Rolling Like A Ball – How to progress and regress the exercise for beginners

Rolling like a ball is the fifth exercise that Joseph Pilates mentions in his book Return To Life Through Contrology. It is often introduced after a few sessions in a mat class. In an older blog post we have looked at the hundred, the Roll Up and Single Leg Stretch. Rolling Like A Ball is a basic exercise that has many great benefits for spinal health.


The benefits of Rolling Like A Ball:

  • Promotes a massage effect of the spine
  • Stimulates pressure points on the spine
  • Improves alignment of the spine


How to execute Pilates Rolling Like A Ball:

  1. Start at the end of your mat and getting into a tight “C” shape
  2. Reach and grab your ankles and pull them in close to your bottom.
  3. Curl your head toward your knees.
  4. Lift your feet off the mat and balance on your butt.
  5. Inhale to roll back to the shoulders (staying off the neck)
  6. Exhale to roll up to start ( Try to keep the toes away from the mat)
  7. Repeat six times


Tips to help you Roll Like A Ball:

  • Work your breath with your movement. Don’t hold your breath
  • Keep your shoulders wide when your head is down.
  • Start the movement with your pelvis curling under so you don’t use momentum.
  • Roll each part of your back like unrolling a bike chain.


Building Blocks for Rolling Like A Ball:

  • For tight lower backs, increase the distance between the heels and the bottom.
  • Hold hands on the shins or the back of the tights.
  • Rest toes on the floor in the beginning.
  • Make sure to have a thick mat. Rolling on a yoga mat is not enough cushion.


The goal for rolling like a ball is to perform it based on your body so you get the maximum benefit. It will get better with time. Pilates is a practice where you have good days and bad days or some movements are easier than others. Keeping your focus on movement is good for the body and in time the exercises you love to hate will become your favorites. The quality of movement is more important than how many reps you can do. Keep up the practice and wait and see what your body can do.