Pilates Book Review: The Red Thread of Pilates

The Red Thread of Pilates
Kathryn Ross Nash.

Kathryn Ross-Nash has a thing or two to say about Pilates.

With literally decades of experience in classical Pilates, her new book is dedicated to convincing you that Pilates is NOT a list of exercises. Rather, it is a complex "scientific" system of deliberately ordered moves organized to progress the body in exactly the right way to achieve total body control.

Early in the book, Ross-Nash explains that the Pilates system created by Joe Pilates was intended to prepare the body for the "unexpected".

This phrase came up for me again and again as I read through The Red Thread of Pilates.

Full disclosure; I haven't finished the book. Not because I didn't have time but because I didn't want to rush through it. The Red Thread is clearly a labor of love, assembled thoughtfully and with great care. You'll find the most exhaustive list of Mat exercises I've seen in one book and it's all written in plain and easy to understand language that makes it accessible and useful to the reader.

Visually the book is lovely, if a little text-heavy. Students may be overwhelmed by all the detail but stick with it if you want to delve deeper into the Pilates practice. Teachers, buckle up. In a stroke of genius, Ross-Nash has deliberately photographed the exercises from the vantage point of a teacher. This means you'll see the body as it will look when you actually see someone working out in front of you. How wonderful and "unexpected" for a teacher's manual to actually approach the work from the viewpoint of a teacher.

The Red Thread of Pilates orders the Pilates Mat into three levels; foundational, core and advanced, but that's oversimplifying things. Ross-Nash wants you truly understand how these moves weave from level to level and how each relates to the moves that come both before and after. To that end, she includes a robust list of exercises that "connect" to each other.

Including apparatus and Mat alike, Ross-Nash also references the POS or point of stability for each and every exercise. These are special particulars and unique to this book.

Teachers I said buckle in, but maybe it's time to have a seat. The sheer volume of variations included in this book is tremendous. You could go to a dozen workshops and never learn all of the variations that are included in The Red Thread. Having said that, the author still manages to keep you engaged.  One of my favorite statements in the book is that Pilates is "correct exercise and not therapy." In a Pilates landscape where Pilates has often been redefined as therapy, it's refreshing to see a teaching manual take a stand about Pilates as Joe Pilates defined it. He called his own precious method "corrective exercise".

The thought that I kept coming back to in reading through this manual was "higher thinking". As students, we are always looking to achieve the next level in our practice. And as teachers, once you have moved beyond the basics and are really working with individual bodies on a deeper level, you cross over into "higher thinking". Most teacher training materials are dumbed-down to a degree. But this particular book brings the reader to a higher Pilates place.

It may take a long time to get through it and to really get what Ross-Nash wants you to "get" about Pilates. But it's definitely worth it. One caveat; this information doesn't come cheap. The Red Thread of Pilates is priced in line with a graduate school text book so you'll want to save your pennies for a copy.

Kathryn began her Classical Pilates training in 1982 and has had the privilege to study with many First Generation teachers. She was a Certified Romana’s Pilates Level 2 Trainer and a Guild Certified Feldenkras Practitioner and was a principle dancer for ten years with Ballet Hispanico of NY. Kathryn has owned and operated the American Body Tech Pilates Studio since 1992. Her DVD, Kathryn Ross-Nash New York Pilates, and book Fix Your Feet- Using the Pilates Method have been acclaimed world wide. Kathryn is a breeder judge and breeder of champion Australian shepherds.

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