Living with Harmony ~ A Blog for your Mind & Body

Legs & Hips with the Pilates Ball

Posted in How-To,Pilates,Stability Ball / Yoga Ball by Harmony on November 18, 2010

The first of two series on using the Stability Ball or Pilates Ball to open those hips and stretch out those legs.  A Pilates Ball is also known as a Stability Ball, Exercise Ball, Yoga Ball, and by so many other names.  Basically it’s a large, inflatable vinyl ball that comes in several sizes to accomodate your height.  Please visit our Yoga Ball page to see out entire selection which includes burst-resistant balls and eco-friendly balls.

Pilates Stability Ball Exercises to Lengthen Legs & Open Hips

Created Jan 27 2009 – 15:27

What It Is:
With its pliability, roundness and fluidity of movement, the Stability ball lends itself perfectly to supporting and encouraging stretching and opening poses. The next few exercises help to bring awareness and suppleness to our legs and hips that are often over used and in need of this much deserved TLC! Remember these following precautions when going into any stretches. Stretching under your limit is much better than over your limit. Make each stretch fit your body type and limit. In other words: Do NOT ever force a stretch.

This one is derived from the old aerobics days where injuries ran wild. Never bounce into a stretch or jerk out of a stretch. Be aware of your alignment as you stretch. Always use tension-free, full breath to keep tension out of other parts of the body and to help you ease deeper into the pose.

Exercise: Hamstring, inner thigh and IT band stretch
This is a simple but effective and thorough stretch for the legs. If you have only time for one stretch sequence for the legs, then this is it. The opposite leg (the one you are not stretching) rests on the ball. Because of the height of the ball this eases the lower back but because of the wobbliness of the ball you have to pay more attention to where you are in space as you stretch. This will help you build your proprioceptive skills in a very safe pose.

  • You can use a strap or towel around the foot or hold onto the leg behind the calf or at the big toe if you can reach comfortably.
  • Lie supine on a mat with the ball at your feet.
  • Make sure the ball is on the mat for greater stability.
  • Drape the left leg over the ball.
  • Stretch the right leg to the ceiling to target the hamstring muscles.
  • Be sure that the back of the pelvis stays on the floor and the tip of the tailbone keeps reaching towards the mat.
  • For the beginner keep the head down but be sure the shoulders stay away from the ears.
  • For more seasoned stretchers, the head and shoulders can roll towards the knee if you can keep the shoulders down.
  • Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds breathing deeply.


  • If you have a strap around the foot bring the strap into the right hand.
  • Let the right / straight leg move to the side targeting the adductor (inner thigh) muscles.
  • Make sure that the left side of the back of the pelvis does not leave the floor.
  • You might have to not drop the leg down so far in order to keep both sides of the back of the pelvis anchored.
  • Hold for 20 to 30 seconds breathing deeply.
  • Next, slowly bring the leg back to center, bring the strap into the left hand and slowly cross the right leg over the body but try to keep the right hip on the floor. In this way you will target and stretch the Iliotibial band (IT band) on the outside of the leg.
  • Be sure the shoulders are staying away from the ears.
  • Hold for 20 to 30 seconds breathing deeply.
  • Switch sides.

Exercise: PSOAS Stretch

  • Because of all the sitting and driving we do in our culture the front of our hips get very tight. Opening the front of the hips helps to keep the stress out of the lower back and keeps us moving more fluidly.
  • For more stability you can place your mat and ball close to the wall.
  • With the ball in front of you, slide the left leg back behind you with the knee on the floor.
  • If you have sensitive knees place a blanket underneath this left knee.
  • Bring the right leg to the front with the knee bent and the foot by the ball.
  • Imagine you could bring the tailbone between the legs as you lift the belly up towards the face.
  • Breath deeply.
  • If you want to ease into it a little more, allow the ball to roll slightly forward.
  • Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
  • For an even deeper stretch, curl the toes of the back leg and straighten the leg without lifting the hips too high.
  • Keep imagining the tailbone going between the legs as the belly lifts towards the face.
  • With either the knee down or the leg extended you can add a side bend that will deepen the opening in the left front of the hip.
  • Keeping the right hand on the ball, lift the left hand to the ceiling and straighten the arm.
  • Exhale and side bend to the right , fanning the left ribcage open.
  • Be sure the hips stay square to the front as you side bend.
  • Switch sides.

Exercise: Quadriceps Stretch

  • Start seated on your ball at the end of your mat facing towards your mat.
  • Gently walk the feet out one at a time until the head and shoulders are resting on your ball and the knee is right over the ankle.
  • In this position, press the hips to the ceiling.
  • The eye focus should stay to the ceiling.
  • Keeping the hips lifted and the head and shoulders on the ball , move one foot closer into the ball and allow that knee to point towards the floor. To get into this position, you may need to put your fingertips on the floor.
  • You will be on the ball of the foot with the heel lifted in order to point the knee towards the floor and target the quadriceps.
  • Hold for 20 seconds and then switch sides.
  • To go further into the stretch , bring the legs back to the tabletop position.
  • From there, walk the legs out to a long position, extend the back and head and arms (if comfortable) over the ball.
  • This long stretch is a full body stretch and allows the front of the hips to fully open.
  • To come out of this long stretch , gently bring the chin to the chest as you walk one foot at a time into the ball, slowly sitting up.

Join us next time as we delve into some deep hip openings using the Pilates Stability Ball.


3 Responses to 'Legs & Hips with the Pilates Ball'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'Legs & Hips with the Pilates Ball'.

  1. […] It Is: In my last post, we explored some leg and hip openings using the stability ball. Today we are going to delve into the hips a bit deeper. You want to be warm before going into […]

  2. GMK said,

    wow, you really try to describe an exercise w/o a picture or video?

  3. Harmony said,

    We do try to offer a large variety of articles. The majority of our posts do include pictures and videos, but some people may prefer learning from detailed written instructions instead. A blind friend once mentioned that articles that rely heavily on pictures instead of words do not help them to understand how to properly perform the exercises. Feel free to click on the category link to the right for “Stability Ball” to find many other posts that you may find helpful. Thanks for your comment!

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