Pilates On the Go: Rolling Like a Ball

Think back to your childhood days when you could drop down at the top of a grassy hill, and tumble and roll, giggling uncontrollably, until you reached the bottom… Well, Rolling Like a Ball will bring back some of those memories and release some endorphins at the same time.


This is the fourth exercise in the Beginning Pilates series. Rolling Like a Ball works your abdominal muscles, improves your balance, and massages your spine.

Rolling Like a BallAfter you have completed The Single Leg Circles, transition into Rolling Like a Ball by placing your feet at the front of the mat, and your hips as close to your feet as you can manage so you are in the shape of a rounded ball. Open your knees so they are in line with your shoulders. Place your hands on the back of your hamstrings and relax your shoulders down and away from your ears, reaching your elbows wide towards opposite sides of the room (focusing on the elbows reaching wide, will allow you to work from the powerhouse and help keep the shoulders down, length in the neck, and prevent caving in the chest as you roll). Scoop the navel to your spine, and shift your weight back on the tailbone, keep the feet together, and lift them off the mat to a balance.

Always start and finish your roll with the feet hovering off the mat. Imagine you have a ball between your chest and thighs, and keep that unified distance as you roll back and forth on the mat. Begin inhaling, filling the lungs with air, drawing the navel to the spine, and engaging the inner thighs and buttocks to slightly tuck the tail. Roll through the spine on to the mat, until you reach the bottom of your shoulder blades. Immediately exhale, keeping the navel scooped to the spine, and roll back up to balanced position, “putting on the brakes.”

Always tuck your chin to your chest, as you roll back and forth, and never roll onto the neck. Your eyes should remain open to help with balance. Perform Rolling Like a Ball five or six times, and end by placing the soles of the feet on the mat.



  • Imagine you are on a rocking chair about to tip over, and you need to immediately exhale and bring yourself up to a balanced position.
  • Imagine your spine is a xylophone, and you are running up and down the scale, trying not to skip any of the notes (vertebrae). Feel each vertebrae connecting to the mat as you roll. Engaging the inner thighs, and buttocks will allow you to tuck your tailbone slightly, so that you can feel the back of the pelvis and lower back connect to the mat as you roll.
  • Momentum is important. If you roll back to slowly, you will have less chance of making it back up.
  • Remember to focus on the abdominals pulling in to the spine (powerhouse), and tucking your chin, so you are not allowing the head to fly back and forth.
  • Do not let the shoulders creep up towards the ears.
  • To test your strength, you can place a soccer or basketball between your scooped belly and thighs, and see if you can perform the exercise without the ball getting away from you, while keeping the precision and control in the movement.


Rolling Like a Ball Challenges

  1. Perform the exercise with the hands on the ankles.
  2. Perform the exercise wrapping the arms around the legs (instead of on the back of the hamstrings or ankles), and your head between your knees. Maintain the proper alignment in your shoulders and chest as you roll (as noted above).

Trust yourself, have fun, and once you have it mastered, be ready to “roll” yourself into the next Pilates exercise… coming soon!

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