Behind the Lens of a BASI Pilates Retreat
By Veronika Reinert
It’s not often you get to marry two of your biggest passions together and call it your job. For me, Pilates and photography are at the heart of where I discover and express inspiration in movement and in art. So when I recently had the unique opportunity to document “The Art of Life and Movement” Pilates Retreat with Rael Isacowitz, the name of this Retreat took on an entirely different meaning for me as the Retreat Photographer. Not only did I have the pleasure of meeting some incredible people from all over the world, I got to create art out of their lived experiences and movement practice during the Retreat.
Each day of the Retreat began with a 90-minute Pilates mat class with Rael at the Hyatt Regency in Newport Beach, CA, followed by guided meditation lead by Retreat organizer, Mareile Paley. When I looked around the room on the first day, I counted participants coming from France, Ukraine, China, Canada, Portugal, Qatar, South Africa, Brazil, and Turkey. Some were seasoned instructors, some were brand new instructors, and some were simply Pilates enthusiasts ranging in experience level from beginner to advanced. Even when teaching “the basics,” Rael expertly delivered a challenging, yet insightful class that everyone benefited immensely from, regardless of Pilates experience or fitness level.
After breakfast, the first outdoor excursion was an outrigger canoe adventure on the gorgeous Back Bay delta, which is where Rael spends a lot of his time kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding. That evening the group got to meet special guest, Jonas Letieri, a world class stand-up paddleboard racer who lost both of his hands and forearms. Jonas generously shared his inspirational story about his journey into SUP racing after his double arm amputation, then it was off to dinner at Rael’s favorite restaurant, the Pom & Olive.
The next day Jonas and his wife, Danielle, joined the group for the morning Pilates mat class. In all my years of teaching and practicing Pilates, this was without a doubt the most special class I’ve gotten to be part of. Rael devised a class where no one used their hands or forearms, which completely changed how most of the standard Pilates mat repertoire was performed. It was a creative, challenging, and humbling class, to say the least, and I encourage everyone to go check out the full class video (available in the BASI Pilates online store).
A Pilates Retreat in Southern California would not be complete without a trip to the beach! The next outdoor excursion was a visit to Huntington Beach and a group bike ride along the coast back to Newport Beach. After a quick shower and change of clothes back at the Hyatt, Retreat-goers were whisked to BASI Headquarters for a special guided tour of the BASI Pilates Studio and an intimate introduction to BASI Systems Pilates equipment with Rael. The group had a surprise visit from esteemed BASI faculty, Tash Barnard, who flew in all the way from South Africa to hang out with Rael and the crew. After the tour, Rael lead the group downstairs to the BASI dining hall where they enjoyed a homecooked Mediterranean meal skillfully made by BASI staff member, Lan Mai.
Tash joined us for the final Pilates mat class, and the transformation that occurred for participants between the first Pilates mat class and the last was nothing short of amazing. Even from behind a camera lens, it was clear each participant was connecting to the movements in a much more profound way, and working far deeper than I had seen in the past week. It was so exciting for me to capture that change and share in that energy.
The last outdoor trip was an activity-filled day at the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve. Starting with a guided nature walk along the trails, our expert tour guide shared fun facts and information about the plants and animals living in the nature preserve. We ended the walk at the Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center where we dined on a catered lunch in the outdoor amphitheater.
Our featured guest of the day was Shaolin monk, Wang Bo. After a brief meditation session, Wang Bo introduced the group to BASI PilaTEAS® and let us taste a few different flavors. From there Wang Bo lead us through some Tai Chi and Kung Fu sequences, finishing with a powerful Kung Fu demonstration.
Our last night together was pure magic. We had reservations at The Farmhouse at Roger’s Gardens, an elegant outdoor restaurant adorned with bright, pretty string lights overhead; clean, simple décor; and plenty of heat lamps for evening dining. My favorite part was the blankets everyone received at their seat to keep us all cozy and warm. We toasted to a successful and fulfilling Retreat, giggled, danced, and exchanged numbers to keep in touch. Those who came as colleagues left as friends.
They say Retreats are life-changing, and this particular Retreat was no exception. BASI is about Pilates, but it is also about family. Even though I was driver and documentarian, I very much felt warmly welcomed into the group. I was fortunate to witness not only the connections participants made within their own bodies during their Pilates practice, but the connections made with each other, as well. With that said, if you have an opportunity to indulge in a Pilates Retreat, it is truly one of the best and most rewarding gifts you can give yourself. Check out some of the upcoming BASI Pilates Retreats and get connected, become family, and experience the Art and Life of Movement.
Veronika is The International Host Administrator and Resident Photographer. Find more of her amazing photos on her website Motionscape Photography
Learn more about upcoming Pilates retreat opportunities offered by BASI Pilates