My latest article for the Stanly News and Press:
The Pilates Roll Up has been a staple in my life for a very long time. It became one of my favorite exercises when I started to see its calming effects. The movement itself is settling because you roll up and down smoothly with big long breaths, but the forward fold in the middle relaxes the mind and body, too. If I have time for just one core exercise, this is the one I usually choose.
The other benefits of the Roll Up are a strong Powerhouse (abdominals, gluteals and inner thighs), an opening of the spine and a stretch in the hamstrings, calves and Achilles tendons. As in every Pilates exercise, the breath benefits the respiratory and nervous systems while helping you to connect with the deepest muscles of the belly. Remember to breathe in about fifty percent of your air through the nose and one hundred percent out through an open mouth. The breath is “lateral”, letting the rib cage expand on the inhales and shrink in on the exhales.
Traditionally this exercise was done on a special Pilates mat with a strap that wraps over the ankles to hold the feet down, but if you are not able to keep the heels grounded into your mat, there are several ways to modify until you can. The first modification for the beginning of the exercise is to lie on the back with the feet on the floor, then let your knees fall to one side, roll onto that side in a fetal position and press yourself up to seated with the help of your hands and arms. The second beginning modification is to lie on the back with the feet planted on the floor and as you roll up, place the hands behind the thighs so that the arms can assist you off the floor before you straighten your legs. Stick with these variations at the beginning until you feel strong enough to try a full Roll Up. The second half is the same for all variations.
To begin a full Roll Up, lie on your back with your legs straight and hip’s distance apart. Flex your feet and raise your arms over your head, while keeping your shoulders down the back and away from your ears. As you inhale, lift your arms, head and shoulders off the floor. Without hoisting the body at all, exhale and continue to roll the torso up until you are reaching the body and arms over the legs with a rounded back and a scooped belly. Allow your arms to reach forward and beyond your feet as you drop your head between your arms to increase the opening between each vertebrae.
To complete any variation of the Roll Up, engage the gluteal muscles as you slowly begin to articulate each vertebrae back to the floor, inhaling at the start and exhaling until you are on your back, returning to the starting position. Be sure to keep the belly hollow and scooped throughout the exercise. To challenge the body a little more, you can keep the arms right beside of the ears for the entire exercise or you can place a pole or stick in the hands to help keep the arms and shoulders aligned.
Repeat your variation of the Roll Up eight times, trying to increase your range of motion with each repetition. Enjoy how strong and open you feel when you are finished.