People tend to have a love/hate relationship with the Magic Circle, and if you've spent enough time with Pilates enthusiasts, you've probably heard an argument either for or against this innocent ring. I'll admit that when I was first introduced to it, I wasn't a fan; all I could think about was how awkward and uncomfortable it felt. But the more I worked with it, the more I understood - and felt - the benefits.
The exercise that changed it all for me is so simple that it doesn't even seem fair to call it an exercise. If you were to watch me doing it - and you can in the video below - you would literally think, she's doing nothing. This is where the magic meets the circle.
Have you ever been in a Pilates class where the instructor told you to "scoop your abs"? Or "find your scoop"? And have you found yourself wondering, what is this scoop and how do I find it? Basically they're instructing you to tell your brain to send an electrochemical message to your deepest abdominal muscle, the transverse abdominis, to contract and help stabilize your spine. Although most bodies are able to do this, we simply don't have the awareness or control to send that message on demand.
This is where the Circle comes in. By placing the circle between your knees and gently squeezing it, you're contracting the muscles of the inner thigh. If you combine this action with an exhale, particularly one in which pull your belly in and up, you might just start to feel some deeper muscles working. You might become more aware of a connection not only between your inner thighs and your abs, but also between your muscles and your brain. You're literally strengthening your mind-body connection. By becoming more aware of how to fire your deep abdominals, you're learning how to stabilize your spine, something you do every moment of every day. You use this connection without thinking every time you walk up a flight of stairs, or bend down to pet your dog or pick up a child, or weed your garden. Every moment. Every day.