More of a balance…

One leg circle is one of the best pilates exercises for testing your core strength. The abs need to work hard to keep the shoulders and pelvis stable, despite the movement of the leg in the hip socket. One leg circle also tones and stretches the thighs.

This is a focus exercise meaning, work the abdominals while keeping the Pilates principles of centering, concentrating, control, precision, breath, and flow.

This is a relatively ‘easy’ exercise in terms of expending energy.

How do i do it?

Prep: lie on your back with legs extended on the floor, arms long by your sides. Take a moment to feel the weight of your body on the floor; imprinting the shoulders in to the mat. Balance your weight of your shoulders and hips on each side. Use the breath to drop into the body and encourage the weight of the ribs to rest on the floor.

Engage Your Abdominals!

Pull abs in, anchoring the pelvis and shoulders. Extend one leg toward the ceiling (if the hamstrings have already been stretched). Do not lift your hip in the process. Leave the knee slightly bent if your hamstrings are tight. *It is more important that your hips stay stable and grounded on the mat than it is for your leg to be straight.

Inhale: Cross the extended leg over toward the opposite hip.

Exhale: Drop the leg a few inches. Control the leg as your circle it down, sweep it around and back to centre – guiding the leg with your abs. *keep your shoulders and pelvis square, this is more important than extending the leg fully or making big circles. It is in keeping the pelvis stable that your abdominals get their workout. No Rockin’ or Rollin’!

Do five circles in each direction with each leg.

The breath:
First set of 5:
Inhale to take the leg across the body.
Exhale to circle it around and back to centre.

Second set of 5, alternate direction with same leg:

Inhale to take the leg out to shoulder width.
Exhale to circle it back up and back to centre.


Why do we do this?

The Single Leg Circle is the first asymmetrical mat-work exercise you learn in the classical repertoire, and in your EPL sessions! In this exercise, your legs do two different things simultaneously. This asymmetrical way of moving challenges your mind, your nervous system, your stability, your coordination, and your whole-body awareness. It also reveals any asymmetries or imbalances in your body’s muscular/skeletal structure. At the same time, this exercise engages both legs as they support and are being supported by the rest of the body. Overall, the Single Leg Circle requires (and develops) more precise control and muscular balance.

Don’t be surprised if you discover that you can do this exercise more easily with one leg than with the other. This “side dominance” is typical for most people and results from a lack of uniform development. As you gain skill with the Single Leg Circle and other Pilates exercises, you will see these differences diminish.

Modifications & tips:

– Keep the non-working leg bent, foot flat on the floor. This will provide more stability for the pelvis.

– As your core strength increases, you will be able to increase the size of the circle you make with your leg. Start small and work up.

– Try this exercise whilst holding the magic circle 90 degrees, up toward the ceiling, grounding the shoulders for more focus and stability.

– Place your non-working leg flat on the mat and hook your foot underneath the strap (if attending EPL tower class).

– You can also use the magic circle to stretch out the ITband and hamstrings!


– Improved range and efficiency of movement in your hip joints.

– Strong legs and hips, and a stronger, more stable lower back and spine.

– Balanced muscular use and strength of legs, hips, shoulders, and torso, to help avoid arthritis, tendonitis, and general degeneration of the hip and knee joints.

– A longer, stronger spine, resulting from Pilates’ unique way of building both power and length simultaneously.

Imbalances in the way you stand and walk are big contributors to weak, painful hip joints—a common problem for the elderly. The Single Leg Circle works in conjunction with other Pilates exercises to promote uniformly developed muscle and joint strength, and to eliminate the chronic wear and tear these imbalances place on our body’s structure!

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