Pre-Pilates for Different Spines with Sonje Mayo

Pre-Pilates for Different Spines

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Sonjé Mayo, who experienced Joseph Pilates’ genius first hand, leads an exploration into what she calls the vertical pelvis and how the position of the pelvis in relation to the spine is key to building a strong deep core. Sonjé recounts how Joe taught this specific pelvic alignment to the dancers who attended his studio and how she believes it is the key to the method. She spends time showing how she makes adjustments depending on the spine of the individual she's working with and also shares a body scan, the importance of imagery in teaching, and several Pre-Pilates exercises that you can follow along to. For teacher training, lessons and Schroth work, visit Sonjé Mayo at http://Sonjé

What Others Are Saying


  1. Ly 1 year ago

    You’re the best. Thank you.

  2. 1 year ago

    I absolutely loved this!I watched it twice in a row. So refreshing to be able to relate and connect. I have been teaching Pilates 12 years. I was authentically trained and saw way to often people being pushed to workout harder and harder without having an understanding of the fundamentals of Pilates. I had been pushed in the past like that as well. Throughout my teaching career I have always believed in establishing a strong foundation with my clients. I found these Pre-Pilates exercises incredibly useful and I cannot wait to apply them to my teaching! I also am looking forward to watching your other videos! Thank you!

    • Sonjé Mayo Author
      Sonje Mayo 1 year ago

      Thank you for your detailed feedback….it is so gratifying when I hear that I have really got through to someone! You are so correct in saying that a strong foundation is essential.

  3. Aoife 2 years ago

    Brilliant, Sonje, thank you very much! I always think this is part of the genius of the traditional mat/raised mat as compared with the gym style mats available in so many studios these days – all that thick material to push into and get feedback from for the neur-muscular system – delicious!

    • Sonjé Mayo Author
      Sonje Mayo 1 year ago

      Sorry I missed your comment. Thanks for your feedback. It upsets me when I see Pilates being taught on thin Yoga mats…….

  4. Aoife 2 years ago

    Brilliant, Sonje, thank you very much! I always think this is part of the genius of the traditional mat/raised mat as compared with the gym style mats available in so many studios these days – all that thick material to push into and get feedback from for the near-muscular system – delicious!

  5. thank you Sonje, this was a breathe of fresh air

    • Sonjé Mayo Author
      Sonje Mayo 2 years ago

      Great! I am delighted that it was of help….

  6. 2 years ago

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  7. Pilatescollectiveslo 2 years ago


    Thank you for this video! I have a pretty large lordosis and have been teaching and taking Pilates for years, no one has really been able to find the cure as to why I can’t successfully roll up and we are still trying to help my roll up into teaser! Plugging the hole under the lordosis helps my roll up TREMENDOUSLY, meaning- I can actually roll up without a bunch of cheating happening (including rounding forward in the shoulders and tucking the pelvis). I am now striving for that more vertical pelvis you describe since I can actually roll up.

    I am wondering- will I ever be able to lose the bolster under my back? Or will it be something I continue to use forever? No problem either way- just wondering if I can ever graduate or if my back will actually change enough to be without it. Will the bolster help me strengthen muscles I haven’t been using to achieve a new level of strength after years of cheating? I hope so! Thank you again, I can’t wait to learn more from you in the future.

    • Sonjé Mayo Author
      Sonje Mayo 2 years ago

      If you continue to work diligently with the roll, your lower back will start lengthening and your abs will strengthen. This is a long process but as you improve, you will progress to using a smaller roll and then finally you may not need one.
      However, if you use a small roll for the rest of your life, that is totally acceptable! One is still working hard with a prop and ultimately it is about working intelligently and preventing injury. Stay with it and enjoy your new found ability, ❤️

  8. Thank you Sonje for this most informative video. The explanation of the roll up without tucking or over using the front of the thighs was that moment when “the light bulb went on” for me. I overuse my “thunder thighs” to roll up which has lead to overuse in the hip flexors. I will continue to practice all of these exercises in order to get stronger and have a more neutral pelvis. Such a delight to watch and learn from the best. Truly blessed to have watched. Thanks Alisa as well.

  9. Materdia 3 years ago

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I have been practicing for 2.5 years a cannot do a roll up and it is slowing down my advancement so I will try these! (I have increased lumbar lordosis – thanks Mom!)

    • Sonjé Mayo Author
      Sonje Mayo 3 years ago

      This will definitely help and you may graduate to a smaller prop as you lengthen the lordotic area. Using a prop permanently is also totally acceptable.
      It is all about doing a smooth, co-ordinated roll-up with no momentum or jerks……. form is everything!
      Let me know how you progress!

  10. KathyJanke 3 years ago

    I want to be sure that I understand. I have learned from many sources that we should not press our lower spines into the floor, that we should be aiming to maintain the natural curve of the spine while doing our exeercises. Did you mean to instruct that the lower spine is pressed to the floor or did I misunderstand? Thank you for your response.

    • Sonjé Mayo Author
      Sonje Mayo 3 years ago

      Yes the sacrum must be elongated but only when your knees are bent or your head and shoulders are lifted.

  11. Annicesara 3 years ago

    this is fantastic! very helpful. thank you!

    • Sonjé Mayo Author
      Sonje Mayo 3 years ago

      It is so gratifying to me that you can benefit from this!

  12. tashapkaplan 3 years ago

    Fantastic! The nuances of understanding and achieving that all important neutral pelvis were described in a way that will certainly help me be a better student and teacher! Thanks.

    • Sonjé Mayo Author
      Sonje Mayo 3 years ago

      Great Tasha…..every bit of information helps to strive for perfection!

  13. loremiller
    loremiller 3 years ago

    Absolutely fabulous Sonje. You are giving us golden nuggets right out of Joe’s mouth. Thank you so much for that articulate, insightful presentation.!!

    • Sonjé Mayo Author
      Sonje Mayo 3 years ago

      Thank you….I feel good about sharing it all.

  14. brooke
    brooke 3 years ago

    Reiterating what all have said, just incredible information, thank you Sonje for your generosity and passion.
    May I ask what exact props you used to bolster? They looked exceptionally forgiving and malleable.

    • Sonjé Mayo Author
      Sonje Mayo 3 years ago

      Thank you….I am only too happy to share.
      The props are semi-inflated balls of different sizes and the blue rolls are neck supports which are available on Amazon.
      For more info’, contact me at

  15. susan h lawrence
    susan h lawrence 3 years ago

    Bootie question: What did Joe call “it?”

    • Sonjé Mayo Author
      Sonje Mayo 3 years ago

      Joe called it the ‘buttocks’ and sometimes your ‘derriere’

  16. Jon Hawkins

    This was so useful to gain insights from someone who had the privilege of working with and watching Mr Pilates at work. Most of my teachers have told me I should have been a dancer, long legs and flexible back which I had trouble controlling leading to a few areas tightening up. My teacher has been unwinding me over the last couple of years and everything in this lesson made sense to my body. Looking forward to watching the other ones.

  17. susan h lawrence
    susan h lawrence 3 years ago

    Such a gift to get this recall of what Joe did, maybe not for all, but for those who needed it. Thank you Alisa for bringing Sonjé and her first-hand stories to us. So fun!

  18. Dellasv
    Dellasv 3 years ago

    What a fantastic video. I’m one of those who has always had difficulty with the roll up. OMG, I see what I’m doing wrong! For that alone this video is a keeper, but the rest of it is pure gold as well. I’ll be learning and practicing from this video until I get it right! Thank you, Sonje!

    • Sonjé Mayo Author
      Sonje Mayo 3 years ago

      I am so happy that this has been of help to you. It is such a subtle correction, but so important!

  19. Deepali4 3 years ago

    I absolutely loved this❤️❤️❤️

  20. Lannette
    Lannette 3 years ago

    Oh my! This is pure gold! I would love to see more from Sonje Mayo! I can’t get enough!!

  21. yumi-ho 3 years ago

    Thanks again Sonjé for this amazing video! I think all the confusion about the pelvic placement is coming from the words we use. I’ve been trained to find a neutral pelvis through counternutation as an opposition to tucking, but it was a wrong way for me to set myself and I ended up with sacro-iliac pain. You are the first teacher I hear say we all have different spine shapes and our backs will all rest differently on the mat. That actually seems obvious but I realise it wasn’t to me! I personnally only have the base of my sacrum resting on the floor when I’m neutral. Intentionnally anchoring my whole sacrum results in a tuck for me. Now I understand better how to bring it closer to the mat through my abs. That’s way more subtle but it makes the whole difference!

  22. ewapilates
    ewapilates 3 years ago

    Perfect:) Exhilarating! Thank You, Sonje!. Alisa: by all means – please provide MORE and MORE and MORE:))) Madam Mayo is simply GREAT: so warm, so cherful, so competent … and much, much more:) Alisa – you present The Creme de la Creme od the Pilates elite!

    • Alisa Wyatt

      ewapilates, I love your comments! Sonje is coming back for another shoot in February and I have several more classes for you coming soon.

  23. AnnaDZullo 3 years ago

    Wonderful explanation and exploration of this paramount theme.

  24. AngelicaRose
    AngelicaRose 3 years ago

    I LOVED LOVED LOVED this video! I agree Sonje, I’m not sure why this all has been lost and left out over the years. The mat exercises have begun to make my body feel worse and I think this is the key as to why. I was taught “pre pilates” exercises, but the long sacrum/vertical pelvis was never included in the explanation of HOW to do the exercises. Like Sonje I also have extremely long legs and after doing the mat my hip flexors and middle back feel strained and tight. I feel like relearning the mat with the focus on vertical pelvis and long sacrum will enable me to benefit from the mat exercises again and help me advance my students as well! The towel under the spine for kyphosis and lordosis is also extremely helpful and I’m already thinking about how I will incorporate this into my classes! Thank you so much! More videos from Sonje please!

    • Sonjé Mayo Author
      Sonje Mayo 3 years ago

      I am soooo happy that you have understood this valuable information and especially if you have long levers.
      You will feel a tremendous difference now. During the entire Mat workout, remember to keep your extended legs no lower than 45 degrees while you are adjusting.
      As Joe said: It is not about the range….it is ALWAYS about the form.

  25. Madhavi Abuja 3 years ago

    Also when u lift your from below you navel in and up the pelvis will shift slightly . I’m assuming that is ok and not considered as tucking

    • Sonjé Mayo Author
      Sonje Mayo 3 years ago

      When lifting your navel in and up, you still keep the sacrum anchored. If you overdo the ‘in and up’ , the pelvis will tilt and that promotes tucking. You may need a small plug in order to get your lower back on the mat without the pelvis shifting into a posterior tilt.
      This will be different for everybody because it depends on how much pelvic correction one needs.
      I hope this answers your question?

      • Madhavi Abuja 3 years ago

        Yes it does thank you I think I am overdoing the in and up. Something else to work on 🙂

  26. Madhavi Abuja 3 years ago

    Loving this video. One question what do you mean when u say “stick your body out” does this mean I lengthen the tailbone towards my feet ? I not sure how to achieve this

    • Sonjé Mayo Author
      Sonje Mayo 3 years ago

      Sorry that is my accent….I am saying “stick your booty out” meaning get the sacrum long on the mat.

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