There really is a method to Joseph Pilates’ mat madness, I promise!
The classical Pilates repertoire was strategically ordered for many reasons, for example to aid the flow of movement and to introduce stretching/massaging exercises where they are needed. Rolling Like A Ball is introduced as an exercise to massage the spine and stretch out the back, whilst of course still engaging the abs and woking on your balance! It wouldn’t be a Pilates exercise without still involving your abs, would it!
Some things to keep in mind for Rolling Like A Ball:
- Keep your rounded ball position throughout the exercise. A straight back can be dangerous and just super hard to get back up from!
- Use your breath to keep this exercise controlled and flowing (also to aid a more open back).
- Never initiate the roll by throwing your upper body backward!
- Make sure that you are on a surface that is padded… A thin mat on a hard floor is not enough padding for the spine. Ouch!
- Always keep the neck protected; chin to chest.
How do I do it?
– Sit at the front of your mat and hold on to your shins lightly, just above the ankle. Drop your shoulders, elbows wide to widen your back, deepen your abdominals, and make a nice curve of your spine. knees shoulder width apart and actively pressing into your elbows as your elbows are pressing into your knees. Don’t tuck your head, your neck is part of the long curve. Step 1: Lift your feet off the mat and balance on your sit bones; heels together and toes apart, engaging the abs. Before you start the rolling fun, remember when a ball rolls it doesn’t change its form, and neither should you!…
– Inhale: Pull the lower abs in and up to get yourself going; roll back on your inhale. Roll only to the shoulder blades (do not roll onto the neck!). Make sure there is still openness in your collar bones, shoulders away from the ears as you…
– Exhale: Stay deeply scooped in your abs with your spine curved. Use your out breath and abdominals to return to sitting upright. Balance!
Repeating this exercise 5-6 times. This will loosen out the back/spine and work the abdominals with breathing coordination, ready for the next exercise! It also gives you a few goes to get it right!
Some problems you might face and why:
I find I come up crooked, why is this?
If you are coming up crooked you may be working your abs unevenly, or pulling more on one side than the other with your arms. Try to focus on the center line. This will improve as you practice!
Sometimes I find i’m not rolling, I’m bumping and it hurts. What should I do?
I sometimes find I am more bumpy and not flowing when i’m being a bit lazy with my abdominal recruitment! This exercise really does call for the lower back to release into a full curve. The curve is a response to the deep scoop of the abs. It may take time to learn to let this happen. A tight lower back can also mean that the roll is more of a thump!
The goal is to really feel the articulation through the spine in a different way to your roll ups!
Hold behind the back of your thighs, just below your knees, elbows still wide, knees open, heels together, toes apart. Basically, just the same thing except you’re holding behind the thighs. Inhale, roll back to the tips of the shoulder blades, exhale rock back up. This will give you a little more freedom.
However, if you are struggling with your bumping and thumping or is you have back/neck issues, this modification is best to practice until you are ready to take it further: set yourself up for Rolling Like A Ball, focusing on the engaging of the deepest abdominals and creating your ‘c-curve’ in the spine. Just hold your balance with the feet out of the mat, heels together toes apart. Master the precision of the exercise with the balance.
Roll on guys!