Come join me and Pilates enthusiasts around the world in celebrating Joe Pilates’ mat exercises — we’re calling it March Matness! Each day this month, I’ll post an exercise from Joe’s book “Return to Life.”

Day 3: begin at the beginning with The Hundred and The Roll Up, then proceed to one of my all-time favorites, The Roll Over.  

The Basics:

  • Lie on your back with your legs long and then lift them straight to the sky.
  • Push your arms down as you lift your hips up. Keep reaching your legs back until your toes touch the floor behind you. Open your legs into a wide straddle pose.
  • Keep your thighs close to your body as you roll down your spine. Close your legs to begin again.

Pilates Magic Happening here:

  • 2-way reach: push those arms down as you lift your legs away from the mat. See my wrists floating up in the photo? That’s because it’s HARD to push one part of your body down while something else lifts the other way….while holding the pose for a photographer. (You can’t see her, but Lola is also threatening to leap onto the table…)
  • Power Leg: I’m pressing my inner thighs together to create one powerful leg, instead of two floppy legs. When I open them to begin the roll down, well that’s even harder to control.
  • Super Hero Shoulders: oh yes, I’m pulling my armpits toward my hips. Why? It keeps my neck open. There’s a little tunnel of air back there, because my weight is on shoulder blades, not on my neck. That’s why I’m smiling.

Teaching Tips:

  • Teach the Rolling Back (aka: rolling like a ball) before teaching The Roll Over. You’ll have an idea of whether your client can lift the hips to the appropriate level.
  • It’s tough to get all the little pieces together on this exercise. Try adding a magic circle or a squishy ball just above the ankles to encourage that Power Leg action.
  • Note, I have a long torso — I have more space for the movement than some folks have. Those with a short torso may end up shifting their hips closer to their face, so that they can get their feet to the floor. In that case, I’d advise floating the feet above the floor.

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