Pilates by the Book—Return to Life Mat

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If you've ever read Joe Pilates' book Return to Life, you might have noticed some differences in the mat exercises listed in the book compared to what you do in most Pilates classes. Changes may have come from Joe after the book was written (he was 60 years old when the photos for it were taken) while others can be attributed to his students. Regardless, it's a fantastic workout and learning experience to do the mat in exactly the order and repetitions as he wrote them. Enjoy re-discovering the mat!

What Others Are Saying


  1. KarinKrouse 1 year ago

    You so inspire me to practise Joe’s order a few times a week Alisa. Get on the mat, and get it done in less than 30 min. I even dragged a mat, a magic circle, and a foot corrector on my holiday in Germany, all the way from OZ. Love Pilatesology, thank you so much.

    • Alisa Wyatt Author

      Karin you’re so awesome–a foot corrector?! What a great thing to have along on holiday and you are my hero for bringing it along on a plane!! Now I’m the one inspired :).

  2. neetuwhite 3 years ago

    That was the perfect way to end a day. Thanks Alisa for sharing a great mat workout!

  3. jlyon18 4 years ago

    Thank you Alyssa! Added to my favorites to guide and pace my home workouts ( :

  4. soul_eil

    This is SO perfect for Going More Joe, he didn’t intend for it be a long drawn out thing, get in and get done, get on with your day. Thanks Alisa!!

    • Alisa Wyatt Author

      Yeah it’s so true Sunni–Joe really wanted you to do your workouts consistently. It’s all about keeping your circulation fresh so the garbage doesn’t collect on your insides (that image always motivates me, lol).

  5. ilkamajdalane

    I loved it. Great flow and good to follow Joseph’s instructions. Thanks Alisa!

  6. Beata
    Beata 5 years ago

    Hi Alisa,

    does the original sequence allow the use of the strap for roll-ups, leg circles, and neck pulls?

    • Alisa Wyatt Author

      In his book, Joe doesn’t use a strap but that is only because he intended the book to be used by folks at home who don’t have apparatus. In his studio, he always used the strap and handles on the mat (if the student could hold them comfortably) for Roll Up, Leg Circles and Neck Pull. Thanks for asking!

  7. Erica Van Stralen
    Erica Van Stralen 5 years ago

    Hi Alisa!
    Nice video, thanks so much!
    Really like the ‘Joe mat’, it’s my homework 🙂
    I try to do exactly this order and repetitions ánd to do it four times a week.
    What do you think about 3 Roll ups and than 10 Roll overs?
    And do you think it’s 12 double leg stretches because of the ‘commando drill’?

    Happy Hundreds from Holland!

    • Alisa Wyatt Author

      Hi Erica,!
      I have been meaning to check my Return to Life to remind myself if there’s an explanation for the 3 Rollups followed by 10 Roll Overs.
      I remember doing this video and thinking, “wow that’s a lot of Roll Overs!” When I did it though, it felt really good. But that would certainly not be my choice for a beginner or on those days when I’m feeling out of it myself.
      I don’t think the 12 Double Leg Stretches comes from the Commando drill, I just think it’s an important exercise and since he didn’t include the extra exercises that Romana added, it makes sense to do it more times.
      Thanks for the great comments!

  8. rshall 5 years ago

    Alisa, I loved doing this classical order, and am going to keep doing it regularly. Is there a video here that breaks down some of the more advanced moves–such as control balance? Maybe an advanced mat workshop, that is clearly for teaching, rather than a real-time workout? Thank you!

    • Alisa Wyatt Author

      rshall, thank you I’m glad you are enjoying this one! Our ‘Exercise Library‘ has breakdowns of several advanced moves. The control balance isn’t in there yet but I am putting it on my list to film for you. In the meantime, I’ll share the secret to that one with you–you’ll be reaching one leg to the ceiling and the other foot is flexed against the floor and you’re holding it with your hands. The foot in your hands should be reaching through your heel as if there’s a wall to press the bottom of your foot against. This stabilizes your hips. At the same time, the leg that’s reaching up must do so with equal energy starting in your torso otherwise you fall over. Hope that helps, stay tuned for a video :)!

  9. deneeSdole 5 years ago

    I loved this! And am going to give myself a challenge of doing this exact routine 4 times a week for 3 months! Thanks for a great workout

  10. kasupark 5 years ago


  11. pilatesangel 5 years ago

    No excuses…if you have 25 minutes this is a must! You looked gorgeous in your execution as always and inspire me to work, work, work! Thank you for this! And as mentioned earlier, so nice to be led through Joe’s order!

    • Alisa Wyatt Author

      Thank you, thank you!! I really enjoyed doing Joe’s order and want to do another video where I read his instructions verbatim. That one will take a while because I have to read it into a microphone and then shoot the video but look for it in the coming months.

      • luftmensch 5 years ago

        oh, this is really good news! we are looking forward to it with excitement and impatience:)! thank you in advance!

        • Alisa Wyatt Author

          I hope you enjoy!!

          • luftmensch 5 years ago

            Uh, you did it already? cause I think I cannot find it at all. If I will be able to find it, I’m totally sure that I will begin to enjoy it immediately! That is both because you are a perfect teacher and instructor, and that it is really confusing for me to understand especially how master joseph placed those inhale/exhales originally. I read the book’s instructions like hundreds of times, but they still puzzle me:) I go on with the saying “don’t forget to breath”. Cause I guess indocrine system works different than the muscles with regard to breathing sometimes, and master made an emphasis more on hormones at some of the exercises. Am I wrong? I dunno. Just an assumption..

  12. pilates 5 years ago

    such efficiency, great flow!

  13. joesmat 5 years ago

    Wonderful Practitioner!

  14. Kara Wily
    Kara Wily 5 years ago

    This was so nice to be led through. It is true what he says. I set out for a four mile run the other day ( my last long run was July and I walk/ran six miles) I ran the whole distance this time and can credit three weeks of consistent Pilates for it. I am sweating typing this after that mat! Thanks for keeping the work alive and lively, Alisa!

  15. Mary
    Mary 5 years ago

    A new favorite!

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