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The Classical Mat Series: #2 Roll Up

–  a top to toe stretch!

To see a video of this exercise and much more, enroll onto the Courses (Pilates Basics) here

What’s it good for?

  • Consider this your spinal warm up.  In this exercise we’ll be concentrating on the upper spine and in the next exercise we’ll be focussing on the lower spine…
  • Strengthening the abdominals.
  • Increasing mobility of your spine.
  • Learning to lengthen  your limbs.
  • Learning to connect your arms to your shoulders and and your legs to your butt (glutes).

This is the second exercise in the Traditional Mat Series (aka “The work”) published in Return to Life 1945.  In the order of exercises nothing was there by accident and nothing was left out.  Part of our job is to understand why the exercises are in the order that they are!

“Study carefully. Do not sacrifice knowledge to speed in building your solid exercise regime on the foundation of Contrology. Follow instructions exactly as indicated down to the very smallest detail. There IS a reason!”  –Joseph Pilates



The “How to”

Repetitions – 3

  • Lie flat on the floor  and stretch your arms shoulder wide and palms up overhead.
  • Stretch your legs straight out, squeeze them together and flex your feet towards the ceiling.
  • Inhaling, reach your arms towards the ceiling and roll your head and upper body off the mat.
  • When you get to the “stuck” part, begin exhaling and continue to maintain the curve of your body until you are sitting on your sit bones.
  • Your upper body is curved and reaching toward your feet as if you were rolling over a giant beach ball.
  • Inhale, engage your abdominals and tuck your tailbone under your pelvis to initiate the roll down, maintaining the C-curve of your spine.



Hints and Tips

  • Roll up one vertebrae at a time!
  • Engage the abdominals at the beginning and keep them engaged throughout.  No ballooning abdominals!
  • Keep your navel pulled in, but hip flexors soft – reach your legs out long in front of you and squeeze your inner thighs together.
  • Use a Pilates Mat with straps, a belt or a Magic Circle!
  • Keep your shoulders away from your ears.
  • Imagine you are holding an orange between your chin and your chest.



Extra Challenges!

  • Roll up to the tricky part and hold the position for between 2-10 breath cycles whilst trying to deepen the curve (Kathy Grant).
  • Picture Frame: keep your head between your arms as you roll up – imagine your face as a picture and your arms, the picture frame – don’t break the frame!


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