How to DETOX the body with Pilates Mat exercises.

Inversion: Roll Over on the Merrithew Arc Barrel

How to detox the body with Pilates Mat Exercises.

Answer: Support the lymphatic system and fascia with INVERSION EXERCISES

I was looking online to research the benefits of inversions in Pilates, after I re-read Joseph Pilates Book “Return to Life”.

I had removed MOST inversions out of my group classes and then private sessions due to the fact of the studio I was teaching at DID NOT ALLOW INVERSIONS. Then it slowly slipped out of my personal practice…

Since I have been studying fascia – and was also curious about how the fluid of the fascia supports the lymphatic system and how we can help clients DETOX on a cellular level with Pilates Mat inversion exercises, “through external contractions of the skeletal muscles” and fascia. (wikipedia)

A blog by Complete Pilates out of the UK – 4 Surprising Benefits Of Inversions

Their research has shown:

1.  Promotes Spine Health 

2.  Inversion exercises boost lymphatic drainage 

3.  Inversion exercises aid digestion

4.  Inversion exercises reduce muscle tension


Diving into # 2:  The fascia wants to “UPLIFT”, as Joseph Pilates would say.  Giving the fascia a chance to uplift without having to work against gravity produces benefits of reduced tension and moves the fluid of the lymph towards the heart.  This benefits the immune system and vascular system to detoxify the body. 

Complete Pilates’ Blog:

“When your muscles are tense, the supply of oxygen to them is restricted. Tense muscles can also affect the flow of lymph around the body. As we’ve already mentioned, this is bad for the body as lymph needs to move freely so that it can cleanse the body of toxins. And there are other issues with stagnant lymph, including – as some research suggests – slowing muscle recovery time after exercise.

This explains the findings in a study by physiotherapist L.J Nosse. In it, Nosse showed that boosting both oxygen circulation to muscles and lymphatic flow through inversions can help to reduce muscle tension.

According to that study, EMG (electromyographic) activity, an indicator of muscle tension, declined over 35 degrees within ten seconds of inverting.

But you don’t need to go as far as a handstand to experience these benefits. Positive effects in trial participants were noted even when only inverted 25 degrees. “

—-OK so back to the Pilates Mat exercises and the fascia focus:.  This amazing research demonstrates that the practice of Pilates Mat heals and cleanses the body on a cellular level and also reduces muscle tension of body.  If we are able to talk about the research with confidence to our clients and explain how to support the lymphatic system and why it is necessary, it can only help their bodies!

The break down…  Out of the 34 Pilates Mat exercises, 12 have inversions moments and some are held inversion positions for at least 10 seconds. (Which is what the research touches on about muscle tension, see above #4)

Pilates Classical Mat ( # are the order in his book)

Roll Over with Legs Spread (both ways) # 3

Rolling Back #5

Open Leg Rocker #9

The Cork-Screw #10

The Scissors #16

The Bicycle #17  

The Shoulder Bridge #18

The Jack-Knife #20

The Boomerang #29

Seal #30

Crab #31

Control Balance #33

I am fascinated by the classical work and Joseph’s ability to be so ahead of his time. These exercises have an amazing result on the body. Some of these are introduced in essential work for example: rolling back (aka: rolling like a ball), but some are definitely advanced, for example Control Balance. If the client is Advanced – they should be practicing the ENTIRE Classical Mat with these inversions. So give it to them!

How often should you do these exercises?  

Joseph Pilates Suggested 4 times a week, in his book Return to Life.

However, If you have a client that is beginning or intermediate you can use props to get the hips at the 35% angle by using the Arc Barel (mine is by Merrithew “STOTT PILATES”) – Here are my examples:

Contemporary Pilates  Arc Barrel

Roll Over


Double Leg Stretch

Single Leg Stretch

Tick Tock 

Flutter Kicks (aka:walking down the wall)

Beats Externally rotated from 5th & then from Pilates V

(see video on u-tube tv – Carrie Miller Pilates)

Inversions aren’t the only exercises that can help support the lymphatic system, I will discuss more in future blogs!

Remember Inversions ARE NOT for everyone, please look at the client’s medical conditions and decide if it’s right for the person you are teaching.

As always I would love to know your thoughts! Please sign up for my blogs my DM message me!


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  1. Hi Carrie, I couldn’t see the video? Maybe cos I am on my phone? I wondered if there is any extra stress placed on the heart from detoxing in this way?

    1. Hi Brigid, I am new at this digital platform, I am posting the videos to my u-tube channel – Carrie Miller Pilates, I additionally posted it in social media feed on my page Carrie Miller Pilates.
      To answer your question from the research that I gathered, inversion positions less than three minutes are totally good for the body . The Pilates mat classical sequences are not all inversions in a row, but spread out within the 34 recommended exercises. The contemporary sequence is 2:30. You can split it up too. 45 seconds at a time.

      Not every client should practice inversions and always ask the client to seek MEDICAL guidance before engaging ANY Pilates exercise program. This protects you as the trainer.

      This is from the HEALTH Line Blog:
      “Your doctor may not recommend inversion exercises if you have certain conditions, including:

      bone and joint disorders, such as osteoporosis, herniated disk, fractures, or spinal injuries

      cardiovascular disorders, such as high blood pressure, stroke, or heart disease

      diseases or infections, such as conjunctivitis (pink eye), ear infections, glaucoma, or cerebral sclerosis

      Other factors that may cause complications include:

      retinal detachment
      use of blood clotting medications

      It also takes time to adjust to inversion therapy. It’s best to start off in shorter increments (slowly building from one-minute sets to three) to get used to the process. This can help reduce side effects such as dizziness or muscle strain. Be careful not to overdo it.”

      1. Thank you that makes perfect sense. What an interesting perspective on the mat repertoire.

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