Pilates: The Roll Up

The Roll Up

In a nutshell, the roll up is designed to engage the abdominals through controlled spinal articulation.

It is a rolling through the spine,from lying, up into a spine stretch position (think… contracted over a ball arms reaching forwards, with the shoulders down). Then, with a controlled rolling back down through the spine to lie along the mat with arms returning back overhead, the stomach engaged with the ribs closed and down.

This is my favorite pilates move as it works the whole body and you can challenge yourself by going faster or slower for more abdominal work. It is also a great way to get up off the floor from lying down!

  1. You start lying on your back, arms over head (but not touching the floor), ribs closed with stomach engaged. Legs are straight and remain parallel along the floor, hip width apart and feet pointed and lengthened to start.
  2. Inhale and think of lengthening the spine. Start to lift your head off the mat, framing your head with your arms throughout the roll up.
  3. Lightly push your heels whilst slowly flexing your feet into the floor to engage the hamstrings,w hich helps you to keep rolling through the spine and forwards into a curved position, lengthening your fingers forwards towards the wall, palms facing. As you are rolling up your feet are flexing so they are at full flexion by the time you arrive to your first still postion… although your breath is always keeping your movements alive. Make sure your head follows the line of the spine and is not over arching putting strain on the back of your neck. Also make sure that your are curved over an imaginary a ball and not hinging or folding at the hips.
  4. You then need to reverse the move rolling back down through the spine, making sure the lower back is placed down on the mat first, then the mid- and upper back, then the neck and finally head. Again, use your heels to push into the floor to help you maintain control and use of the back of the legs. Do make sure that whilst you are rolling back down through the spine to the floor that your chin is not tucked right into the chest but because you are evenly lengthening through the spine that there is a little space between the chin and your chest keeping the neck long. As the arms remain framing your head, they too land at the same time as your head, keeping your ribs closed, stomach engaged and shoulders open and placed in their sockets.

Enjoy and relax as much as you tense, as mobility is harder when everything is so tense that you can hardly move! So, lengthen and breathe as well as engage and move.

Lisa Marie Probert

I was born in Somerset and studied at both the Royal Ballet School lower and upper schools.

I joined London City Ballet in 1995 and the English National Ballet in 1997, where I appeared in Derek Deanes first performance of Swan Lake at the Royal Albert Hall. Later in 1997 I joined Peter Schaufuss Ballet in Denmark as a principal dancer, performing (among other roles) White Swan and Priscilla in the King and Aurora. I rejoined ENB in 2000 and danced there for 9 years taking lead roles in Alice In Wonderland, Nutcracker, Snow Queen and numerous other ballets.

Since leaving ENB in 2009, I have guested with Ballet Ireland as Juliet in R&J and danced freelance work. I was a guest artist in Brussels and Estonia, where I also coached dancers in classical and neo-classical works.

As well as dancing, I am a qualified pilates teacher and am currently undertaking a diploma with the BBO to teach classical ballet.

I feel close to my first love of ballet when I am not dancing by writing about it… and so I am thoroughly enjoying and appreciating the chance to pass on my knowledge and experiences of dance to others through the Dance Direct Blog! This is my first experience of public writing and it is a fantastic creative outlet. Teaming it to something I am so passionate about is a most enjoyable and satisfying experience for me!

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