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Pilates on Call with Siri Dharma Galliano


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New Column! During February, Pilates-Pro.com is hosting an open Q&A with Siri Dharma Galliano. Siri will be “on call” all month to answer your questions about teaching Pilates and running a business. If you have a question for Siri, please leave it for her in the comments section of this post and she’ll answer soon.


Siri has started things off by answering a few questions sent to her lately by studio owners. After the jump, you can read her responses to whether to buy new or used equipment and how to discourage clients from wanting to wear shoes in the studio.

Siri Dharma Galliano of Live Arts Pilates Studio in West Los AngelesAbout Siri: A protégé of Romana Kryzanowska, Siri Dharma Galliano is also certified in Kundalini yoga and the owner of Live Art Pilates Studio in West Los Angeles. She has sold over $1 million in Pilates equipment and has set up studios all over the United States, Europe, Australia and Russia. She travels to studios as a consultant, has been used as an equipment expert in liability court cases, is a trainer of teachers in the Traditional Method, and is producing the Second Big Bear Pilates Intensive, August 21-23, 2009, in California.

Dear Siri,
I am making up a budget for my studio and I’m unsure whether to buy new or used equipment and don’t know what is a fair price or what to look out for. Can you advise me?

Dear Debbie,
Think of buying equipment like buying a car. You can get a used one that has wear and tear on the interior and body, but is mechanically sound, or you can get a car with a perfect body but it needs mechanical work. A Reformer or Cadillac you can get reupholstered from $100 to $250, depending if you do it yourself, or you can take it to a car upholstery place. You can buy the vinyl from the manufacturer or cheaper from a vinyl store. The springs, straps and bolts can all be replaced. The wooden Reformers get damaged in time, but the dents and scrapes can be sanded out and the wood grime scrubbed off.

In Los Angeles, where the home client has been popular since the 1980s, we find used equipment all the time, but that’s not as common in other cities. However if you check Craigslist, PilatesConnections or thepilatesguy.com there are often used pieces available. I see equipment from Balanced Body, Stott and Peak often for sale, less often for Gratz. But most studios can’t ship it; they don’t have the packing material or know-how. If they do and it gets damaged, you are not likely to recoup your loses, whereas if you buy new from the factories, they will file the claim for you.

Buying new has other advantages. First of all, you get exactly what you want and the size, features and manufacturer you are used to. Also, you get the warranty that comes with the equipment should a wheel go bad or a spring or strap be defective. You also can take a 100-percent tax deduction and depreciation, which you cannot do on used equipment.

I started my career in 1987 with a used Reformer, and I believe that is an option for some people if you can find it. It’s one thing if it is just for you, but if you plan to hire other teachers, some are attached to how they learned; a West Coast person gets confused by four springs and leather straps and a Romana-certified teacher will rarely know or care how to adapt to multicolored springs and adjustable ropes. So, you also have to consider your staff.

Good luck,

Dear Siri,
Our club has been offering Pilates for several years, but recently we have encountered a growing problem. It seems that more and more of our members are insisting they must wear shoes when using the equipment because of every imaginable foot problem. We have taken a hard line on this by not making any exceptions because as we continue to enroll new members, the problem would only continue to grow. We have allowed the use of socks, Pilates socks and a ballet-like slipper. However we are now being threatened with civil rights action and law suits because we will not allow these people to wear shoes.

What is your position on this, and what exceptions, if any, do you make in these situations?


Dear Jim,
First of all, it’s an education issue. As gym members are used to wearing shoes from being on treadmills and around heavy weights that might fall on their toes, they don’t know the difference.

If you tell your clients that most people wear very expensive athletic shoes but the foot bar on the Reformer has been designed to strengthen the arches, toes, heels and balls of the feet, and that you can’t see their toe position in shoes, they may understand. Romana always says the footwork stimulates the point in the feet like reflexology, and you can’t get a foot massage with shoes on! Also mention shoes are not worn in yoga class.

If you have an intake form or policy statement, your policy on shoes could be include a section on proper attire. For example, it is better to not wear sweatshirts as the teachers would like to see as much of the body as possible. Give them a reason, rather than a rule.

If it is a fear issue, from germs and fungus that are rampant in gyms, having your clients spray tea-tree oil on equipment after each use makes them know the equipment is always cleaned.

Socks can be cleaner than bare feet and are required by law in some states such as New York, but they can be slippery; so selling sock with grippy soles, like ToeSox, in the club store is a good idea.

Shoes are allowed on the other apparatus besides the Reformer, such as the Electric Chair and Ladder Barrel, so sometimes I let them start on other equipment and then ask them to take their shoes off for the Reformer.

Shoes are necessary on the Reformer if any one has a neurological problem like neuropathy where they can’t feel their feet, or cerebal palsey or paralysis. Then, we hold their feet.

Use humor, common sense and a written orientation to get your point across. Good luck!


Please leave your questions for Siri below. She’s promised to answer quickly! We’ll be inviting more Pilates experts to be “on call” in the future. Let us know who you’d like to hear from by emailing editor@pilates-pro.com.


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Reader Comments (60)

I'm a apprentice with www.romanaspilates.com
Using Gratz equipment in the studio I train in I do the maintenance on the reformers. I would like to know what schedule you recommend for servicing. Any information you could provide would be very much appreciated.
Thank You

February 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJim

Siri's answer:

Dear Jim,
Some studios are at 300 classes a week, some at a hundred, others at thirty. Usage determines maintenance, of course, and each manufacturer’s product has different protocols.

Romana trains her clients and teachers to clean the upholstery after each use. We usually recommend diluted tea-tree oil.

The rails on the aluminum should not be sprayed with anything, but cleaned With a damp rag. Sometimes on the Gratz you have to use a scrub sponge and some elbow (connected to your powerhouse, of course) and that could be as often as every week. Of course, die-hard New Yorkers like that build up of extra grease because it makes the bunda work harder (whereas other groups
Like a frictionless rail.)

The main wearing points on the Gratz are:
1. The wooden handles, which can be cleaned with a Murphy’s Oil every 2-3 months. When your straps start to look old you can rub some Lexol on them like the equestrians do, remember Joe got a lot of his leather from the old horse stables.
2. And, most important if you have over 50 classes a week, is to check the length of the straps, just eyeball them against the shoulder rests or measure if you need to. To adjust for stretch, just adjust the screw where they attach to the carriage.

Last year I found some aluminum spray cleaner I like to use to keep it shiny from finger smudges, it’s like cleaning my kitchen appliances. I love it!
Thank you for your question,

p.s. Although other manufacturers use silicone spray on the wheels when they squeak, on the Gratz wheels we use Lithium grease.

The leather straps on the eighty inch reformers should measure 69 3/4 inches.

February 3, 2009 | Registered CommenterPilates-Pro

This question came in via email:

Dear Siri,

Can you give me advice on how to deal with clients who want to be “beaten up”? I sometimes get clients coming from a fitness background (these tend to be women, but can also be men) who don’t quite understand the depth of Pilates and the fact that they have to learn the fundamentals first to build a good foundation. They seem disappointed that their first sessions don’t feel like a boot camp class. I know how to teach them this over the long haul, but what is the best way to handle these clients initially. I have even lost one or two from the beginning because they are afraid I will not work them hard enough.


February 3, 2009 | Registered CommenterPilates-Pro

In your opinion, what is the best way to cue engagement of the pelvic floor in your male clients?

February 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMary

Dear Victoria,

When I started working with horses, my approach to people changed too. Some people are like racehorses and need to be exhausted a little bit first to get their attention and respect.If you have the full system, it's easier. Someone like Madonna, I will start on the Electric Chair first, which are the heaviest springs in the studio, do the whole chair, then take them to the Cadillac and do all the double legs with heavy springs followed by the single legs followed by the arm springs. This doesn't work if you have light leg springs. Then some series of five with the Magic Circle. Now you've worked them and gotten their attention, take them to the Reformer for their basics and tell them you want to check their alignment and discover things about them, we all like someone to correct us. Romana will say to do pull-ups on the Wunda Chair on one spring, demonstrate it first. They wont be able to do it and again, you'll get their respect.Finish with Pull-ups and Reverse Pull-ups on the Cadillac, that'll make them sore and they wont think Pilates is for the injured and weak. We are in the service business and if someone asks a masseuse for deep tissue and she does lymphatic that client wont return. Think of Martial Arts,
someone comes to a class wanting to learn how to beat someone up, but it's really all about self-mastery and Englightenment. But, they dont know that, so you have to trick them!

February 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSiri Dharma Galliano

Dear Mary,
You dont cue pelvic floor of a male client, or any other client.

February 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSiri Dharma Galliano

I run into issues with my tall friends on standard sized reformers. I'd love to hear ideas on accomodating tall clients (6'+) on 'regular' sized equipment. thank you!

February 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChristine Binnendyk

If you wanted to cue pelvic floor....I've had male Pilates trainers advise the 'male' cue: remember what happens when you run into the cold ocean. Recreate this.

(no, this isn't classical Pilates, but it works)

February 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChristine Binnendyk

Dear Christine,
Joe designed the Reformer at 80 inches.
I've seen Jay Grimes work out men 6'4" on it,
Romana made the Reformer 86 inches when she
designed the Jumpboard.
The only exercises where height is prohibitive
is on the Front Splits or LongStretch.
The carriage is designed to be moved away from the frame by moving the spring bar closer to the carriage and putting in a wooden block. This is on the Gratz, Other
companies have designed their own carriage movers. This position
allows more flexion in the knees. Now, people are bigger now than they were in the 1930's, but Joe worked out Ted Shawn on the 80 inch and he was quite tall. But, that said,I do mat with my tallest men and Cadillac more. The rest of the country adapts the equipment, the New York point of view is not to change the equipment or it won't be Joe's work.It is HARDER for the person to work on smaller equipment, which could be a positive or negative point of view.In New York, it's more advanced.
Bottom line, move the carriage for footwork,shortbox, and stomach massage at the least. When you know the complete system,
you would do Standing Arm Springs, just choosing other exercises.

February 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSiri Dharma Galliano

Dear Mary Again,
I dont really want to think of men's bits or women's bits, and I dont want to mention them or call attention to it, other than "Adjust your jewels" (VERY Romana) on the footwork.
I asked Jay Grimes and he never heard of the pelvic floor until three years ago. People are trying to bring in P.T., Feldenkrais, yoga,ballet, rebirthing, everything into the work, but these fusions and infusions are not
very classical. The New York cues are the rules of the bones. "Feel your shoulder blades down, the ribs down, the pubic bone and tailbone down, pull your stomach in and up, squeeze your bottom and MOVE!

February 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSiri Dharma Galliano

[submitted via email]

Dear Siri,

I have knock knees and when I bring my legs together in parallel my knees touch, but of course my feet don't.  Even when I am in turn out, it still is uncomfortable having my legs and feet together.  I do put a ball between my ankles for some of the exercises, but are there any other things that I could do to help with this problem.  Any suggestions would be appreciated.


Dear G-
You should never do anything uncomfortable. We do change the regular positions when there is a condition. Working parallel with the feet underneath the hips is a better idea; it’s better to work from the powerhouse down then from the feet up, so don’t worry about turning out with the heels together, you can't. You can turn out with the feet apart though. Go back to what the purpose of the exercise is, to correct, not to achieve perfection, and work on one leg at a time, focusing on the inner thigh muscles, tracking the knee, squeezing the glute. Props are fine, but I like to feel the VMO muscle to see if the person is contracting or not.


February 3, 2009 | Registered CommenterPilates-Pro

Hello, I am looking for articles or books or assistance on working with Scoliosis and Pilates. Thank you so much. 


Dear Sally,
The best class I ever took was from Jillian Hessel, who has a scoliosis and was trained by Corolla Trier, a now deceased first-generation teacher. Every scoliosis is different, and practical live classes are better than a book. A basic rule of  thumb is that you can't straighten out a back; don’t try. You can make them sick because their organs are set in a certain place. But you can stretch the tighter side more and strengthen the weaker side more. The more of a complete system you have--for instance the classic armchair supports the back while you work the arms--the better choices you can make.

[editor's note] Pilates-Pro.com will be adding more in-depth information on scoliosis to the site in time. You may also want to check out the resources offered by Pilates Therapeutics.

February 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmy Leibrock/Editor

thank you for all of your insights! I too studied with Romana, and when I veer into making things too complicated, I remember what she told me what most important: MOVE!

Did Romana create the jumpboard? I've wondered if that was Joe's design or it was added by someone later on. A question my students ask often: what does swakatee mean? where did that name come from?

February 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChristine Binnendyk


I am looking for an article that appeared in the New York World Telegram and Sun Times back in the late fifties. It was about Joe's work, basing his method on the movements of the baby and the cat. It was the article that caught the eye of Mary Bowen and inspired her to want to learn more about this man.

I have spent hours in the New York Public Library pouring over microfilm with no luck in finding it.

Mary doesn't remember the exact date, just the publication it appeared in and that there was a photo.

Do you have any information or a copy of this article in the archives.

February 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterStacey Redfield- Dreisbach

Dear Christine-

Yes, Romana created the jumpboard.
She said NASA came to her looking for exercises
for the astronauts to do in space. Now, of course, the dancers love it, and those of us who weren't dancers love it. It is rather ridiculous, though, to see people make up hour classes on the jumpboard.
Jay Grimes says he's always heard the term
'swakate.' Vaguely I want to say Romana called it that when she came back from Peru,so I have some calls out to her Spanish students to know if it is Spanish, although it does not come up on Google. It almost sounds like 'swastika' so maybe it has a German origin. Then, there's 'Oompa.'
Remember the flow, 'Oompa, Swakita, Oompa, Swakita.' I think Oompa either came from the circus. or is supposed to be like a trombone!"

February 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSiri Dharma Galliano

Dear Christine-
Regarding "Swakate"
I checked with Senior Instructors Kathi Ross-Nash and she said the word was Indian but didn't know if it was Indian from Peru(my vague
thought) or otherwise, and Mejo Wiggin, who,
having been married to an Indian from India,
recalled him having a conversation with Romana about it being an Indian from India word! How about that! Thanks for asking, you're making me stretch!

February 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSiri Dharma Galliano

Dear Stacey-
There was an article in Sports Illustrated
by Robert Wernick, February 12, 1962, called,
"To Keep in Shape, Act Like an Animal." Don't know if that is what you are looking for. Last month Romana talked about an article about animals and I'm trying to tract that one down for you.Have other quotes from Joe talking about how a mother animal takes care of her young and makes them stronger if they are weak. People love to talk about how he watched the cats and dogs in the internment camp, news for you, they ATE the cats and dogs and birds! Glad to hear that someone besides me is at the New York Library;life changing, isn't it?

February 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSiri Dharma Galliano

Dear Stacey,
If you google the title, you can download this
article, which, turns out, was the one read at
Romana's seminar last month. My favorite part:
"The only animal that doesnt hold its stomach in is the pig, look at them on the sidewalk now, like pigs!"
The closer you get to the Master's words, and away from the feminine-floating thing that Pilates has become, the stronger your teaching and understanding will be.

February 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSiri Dharma Galliano

"The only animal that doesnt hold its stomach in is the pig, look at them on the sidewalk now, like pigs!"

It's hardly relevant to compare quadripeds with bipeds! Do we really think making comparisons between animals that walk on all four with their torso in the horizontal plane translates to humans walking upright with the abdominal contents resting in the endopelvic cavity, etc.... ? That's stretching things to make a theory fit.

February 6, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjustwondering

Just having fun quoting Joe.
There is one "first generation teacher" who
bases hours of movement on the animals and
attributes it to Pilates. Hundreds of webpages are saying JP built his body watching animals in the forest. I live in the mountains and watch the animals, it hasnt changed my bottom.
But, to hear Joe speak is to catch a glimpse into his character. It's not my theory, and hard to challenge him since he's in an urn somewhere. Anybody have an idea where?

February 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSiri Dharma Galliano

Siri, thank you for your insightful and often humerous answers. I love the answer to Amy and Victoria about tricking clients to get their attention. I was in a Pilates studio located in a gym and saw an instructor teach flying leg springs to a beginner client, who was complaining that it hurt her back, the instructor just kept saying "work harder", I wanted to intervene but it wasn't my place, what would you have done?

February 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLA

I have also seen new teachers give advanced exercises to people because of their insecurity, thinking,'if I give them the hard ones they will really think I'm a good trainer.' I have been in England and had a teacher next to me give the short box series without the feet in the strap to a beginner, telling them it was more advanced to not be hooked in! Studio politics are tough. If you are the owner or manager, you have the right to interfere in that person's hour and politely say, "I think you should try it like this for that person." When you see a dangerous situation, someone gets or is about to get hurt, and you are just another instructor, you're in tricky waters.
Recently when guest teaching in New York City
a newer teacher was giving the Super Advanced Headstands and Reverse HEadstands to
a DUET next to me, not even spotting them.
I went to the studio owner and told her she might want to check the ego of that teacher because of the liability factor. There have been many lawsuits lately, many, and if you honestly tell the owner or manager you saw something you thought dangerous for a client and perhaps the staff should have a meeting about protocol, that will work. It is up to the Alpha Horse to control the behavior in the herd.

February 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSiri Dharma Galliano


How sad for the cats and dogs, but I guess you gotta do what you gotta do.
I have the SI article that you cited. I think I have a copy of every piece of Joe I can find including an original copy of Return to Life. Apparently, there is this newspaper article where Joe was quoted that his method is based on the movements of the baby and the cat.

I really do understand the animal references as strange as they sound. He wasn't so good at communicating, was he?

Also, I have read that Joe only advocated breathing in through the nose and out through the nose. It is my preferred method to develop a strength in the breathing, but I am curious as to why it eveloved over the years?

February 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterStacey Redfield-Dreisbach

"Apparently, there is this newspaper article where Joe was quoted that his method is based on the movements of the baby and the cat."

What baby was Joe looking at? ...Or animal for that matter? I have yet to see a baby move such a way, & I have one of my own to have observed.

Seriously, we can't just say, 'Oh, pilates is based around the movement of babies because that's what Joe said.' & actually believe that to be true or accurate. Look beyond the quotations and watch a baby move.... very different.

February 8, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjustwondering

sent via email...

Dear Siri,
Can you give me pointers on how to teach a client who has a damaged tailbone? This is a very old injury that she describes as being broken off. In particular she has a very difficult time keeping her pelvis anchored in many excercises, especially the hip work, whether on the Reformer or the Cadillac. The problem is that she can’t feel her tailbone, so the typical cues are not very helpful to her.

Dear Victoria,
The fact that it doesn’t hurt her is helpful. The New York point of view is to work around an injury. For example, someone with a scoliosis, you can work on the Pedipole or Baby Arm Chair and by working the arms it will send the nerve impulses back to the core. That is one approach. Another approach for stability is to reach the back from the front. You could try placing a 2½ lb. leg weight across her hipbones when she is on her back during footwork and give her visuals such as a “gladiator belt,” which is what Joe called it, London calls it the T.A., transverse abs. When someone is on their side during sidelegs or single leg springs, I use a pole to keep their hips even, or hold them with my hands. Ultimately, we accept what is and work on what we can, “Hey, how about getting our arms sculpted?”

February 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmy Leibrock/Editor
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