Why we love the Magic Circle:
The Magic Circle can support or challenge you within your exercises. It can also help your body understand how to better direct your energy to improve your elongation patterns and improve your organisation of alignment by giving your body feedback in the correct direction to maintain or to move towards, within your Pilates repertoire.
Did you know?
Joseph Pilates the founder of Pilates (although he called the method Contrology) invented the Magic Circle. Legend has it that he was inspired by the rings around a beer keg and his resourceful nature led to his first Magic Circle being made this way.
Common errors of using a Magic Circle:
Often it is assumed you need to squeeze the Magic Circle as much as possible but it is more about enhancing your connection to the movement within your own body.
You can choose between plastic versions and metal Magic Circles. Often the metal version is a little stronger – both though come with pads on the inside and outside for additional comfort (unlike Joe’s first beer keg version).
- Flowing Movements
Remembering this in everything we do within our Pilates Practice – is what makes it Pilates!
Doing the Contrology/ Joe’s Push Up is a tough exercise for most. The full narrow press up within this exercise often provides the biggest challenge. The Magic Circle can be great for improving your shoulder organisation and all-round strength.
You can also use the Magic Circle to help with your Press-Ups; you need to position the circle on your sternum/chest bone, which can be tender or uncomfortable for some. Still using your own strength and mindful of alignment move into a High Full Plank position, as you bend your arms the Magic Circle will contort and then as you push your arms straight and back up to the High Plank Position (the part we can find the hardest) the Magic Circle aids your return. This can be wonderful for building strength and confidence with this full version of a narrow press up.
As Joe said, “A few well -designed movements, properly performed in a balanced sequence are worth hours of doing sloppy callisthenics or forced contortion.”
Phil & Sarah’s Note:
Having an efficient Pelvic Floor for both women and men is important. It can help stop incontinence and treat a prolapse.
Often a way of helping people understand their pelvic floor muscles is asking them to imagine stopping the flow of urine (although it is recommended you don’t actually do this as it can lead to bladder problems!).
Pelvic floor muscles are very deep and other than maybe the concentration on your face we shouldn’t visibly be able to see you working them. If we can this is often due to over recruitment of other global muscles. The sensation you are aiming for is a drawing in and UP. Don’t hold your breath, tighten your tummy or bottom or even your thigh muscles, it’s deeper than that.
The function of pelvic floor muscles are to support your internal organs in your tummy and to contract to stop incontinence, they also need to be able to relax so that you can go to the toilet. So your pelvic floor muscles need to be able to contract and relax. You can do specific exercises just to train your pelvic floor if required.
Did you know?
That Joseph Pilates never used the word ‘Core’ to the knowledge of Lolita San Miguel (Pilates Elder and former student of Joe) for him its alignment and centring.
During Pilates, you also use your pelvic floor muscles but not at 100%. It needs to be responsive to the load through the body and works in conjunction with your transverse abdominal, diaphragm and multifidus muscles, these are all deep muscles and together these 4 are better known today collectively as your core muscles.
The Pilates Magic Circle is great for aiding strength through the whole body and if used regularly can improve your overall tone too. Pilates is wonderful to help maintain your pelvic floor strength but if you have a particular weakness with your pelvic floor you will need to do isolated movements at least 3 times a day, you can also seek medical advice from your Physio or GP if you are particularly concerned.
About the Authors
Sarah & Philip Harris founded Harris Mind & Body in 2006 to provide Physiotherapy & Pilates across West Berkshire. They are a team which specialises in Musculoskeletal physiotherapy, with specific interests in chronic back pain, sports injuries and neurological rehabilitation as well as offering Pilates, to provide a multi-disciplinary approach to wellness & health!
(All imagery in this post is credited & copyright of Harris Mind & Body)