Image: Mari Winsor
John Carucci  /  AP
Mari Winsor poses for a photograph at APTN studios in New York on Oct. 25.
updated 11/2/2005 7:38:21 PM ET 2005-11-03T00:38:21

Mari Winsor is on a crusade to get people to care more about breathing and daily nasal maintenance.

Known to her fans as the Queen of Pilates — though she claims to be nothing more than a princess — Winsor, 55, has released multiple fitness DVDs and runs several Pilates studios in the Los Angeles area catering to Hollywood’s elite. Madonna, Samuel L. Jackson, Minnie Driver and Vanessa Williams are a small sample of her client list.

But her goal is no longer limited to shaping bodies. Now she wants to familiarize the masses with the importance of proper breathing. She dropped by AP headquarters to talk about how to keep your nose clean.

AP: Before we get into breathing, what exactly is Pilates?

Winsor: Pilates was a person that developed this technique. He was circus performer and a boxer who was interred in this camp in England where they put all of the German nationalists during World War I. He was frantic about keeping himself in shape, so he started looking at bedsprings and sticks and all kinds of things that he could use to create resistance.

AP: How does it differ from yoga?

Winsor: In yoga, you tend to get into a position and hold it. In Pilates, you move. ... There are different types of yoga. Madonna does yoga and her body is extraordinary. Madonna also studied with me before, but she combines the two practices.

AP: How does breathing tie into Pilates?

Winsor: Deep breathing is really important when you do any kind of workout to get the optimum benefit to oxygenate your muscles which helps you stretch and relax a little bit easier. It’s also important to breath through your nose to rid toxins that may come in from the air. Breathing deeply into your powerhouse, which is your core, is really essential.

AP: You have an impressive list of Hollywood stars. Melanie Griffith, Minnie Driver, Madonna, Vanessa Williams — did any of them do Pilates before?

Winsor: It’s really word of mouth, one friend tells another friend. ... Celebrities come to me because it works — they know that if they have a role to do, if they’ve gotta be in a bathing suit, or less, in three weeks or four weeks before they get actually get on the set, they know they can come to me and change their body very quickly.

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AP: Tell me about your crusade to teach people how to breathe better.

Winsor: I’ve had sinus and respiratory problems for a long time, and it wasn’t until I saw a specialist that I figured out what was actually wrong with me. The allergy that I had was to mold and it made everything so difficult even though I performed in my videos and did the best job that I could. But the difference now is extraordinary. And there are so many people that suffer from this same thing and they don’t even realize it.

AP: You say proper nasal hygiene is as important as brushing your teeth?

Winsor: It is. Can you imagine if you didn’t brush your teeth or floss your teeth for a year, what would happen to your teeth and your gums. It’s very similar; the nose is a very vital organ. It is the guardian to your respiratory system. Keeping that in mind, when you breathe in through your nose you have a natural filtration system in your nose those little hairs are there for a reason. They filtrate the toxins that are coming into our system. They warm the air that comes into your body and makes the air a little bit more moist so it oxygenates the muscles. When you breathe through mouth there’s no filtration system, so you’re really inviting the poisonous toxins into your system.

AP: When I mentioned to a friend that I was interviewing you, she said you were the Queen of Pilates.

Winsor: I’m the princess, not the queen. No, no, no. My mentor Romana Kryzanowska is the Queen of Pilates. And there are four, five, six other teachers around the country we refer to as the elders that actually studied with Joseph Pilates, and Romana was actually one of them.

AP: What male stars come to your studio?

Winsor: Patrick Swayze, Danny Glover, Samuel L. Jackson. The men are great. They come in with the same attitude that you did, that it’s just stretching. And I always surprise them.

(Winsor’s cell phone rings. She has a brief conversation and then hangs up.)

Winsor: What were we talking about?

AP: We were talking about that until now, I thought a Pilate was something you ordered at Starbucks.

Winsor: (Laughs.) When I was a professional dancer, I worked with a director called Danny Ortega and when he heard me talking about Pilates, it had to be around lunch time. He came over and said, ’That sounds really good, I think I’ll have one too.’

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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