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For the past 4 (maybe 5) years hula hooping has been a big part of my life. Beginning as a simple hobby; evolving into a passion - then an obsession - and now it rests as part of my movement practise (a web of bodyweight exercises and movement exercises which I'll expand on in later posts).
I'm a few months in to exploring the hoop path as a career and here I'm going to talk about why you should consider picking up a hula hoop and flowing to your favourite tunes.
1. Ease of Access
First on my list is the ease of access of the Hula Hoop as a tool for movement. I started my journey with no movement experience. *insert clichè of being the last picked at gym class* - but that really was me; I don't have a competitive bone in my body, I always preferred artistic creative classes, and my laidback attitude meant all my attempts of finding a sport I like eventually fizzled out.
I always had an interest in dance, but never pursued it, the hula hoop is a great tool for people who have never danced (or haven't found their movement medium yet) because it takes the focus off your own body. Allowing you to feel less self-conscious about the way you're moving your body, because half of the movement is coming from something outside of yourself.
All you really need to begin hula hooping is (you've guessed it) a hula hoop, your favourite music and a positive outlook. Once you've passed the early stages of the Hula Hoop only managing to make a few rotations then your on to something magical.
Hula Hooping can be a gentle re-introduction to movement. A catalyst to exploring and playing with that the body is capable of.
2. Movement Capacity
Hula Hooping expands your Movement Capacity, we live in a time where it's very easy to stay stagnant. We no longer need to hunt, chase or forage for food, a lot of jobs ask for a lot in terms of mental capacity but little of physical engagement.
The way I explain it is hula hooping allows to increase momentum in the smaller muscles, the spaces between the muscles and the connecting tissues. The way we rotate and push the abs around in a rhythmic circle while we're hula hooping helps to strengthen the range of motion in these muscles. Allowing you to gain greater control of the way you're body can move which helps you to become more fluid in everyday movement as well as giving you more ways to express yourself through when you want to, whether that's while your working out or spending the evening dancing with friends or just hamming on your own to your favourite songs.
Not just for abs! Hula hooping can increase range of motion in your shoulders, neck, loosen up the hips and increase fluidity in the spine. You can strengthen the core and muscles in the legs and butt too if you're doing the right moves!
The hula hoop for me is a form of meditation. Meditation is about letting go, releasing, checking in with the breath and body. Hula Hooping gives me that space.
Feeling the gentle rhythm of the Hula Hoop circling around the body, building a connection with the breath while spinning. Hula Hooping allows me to get into a flow state, where the mind stops thinking and the moment seems beautifully endless.
IIt'st's very Eckhart Tolle ' The Power of Now ', feeling joy in the moment, finding joy in the movement. Checking out of the mind and into the body for a little while. Add delicious music (whatever feeds your soul), remove your shoes and you're onto something very earthy, tribal and a complete check out of modern day life.
4. Reflexes: Improved Hand-eye Coordination
Heading back to movement for a second. Since beginning to hula hoop, my hand-eye coordination has improved greatly, mostly due to catching and throwing the hoop, as well as other off-body tricks (I might make another post on hula-hoop lingo in future if this picks up enough traction).
While this is quite a small point to add, I'm quite a clumsy person and countless times my new hula-hooping reflexes have saved me from dropping plates/cups and almost smashing then, phones almost going down the toilet or smashing in the floor and just generally saving falling objects from a broken fate.
You also gain better control of clumsy feet and stub your toes much less (usually!)
Partially (I think) due to better special awareness, hula hooping in public places means being aware of who's around you and where they are, ensuring you don't hit them with hula hoops. Partially due to the amount of times you lose control or drop your hoop kickstarting you into cat-like reflex mode and gaining control as quick as you can.
My last point on this article is the Social side of hooping. Hula hooping and the flow arts (collective/umbrella term for dancing with props such as hula hoops, poi, fans, staffs, juggling) have prominent communities on the internet and in person.
The late 90s (up to now) resurgence of hula hooping has allowed a community to grow and flourish. YouTube allowed first wave hula hoopers to upload their videos and reach a global scale (see Anah Reichenbach, Jonathon Baxter of HoopPath, Spiral Circus Arts, Ann Humphreys of Line and Circle to name a few), inspiring a second wave of hula hoopers to do the same ( Tiana Zoumer, Brecken Rivara, and Nick Guzzardo to name some more) and now hula hooping can be found all over Instagram if you want to find it. There are YouTube channels dedicated to hoop tutorials (see Deanne Love) and Facebook groups dedicated to sharing the hoop love such as Infinite Circles Community. It's never been easier to connect and learn with other hula hoopers!
Offline, there are chances to connect too, hoop dance workshops and retreats exist in the form of Spin Summit and In Depth in Hawaii if you're in America. SWhoops and Manchester Hoop Congress if you're based in the UK. Alpine Hoop Retreat and Rendez-V'Hoop in Paris.
On a smaller scale though too local hoop and spin jams pop up all over the place, in London on the South Bank, in Brighton by Preston Park and even smaller towns ran by local hula hoopers. It's a great way to connect, share, socialise and get in touch with your tribal roots. I have fond memories of dancing in parks late at night with fire spinners and flow artists working with all different props. Dancing and feeling the beats deep into the night.