In exercises where you roll back off your sits bones (like Half Roll Back on the mat or box) it’s easy to simply tuck the pelvis and follow the natural momentum of rocking back toward the sacrum and lower back. But I’ve often experienced a “sinking feeling” as I roll into that curve. My ribs and hips travel toward each other at warp speed and I end up looking like a squished Slinky. Not exactly the Pilates look I’m going for! So I’ve begun to imagine opening both an inner abdominal circle and an outer spine circle as I rock back. My squished Slinky now resembles a beautiful crescent moon suspended high in the sky.
As I start the roll back I imagine floating my rib cage away from my pelvis and setting it gently, high upon a shelf. Like letting out the string on a high flying kite, the space between my vertebras lengthens and I feel my core muscles engage to support the spine’s curved suspension. I keep the integrity of that curve, bringing it forward – up and over a beach ball – restacking my vertebra to complete the movement.
Inner and outer circles can also be seen in side bending exercises like Mermaid. I would often feel a wonderful opening stretch on one side but only because I was totally compressing the other side. Now I imagine lifting both sides up and over a barrel or beach ball. The result is a side bend that is balanced, open and supported. Play around with the imagery that opens your circles, whether they’re side by side or front to back and let me know how it works out!