Letter From Rael – 2016 Mentor Program: London & Istanbul

by Rael Isacowitz

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

My recent trip to England and Turkey will certainly stand out as one of the pinnacles of my career. It seemed to be a journey that was divided into chapters, each chapter offering unique and wonderful experiences and many moments of joy.

Yet before delving into the details of the trip, I want to thank all the people that contributed to making this the incredible adventure that it was.

It would be difficult to name everyone individually, as there were so many; students, colleagues, team members, partners and friends. Yet I want to single out Lisa Lamberti and Theo Botha, the BASI Licensees in the UK (Theo is also the Licensee for South Africa). They made the visit to London special, not only on a professional level, but a personal level, the highlight being a family dinner at Lisa’s home.


In Turkey the BASI Pilates and BASI Systems Teams simply pulled out all the stops. Cengiz Han Ucgun, BASI Licensee for Turkey, and his wonderful wife Ceylan and son Mustafa, are our family, so it is no wonder we felt so at home. Yet it extended further to Oktay Duran, BASI Systems partner, who opened his home to us for a dinner that can ONLY be found in Turkey, and made the yacht trip possible (more about that later)! Mehmet, Seda and Sedat, BASI Systems team members, who worked tirelessly and unconditionally. Nothing was too much trouble for these wonderful people. Thank you, thank you and thank you again. I truly love you all.

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Chapter 1 – London: Powerhouse of the Upper Girdle workshop followed by a 2-hour Marathon Mat® class in a gorgeous cathedral.

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Chapter 2 – London: Mentor Program.



Chapter 3 – Istanbul: Photo shoot on the helipad of one of the tallest hotels in Istanbul, followed by the Mentor Program.



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Chapter 4 – Istanbul: Mat class, Building the Ultimate Pilates Session workshop, launch of BASI Systems Pilates equipment, cocktail party, outdoor sunset photo shoot; all at the Four Seasons hotel at the Bosphorus.

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Chapter 5 – Alacati: Windsurfing, kiteboarding, swimming and relaxing.

Chapter 6 – Gocek: Cruising the Aegean Sea on a boat.


Looking back over this it seems like a lifetime, and indeed could fill the pages of an entire book. I will be sharing my journal entries of the trip in an upcoming feature in Pilates Style magazine with many pictures and videos. For this BASI Newsletter I would like to focus on the Mentor Program, which has become over time a right of passage into the advanced and master levels of the study and teaching of Pilates.

When I gave the first Mentor Program in 2006 I never envisioned it transforming into what it is today. When I launched the program I felt the time was right to introduce professionals to the highest levels of this work in a formal structure. Initially some of this work was included in our comprehensive teacher-training program, yet it became clear that it took years for students to be ready to truly absorb and appreciate this level of the repertoire. Over time it evolved into a 3-phase program called Pilates Ultimate (Mentor, Master and Master Reunion), which encompasses the enormous scope of the highest levels of the study in Pilates.

The Mentor Program is the melting pot and probably the most demanding of the three phases, both for the students and for me as the teacher. It welcomes professionals from every, and all, backgrounds of Pilates training. During these 3 days of intense and rigorous study common ground is established as we go through a daily mat class, discussions and a huge amount of very demanding repertoire. It is an enormous leap from the comprehensive teacher training that the students have all completed. Once in the fraternity of Pilates Ultimate, the Master and Master Reunion build upon the foundation of the Mentor and the jump is not as big.

I have taught the Mentor program 15 times, and I can honestly say that each time it is a completely different experience. Every time I teach it I hope and pray for it to be a profound milestone in each student’s career, and most times it is. We start on the first day all individuals with different perceptions of the advanced Pilates work. By the end we are a tight group of professionals with a true reverence and respect for this level of repertoire, and have acquired a heightened understanding of the system itself.

It is impossible to take in all the material in these three days and many people repeat the program again and again, some doing it 5 times and more. As I wrote earlier, each time it is a different and unique experience. It transcends the repertoire alone and becomes an exploration and adventure into a fascinating realm of this system we all love.

I do not take lightly the privilege that is mine, teaching the Mentor Program 2-3 times a year. It is undoubtedly physically grueling, yet nourishing and inspiring beyond words. I want to thank the incredible students in London and Istanbul who traveled from far and wide, and made mammoth efforts, to attend my recent courses. I always learn more than I teach. On this journey, I learned as I do each time, that the study of Pilates and human movement is infinite, fascinating and transformational on so many levels. I expect to see bodies change, but I am always struck by how peoples’ entire “being” changes – Pilates is indeed about body, mind and spirit. In our early study of Pilates we are immersed in remembering the choreography and sequencing of exercises. When we enter this realm of the work the balance shifts and the experience becomes more holistic and complete. I feel honored to witness such profound growth, and it is certainly my greatest reward.





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