky and stiff. And back then nobody really knew what [inaudible] was. I never heard of it. And there was a girl at the gym who just kept saying to me, you gotta try Palati you gotta do Palladio's and this girl, honestly, she was a little strange and, uh, I just didn't really think much of it. I didn't give it a second thought. And then I didn't see this girl at the gym.

I didn't see her for like two or three weeks. And she came back to the gym with a completely different body. And I just looked at her one day and I nearly died. I said, my God, what did you do? And she says, I did to lattes. She's like, I didn't lose any weight. I said, no, but you did something. I said, what'd you do? She goes, I did pull out these four times a week. And I said, okay, what, give me the phone of rolling. I gotta go, I gotta check this out. So it just so happened she gave me the phone number. She gave me the phone number for the, uh, the police studio up on the upper west side, Sean Gallagher Studio, that the Polonia Studio of New York. So I started, I immediately called them and I started studying. And I, at the time I didn't understand it at all because it was unlikely anything I'd ever done before. And, uh, that's, that's where I started.

I didn't understand it. I, um, I found it very, um, I felt very uncoordinated. I didn't understand how this was going to possibly change my body, but I just stuck with it because it felt, it just felt great. I walked out there and felt great every time and that's what kept me going. I remember hearing the teachers talk about Romana cause they all seem to have studied with Romana and I had no intention of becoming an instructor. I was just there to study and one day, it must've been on a Friday, I was, I was in college, it was in the middle of classes and w I was at the studio and in walked this, this older woman dressed all in white with a turban around her head and a large handbag. And I'll never forget, she came walking in the door, not just walking in the door but waltzing through the door, waltzing through the studio.

And then there was a buttress of Joe [inaudible] and she comes waltzing through the door. Woltz is to the Palladia, to the, to Joe's buttress, kisses him on the head and says, hi Uncle Joe. And continues waltzing through the studio. And I thought, oh my God, who is that lady? It was so funny. I just thought, who is that? Is that a student? Is that a client just turned out that was Ramana. They all kind of looked at me like that's Romana. And I was like, what? What? What a great, what a great energy. This woman, I'm like, I just want to meet her eye.

Like she just looked like so much fun and such a bundle of love. I was like, do you just look like so much fun? I wanted to say hello. So that was my first impression, my first meeting of Romana and, and as it turned out that, that that day when she was in the studio, she, I think she assumed I was in apprentice because while I was there at the studio, she just kind of looked at me. He's like, honey, are you coming for dinner tonight? I just think I was just speechless cause she was asking all the apprentices or were you coming for dinner tonight? Are you're coming for dinner? You're coming for dinner, right? Yeah, you're all coming for dinner tonight. And she invited me over for dinner that night.

So I ended up going over for dinner that night at her house with, with all the other teachers at the time and not had a ball that night. It was a great, was a great night. That night. That was my first time I met her again. I had no intention of becoming an instructor. I was there just to take lessons. And by this point I had graduated from college.

I was working in the fashion industry. I had a crazy hectic schedule. I would leave the fashion industry late at night, go to the Pilati Studio, get my second wind, and then go back to the office til, you know, one or two in the morning. It was a really hectic, hectic schedule. Um, and then in 2000, I'm sorry, in 1995 was when I decided the fashion industry was just not for me. So I decided I quit my job and I just took the summer off. And in 1995 I decided, all right, I'm taking the summer off. And I decided it was time to get myself in shape and just kinda figure it out.

I didn't know what I wanted to do. So I started spending a lot of time at the Palati studio and a lot more time with Romana and in that summer, my body had just completely changed. I was probably spending four and five hours a week at the studio and I'm at the end of that summer. I was really trying to just figure it out. I was looking at Chiropractic College, I was thinking of becoming a physical therapist. I was looking back at going back to school for massage therapy and I was really leaning towards going back to school for physical therapy.

And finally Romana asked me what I was planning on doing in the fall and I said to her, I was, I was really thinking of going on to become a physical therapist and Romana looked me dead in the eye and she said to me, she goes, honey, if you really know the Palazzos method, you are a physical therapist. And I just looked at her and I really didn't understand what she meant because here I was 2025 years old, I never had an injury. I never had to rehab my Bali body through the [inaudible] method. So it really, I really had no idea what she was talking about because I only knew Paul for me. So she said to me, I really think you should go on and become an instructor. You'd be fabulous. And I thought, well, I've got nothing else to do. You know, I thought, well, maybe I'll go on and I'll go through the training program and I'll teach on the weekends because this is another passion of mine. But I'll get another job.

I'll, I'll get a real job doing something else, you know, and I'll teach this on the weekends. And, uh, I decided, I went through the program and I, I started intensive program back in DC. I started, I was an apprentice as of like in that, that fall of 95 or something. And then once I started going through a training as an apprentice and I started working with her on her at her studio at Dragos Gym and seeing how you can apply the method to so many different populations, I was just completely blown away seeing people coming in, in back pain, people with leg braces, people with nerve damage. Then on the other spectrum you had professional athletes and it just blew my mind because I've never seen any of this before. And it just opened a whole new world to me and I just, I just couldn't get enough of it. So I was, I spent quite a bit of time there studying and just kept taking in more and more and more. And she really, you know, fortunately took me under her wing and I was able to really just spend quite a bit of time with her as an apprentice until finally she said, okay, it's really time to start teaching now. And I started, um, apprentice teaching next to her, uh, back in 1995 and 96 until I finally got certified in 96 and started teaching Dragos was magic.

Dragos was such a fabulous place to be back then. Um, just walking in the door, it just was such an incredible place. You never know. You never knew who was going to be in the studio that day, whether it was just a news reporter, a news team, um, a professional ballet dancer, a comedian, somebody literally coming right out of back surgery, uh, Romana and Drago together, having a bald swinging from the rings. It was just, it was just magic every single day. Um, there was just a great synergy between Romana and Drago Romana and Shari, Ramana and the apprentices, Ramana and her students. It was really a fabulous time. And again, all of the apprentices that were there were already people that had been studying the method for a long time. It was already in their body. So she called you up to say, honey, I need you to get up here and do something.

It was already in your body. You could do just about anything. So if there was a news team coming in and six o'clock in the morning, Ramani used to start at 6:00 AM by the way, if by six oh five, if you were up doing back flips and splits, your body was ready for it. It was, it was really incredible. Um, one of my favorite memories at Druggos gym was there was a, there was a news team coming in, I think it was good morning America was coming in and Ramana called me the night before, it was in the middle of winter and she called me and said, mutual, can you make it to the studio tomorrow morning? I could, I could use there around six 30 we've got good morning America coming in. I'm like, of course I'll, I'll be there. You got it. So I got in, it was like a Wednesday morning. It was snowing outside and sure enough, I come in and there's, Peter was there and Kathy was there and Moses was in from California. Jerome was there and she was so hat, Vermont is all in white. She had her turbine on and Drago was there and the champagne was flowing and literally by six 15 Ramana was like, everybody just get busy, just get busy. So me and Cathy are on the chair doing, doing something crazy.

Peter's on the reformer. Moses is on the guillotine hanging by his feet. Jerome is doing splits on the guilty doing splits on the Cadillac. It was just a complete circus. So Cathy and I are on the one to chairs by the entrance. Okay. And in walks the camera crew, there must've been about six guys with these cameras on their shoulders walking in and they walk off the elevator and they look at each other and they're just like literally in awe. Like, oh my God, we're like, where the hell are we?

Like they'd look nudging each other like, come on kid, get your bag, come on, get the cameras quick. And they're like, they just couldn't believe what they were saying. Like, did you get that gun? Look over there. And then of course there's Romana swinging from the rings with Drago pushing her and she's going up in the air and her legs in the air. It was absolutely hysterical. And finally they're like, they're catching all this and then Romana sees that they're here. So Drago stops are in midair.

Ramana gets off the rings and quickly grabs a glass of champagne and says, welcome to the phone. Would you like some champagne? It was, it was just, it was just, that was typical. It was hysterical. It was absolutely hysterical. And it was just like such a welcoming morning. The snow storm, everybody having fun, sweating bullets, six o'clock in the morning. So much fun. I was very fortunate. I had regular workouts with Romana. I had a standing appointment with Romana, so I saw her every Tuesday morning, sometimes twice a week. Plus I would go for her continuing eds. So when I worked out with Romana, sometimes I would see other people coming in from out of town where she would only maybe pick on one thing cause you wanted them to get through, let's say a a real, a reformer workout.

She would want them to get through and watch them, and then at the end give them a couple tidbits for them to work on. But I noticed as I first started working with Romana, she wasn't as picky with me. She was very complimentary. Okay. Meanwhile, I knew I wasn't that really good. I, I knew I was really not that great. I really felt klutzy other people were a lot better than I was. Um, but then as I was becoming a teacher, as she, she wanted me to become one of her apprentices. She would stop me and say, and to stop and explain things to me or stop me while she was teaching someone else and say, honey, you see that woman over there? She's got a hip replacement notice. We don't do this with her. And I'd be like, oh, okay, what did whatever, why is she telling me this?

I didn't understand why. Um, but she was preparing me for cause some day I'm going to need to know this. Um, but my personal workouts with her were really intense. Um, she was really, it almost felt like a flow. Like my dance partner was Romana. There was a synergy between the two of us. Um, there was a constant dynamic, so I was constantly moving and she would sometimes come in and chime in where she knew I might need a spot and then walk away and I would continue the flow and then she would come back in and just maybe she knew I would need a little extra oomph. So she'd be like, inhale or give me a little go or, uh, or something in her voice would help me to just get through it or just hold my foot or something to help me get through it. A lot of times people say, Ramana did not talk about the breath, not at all. As I became more proficient and I became stronger in the methods, sometimes Romana would coach me and teach me only with the breath.

In fact, it became more of like a dance with the breath. She would say to me in the air with, in, with the air up, exhale, the air reach, it became, the whole session became about the breath. So she was coaching me how to breathe. While I was moving so that the breath became the rhythm while I was going. Usually we started on the reformer and we would do the full advanced reformer.

Other times we would say, hey, let's do something different today. Let's start on the mat, or varying. Let's start on the chair. Let's start on the Cadillac. Um, but usually we would take the full reformer. Um, usually also if there was anybody coming in from out of town, a lot of times dortay if ever she came in from out of town and say, yeah, let's join in wanting to of course join in my good friend Harry Hahn. Lot of times we would do a duet.

But I saw so much of her that I really was open to anything. So if anybody came in from anywhere, she knew she could put him with me and I, I'm open. But, and I always love to do a duet because a lot of times when I would do a duet, I already knew the corrections for my body. It was always interesting to hear the person next to me, what kind of corrections she would give that person. Like lift your neck, I'd be like, lift your neck. What an interesting. Who was the lift their neck really, it was an interesting correction to hear. Um, and also to hear somebody else's rhythm. So, um, no, I was really very fortunate.

I was able to study with Ramona as long as I did right up until she, she pretty much moved to Texas in 2004 back in 2000 I was in a car accident. I was hit from behind in a snow storm and I was a healthy, strong advanced student and all of a sudden I walked into that studio in a neck brace the following week and I could barely turn my head and I wanted to be able to do my exercise and do something. My, the rest of my body was healthy. But sure enough I could barely move my neck. So Romana said, okay, we need to start strengthening your upper back and get your arms moving and get your range of motion back. So she took me on the baby arm chair and I'm, it's funny, prior to the bitch to me having that, that whiplash, I never was on that baby arm chair, that little baby arm chair sat in the side of her studio and there were three little exercises reached on that thing and it was just the little baby arm chair that we used for the old ladies. And once I had that whiplash, I learned a whole new repertoire of exercises that I started doing on that arm chair to help rehabilitate my neck and my upper back. And, and I started using that arm chair all the time. And to this day I, I started teaching them for people who need it. And um, yeah, that was one of the things she started giving me without Romana there would be not, there would not be much lineage directly to Joe [inaudible] he's teaching. I think Ramana has been very adamant and how Polonius is being taught.

It's being taught. She's very adamant about PyLadies is being taught a very specific way and she gets v she used to get very upset when she would see PyLadies being watered down or taught, taught differently from working with Hermana. That's all I've ever seen. Okay. So I never really understood that until now that I go out and I see other forms of, of teachings and I see other exercises being done on Palladio's apparatus and I'm thinking, hmm, okay. Is that something Joe would teach? I don't know.

You start to question that and some things I downright question again, some of the principals that Joe flat out, you know, believed in his method that I started to question. So as far as Romana, I feel Ramana tried to keep some kind of continuity in Joe's teaching to keep it, to keep it going without Romana. I don't know if we'd still see Pele's. I think it'd be all watered down and anybody could call whatever they want Palazzos and it'd be, it'd be, it'd be all over the place. I don't, I think there'd be, you know, or there already is a lot of different kinds of holidays out there. But um, yeah, there certainly wouldn't be any classical bodies. I don't, I don't think it'd be even more so it'd be all over the place when you see something, whatever it might be. When you see something that is so perfect, why would you want to change it? It would make you mad. That's what she's doing so well in her eyes.

Something that is meant to be a specific way is so perfect. When it's changed, she would get mad. So I think that's where that was coming from. Don't change it. Don't ask why, just don't change it. You know? I think maybe that was it. Don't ask me why. Just don't change it because it's not done that way. It's just not done that way. And um, she couldn't sometimes explain why it just wasn't done that way.

And sometimes it's funny cause I'll ask j Grimes the same question. Jay, what about this? Was it done this way? No. Like, okay. No, don't, one of her greatest gifts, she had a gift. She had the ability to just always make you feel like the most, she, a way of making you feel so special. And I remember going to one of her Christmas parties, it must've been around maybe 1995, maybe 1996. And um, I went, it was at her house, at her apartment and her apartment was up.

She had like the seventh floor walk up on the upper west side. And, um, I'll never forget walking into her house. I rang the doorbell and she opens the door and it was as if she had been waiting for me all night and she opens the door, this grand entrance, and she takes me by the hand and was like, may I please introduce to you? And the whole room went silent and she takes him by hand. She walks me and she was ladies and gentlemen, Princess of Monaco, miss me, Jo. And then applause starts. Well, let me, after that, when you get introduced like that, let me tell you, you can't have a bad night, right? I just nearly died. I couldn't, everybody's applauding.

And it was just incredible. But not only was I introduced like that, everybody that walked in the door had some kind of a grand entrance that night. It was, it was incredible. I get chills. I get such chills when I think of it. So everybody came in. So after me comes, Bob Lukens walks in, knock on the door. All of a sudden, you know, somebody playing the it. Paul was on the piano and there was a violin going and the music stops and it was quiet and all of a sudden she had knocked on the door and she'd come. And Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention please.

We have the Duke, may I have an applause please. We have the Duke Bob Kids and in walks Bob and another big huge applause for Bob Lukens and she turns him around and gives him the, I mean it was just, she had such a wild imagination and the champagne is flowing and the dance is going. And there was another girl who was dancing with Alvin Ailey and she introduces her as like the star, the one and only the star of the show this evening of Alvin Ailey. It was just really incredible. She just had such a way about her that just, you felt like you were just the most special person every single time. I remember Ramana was teaching a workshop, she was at um, Carol Dodge Baker's studio in, in Catona and there was a big group of teachers and there were some students there and she was doing a mat workout and she was going through the whole stomach series of five and she would always come over and try to get you to work harder. And she was like, come on, pull that knee all the way into your chest, pull it in, pull it in.

And she was holding this person and really getting to pull it in there, like just dripping and she held them in and she's like, get your money's worth. And she was saying to them, squeeze the juice out of it. Get your money's worth. It was hilarious. Ever since then. I've always said to my clients, get your money's worth. I love that quote of hers. When you say, how is somebody who inspired you? You spend a day with somebody and get one thing out of somebody and say, that's person's inspired you.

Ramana was more than just an inspiration to me. Ramana to me has probably, in fact, she has been the single most influential person in my entire life. I've spent a lot, a lot of time with Romana. Romana taught me so much more than the pilates method. Romana taught me so much more than how to teach the [inaudible] method.

Ramana taught me how to live a peaceful life. Ramana taught me how to treat others. She truly gave me something so valuable that goes far beyond the [inaudible] method. It's something that is so intangible, yet I use it every single day and I just hope that it's something that I can pass on to my students. I I, I can't explain it. It's something that you don't just get from one day being with somebody. It's something that came over the many years and many moments that I've spent with Romana. The tears, that laughter, the pain, the, the sweat, the hundred, the, the rolling like a ball, the, the teasers, the traveling, the dinners, the, the dancing in her apartment, the, the everything we spent.

We've had wonderful, wonderful moments together. We spent so much time together. We had a great, great life together and so many fabulous memories together. And I'm so grateful for all of that time that I was able to spend with her. And the last question and for motto, we're sitting next to you right now. What would your conversation be? Oh, I'd have to thank her.

I'd have to thank her so much for all she's given me. I miss her. I think of her, I think of Vermont every single day and how, how grateful I am and how much I love her and how grateful I am for all she's given to me.


Lovely interview. Thank you Mejo for sharing your experiences Romana and Drago's, as well as your candid insight into the development of your teaching career and passion for Pilates. You embrace her sprit, and bring to light the legend many of us have heard about, including the Champagne!
Do you know if the GMA footage still exists?
1 person likes this.
Thank you for sharing your time with Romana. It is only through people like yourself sharing such information that we would ever know such things.
Wonderful and thank you Mejo Wiggin.
I am so grateful for you Mejo Wiggin! Thank you for this detailed, fun and enthusiastic account of your experience with Romana. You are definitely passing on her "intangible" legacy with your teaching. I can't wait to share your classes here on PA. Soon!
1 person likes this.
Thank you Mejo, just with this interview you are passing down what she has taught you. I enjoy your video you have such an energy.. Looking forward to more of your videos. Hope we get ro meet. Big hug.
1 person likes this.
What an incredibly moving interview. Thank you so much MeJo.
Reiner G
1 person likes this.
Thank you so much for sharing your memories of Romana. For those of us who had not the opportunity to meet her, it is so helpful to get more context to the method. Thank you!!!
I'm so in love with your enthusiasm! Thank you so much for sharing all these memories MeJo!
Thank you for your heartwarming interview about an amazing spirit. Thank you for keeping the classical pilates method alive and for staying true to the method. As someone who would love to learn the full classical method, it is hard to access classical comprehensive training programmes in the UK, I value all that you share on resources like PA. Thank you
Thanks Wendy!! She really was an exceptional person. If we could only be a little more like Romana, this would would be such a joyous, loving place!
Thank you Mejo for this video. I'd love having met her, and I'd love to be your student right away. I met you in Madrid in Gabriella Sollini studio some years ago, but she didn't let me take a class with you because I was the recepcionist. I'm a Romana's Pilates student now with Javier Pérez Pont. Thanks again!!!
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