How to Do an Open Leg Balance With a Magic Circle

Using the Pilates magic circle ( also known as a fitness ring and exercise circle among other names) with the open leg balance exercise shows off the benefits of the circle as a training tool. It adds a resistance element, which in this case has the added benefit of inner thigh toning; it adds a coordination challenge, and it adds some visual and sensory feedback. I'll point those elements out as we go through the exercise instructions.


Open Leg Balance with Exercise Circle

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Before we get started, if you are not familiar with Pilates open leg balance, you might want to review that first. Also, if you don't have an exercise circle, you can try this with a medium/small exercise ball.

  • Set Up: Open Leg Balance with Exercise Ring
  • Sit up tall on your sit bones with your bent knees pointing to the ceiling and your feet flat on the floor.
  • Place the pads of the exercise ring just above your ankle bones.
  • Roll your shoulders back and down and leave them relaxed as you place your hands to the outside of your lower legs.

Open Leg Balance with Exercise Circle

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  • Pull your abdominal muscles in and up and lengthen your spine as you use your abdominal muscles to pull your knees toward your shoulders, lifting the lower leg.
    At the same time, engage your inner thighs and give that exercise circle a little squeeze as it lifts. Keep it level.
    This move creates a lengthening curve of your lumbar spine that is supported by your scooping abdominal muscles. So your weight will have shifted slightly behind your sit bones.
  • Balance here -- use control from your abdominal muscles. Breathe deeply. No unnecessary tension.
  • If you have your balance and feel in control, go to the next step. If not, put your feet down and repeat the sequence to this point a few more times. It will get easier.

Awareness Tip: Though the circle is low on your leg, feel that you are initiating the squeeze of the circle from way up in your core. You might think that you are pulling your sit bones together. Remember, this is a light squeeze of the circle. You are not out to crush it.

Do you feel the feedback the resistance from circle sends back to your core?


Legs Extended - Open Leg Balance with Exercise Ring

exercise ring exercise
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  • Keep your knees at the same height and lift your lower legs so that your legs are straight. This is a controlled balance exercise. Your inner thighs stay activated and the exercise circle stays even as your legs extend.
  • Your neck is long, chest is open, and shoulders are relaxed.
  • Stay balanced here for a few deep breaths.

Awareness Tips: Notice the inner thigh toning effect but also how keeping pressure on the circle keeps the engagement traveling up the leg and into the pelvic floor and core, even as you are reaching out with the legs.

Keep in mind this is not just a balance with an upright fold at the hip like boat pose. Your abdominal muscles need to be working to keep those legs lifted and light, and there is a long scoop where the tail bone seems to reach through toward your heels and simultaneously your spine is lengthening up as you send energy through the top of your head.

Extra Credit Move Take this balance right on into Pilates Open Leg Rocker -- with the ring. The ring will give you a lot of visual and tactile feedback as to how balanced you are side to side. Plus it will keep those inner thighs engaged.

The Magic Circle is a traditional piece of Pilates exercise equipment. Compare Prices

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