When Bobbie Bixler first set foot in a Reformer Pilates studio in Auckland, New Zealand in 1999 she was very close to turning on her heels and walking straight back out. The studio was swarming with graceful ballet dancers, who were using Pilates practice to further hone their lithe, agile physiques. They presented quite an intimidating welcoming.
Not as commonplace as it is now, Pilates hadn’t quite hit the mainstream back then, however Bobbie stuck to her guns, completed the class and never looked back. She quickly became hooked on Pilates, specifically the reformer machine, and the way her body felt from regular practice. It was the perfect antidote to a physically challenging career working on super yachts.
From Student to Teacher
Bobbie quickly realised Pilates was to play an integral part of her life moving forward, and formally commenced her Pilates instructor training at Power Pilates in New York. Her focus is on classical Pilates utilising the Pilates Reformer machine, but she adds in contemporary Pilates movements as required depending on the clients needs. Basically classical Pilates sticks as closely as possible to inventor Joseph Pilates’ original work, practicing his original exercises and in the order in which he performed them. Contemporary Pilates on the other hand is modernised by adjusting the exercises to fit with new research on physical therapy and biomechanics. Bobbie imparts the benefits of her vast Pilates knowledge and experience on to clients here in Mallorca from her private studio in Porto Pi, Palma.
But what Exactly is Pilates?
In essence Pilates is a form of low-impact exercise that aims to strengthen muscles while improving postural alignment, balance and flexibility. It’s a full body workout – although the moves place emphasis on core strength. The core (your abdominal and spinal area) is considered your powerhouse and the foundation of your body, so when it is strong and stable the rest of your body can move efficiently and you have good mobility. As Bobbie says, “Pilates really is the ultimate functional fitness”. There are slow precise movements with a lot of breath control and body awareness. Similar to yoga, there is a focus on ‘mind-body connection’.
…and the Reformer?
The Reformer is basically a bed-like frame with a sliding carriage that is attached to one end with a set of springs. These springs are adjustable to offer different levels of resistance. There are also shoulder blocks on top that stop you from sliding off as you push or pull the carriage. A foot-bar is attached at the spring end of the Reformer that can be used by your hands or feet as you move the carriage along. Long straps with handles are attached to the other end of the frame. These can pulled with your arms or legs and will also move the carriage.
My Session with Bobbie
Arriving at Bobbie’s home studio I immediately saw she had all the bells and whistles of Pilates equipment. Bobbie herself is petite, trim, toned, with perfect posture. She is definitely a great advertisement for signing up to a Pilates exercise regime! I’m not entirely new to Pilates having practiced mat classes for a few years in my twenties, however the Reformer machine was something I had very little experience with.
We started the session with Bobbie showing me how to correctly position myself on the machine. From there we ran through various exercises which involved me either lying, sitting or standing on the Reformer and pushing or pulling the carriage away, or holding the carriage steady while the springs provided resistance. All the while of course, Bobbie made sure my core was engaged and I was maintaining a neutral spine.
The thing I love about Pilates is that you can feel muscles working that you didn’t even know you had. Along with all the big muscle groups you’re also targeting all those smaller stabilising muscles. As your muscles resist the force of the Reformer’s springs they lengthen. This is called eccentric muscle contraction and is excellent for achieving strong, long muscles without adding bulk.
Bobbie took me through some of the classic established Pilates moves such as the infamous ‘hundred’ named after the 100 beats of your arms made while holding your legs extended and your head and shoulders off the mat/Reformer. We completed some roll ups, which is a slow, precise move that stretches the spine and the back of the body and strengthens the abdominals, and some leg circles to strengthen the hips and core stabilisers. Bobbie also guided me through some exercises on some of the other stranger looking pieces of equipment in her studio. I tried out the ‘Tower’, and the ‘Baby Armchair’. These contraptions are used as aids and supports to perform various exercises and are useful for isolating, strengthening and stretching different muscles.
We finished off with some lovely assisted stretches, and I left the studio feeling like my muscles had had a good going over, and I had gained a few inches in height.
After a long career in yachting Bobbie understands all too well the physical demands placed on the bodies of sailors and yacht crew. Injuries are common and rehabilitation can be a lengthy process. This is why she also runs one on one sessions tailored to yachtys’, to prevent injuries on-board altogether, or accelerate healing and rehabilitation should an injury occur. Bobbie explains “through encouraging proper alignment Pilates makes you safer on your boat”. The many benefits of Pilates also translate well to make you better at your chosen sport, and assist you in ordinary day-to-day life through improved balance, flexibility, posture and general wellbeing. I highly recommend you give it a go and see for yourself!
YACHTY’S PILATES AT EASTSIDE PILATES
Written by Ché Miller
About the author
Ché has always had a passion for hospitality having completed a conjoint Bachelors Degree in International Business and Hospitality Management. She has spent the last 15 years working in the hospitality industry. This passion led her to working in a premier health retreat in Australia in her twenties. There she found the knowledge she gained inspired her to start living a healthier life.
Now Ché loves to combine her two favourite things, hospitality and wellbeing. She scours the island for the best nourishing restaurants, products and services. Ché has been living in Mallorca since early 2017, having moved from her home in New Zealand. She absolutely loves the energy of the island and everything it has to offer.
Ché’s other interests include ashtanga yoga, boxing, reading, writing, and really good coffee.