Just a few months earlier, I had left a stable accounting career in Atlanta to move to New York City. New York is the birthplace of Pilates (in a sense) being that Joe’s original studio was born there in the 1920’s, and it’s where some of the highest esteemed Pilates protege’s cut their teeth- Romana Kryzanowska being one of the most notable.

Most would argue that quitting my career to move to NYC wasn’t exactly the most fiscally responsible move, but I was 32 years old, and I was looking to take my life into my own hands and follow a passion- Pilates. I had a good job as a corporate auditor at Mirant Corp, a fortune 500 energy marketing company, during the collapse of corporate mega stars Enron and Arthur Andersen. Shortly after those corporate failures, the 911 attacks happened and the twin towers came down… so in a span of year I had witnessed the collapse of the “uncollapsable.” I saw that nothing was ever a sure thing so I threw caution to the wind to follow my passion up to NYC to study under many of the great teachers but mainly Bob Liekens.

It was on that raw, icy Sunday morning in the windowless basement studio of the 43rd St Equinox gym that I formally realized that I loved Pilates and that my gamble was worth it. I remember the moment clear as day when Bob was teaching a student the Swan on the Wunda Chair, and I thought to myself, “I love this so much! There is no place I’d rather be right now. This Pilates thing is going to work out for me.” From that moment on, I have not looked back and have been teaching and making Pilates my living ever since.

I love Pilates largely because of Bob Liekens, who is one of those natural teachers, who’s spirit inspires you not only to be better for yourself but to be better in order to help other people. Unfortunately, Bob’s spirit now endures in my memory only. This year, he tragically passed away- many years too soon. I cannot express how sad I was at this unexpected loss. Over the past few months, the outpouring on social media of sentiment for Bob proves how profoundly he inspired Pilates proteges around the world.

Bob had a mission to keep the Pilates method true to what Joseph Pilates intended. Bob studied with and worked under the great Romana Kryzanowska, who was Mr. Pilates closest protege.

When I lived in NYC, I had a session every Tuesday at 10am with Bob, and he gave reference to Joe and Romana in everything he taught us because he had been greatly inspired by them. He held reverence to both the method’s creator, Joe Pilates, and his teacher, Romana. He was a genius conduit for Joe’s genius method. In my teaching I find myself constantly referencing Bob because I would not be a teacher if not for him. He taught me the inspirations of Joe Pilates. In his effervescent Belgian accent, he taught me Joe’s emphasis of breath- to “ex-a-hayul.” He taught me to move- that “Pi-la-tus” is exercise, not physical therapy. That it is about movement and that movement heals. He “hel-uped” me to appreciate the depth of the method and to honor it.

Years after moving away from NYC, I saw Bob at a workshop, and I told him that he was always in my ear as I taught. He still is and will always be. Thank you, Bob, for making me a better student and a better teacher. Rest in peace.