Getting Started with Hoop Play
by Katelyn Selanders
Do you remember hula-hooping when you were a child? Maybe you’ve watched your children, grandchildren, or the kids outside at recess spinning those plastic toys around their waist—smiling, laughing, and bursting with energy. Children hula-hoop unabashedly! They don’t care how silly they look, or how many times it falls down, and they don’t notice how hard they are working. They keep hooping because it feels good, right down to the core! They feel their belly fill with warmth, their arms stretch out to the universe, their head level with the earth . . . and laughter effortlessly bubbles out!
Want to know something pretty awesome? Adults can feel that way too!
Hula-hooping is growing in popularity as both a fitness and weight-loss tool for adults, since it tones and strengthens the core, improves balance and stability, and burns up to 600 calories per hour. According to the American Council on Exercise, hooping is comparable to group boot camp in terms of exercise intensity. But the fitness craze isn’t all there is to this movement practice. For starters, hooping today has evolved beyond standard waist hooping to involve a wide variety of tricks and dance moves. Just search YouTube “hooping” on your computer and you’ll find hundreds of thousands of videos of people performing impressive dance moves, tricks, and circus routines.
Improved fitness and weight loss, as well as the rush of learning a new trick, certainly attracted me to hooping in the beginning. But, I continue to hoop now to experience the transformative power of creative expression and play, to enjoy my body exactly as it is right now, and to connect with my core. I like to call it Hoop Play, because I think that pure enjoyment is the best reason of all to hula-hoop!
Want to give it a try?
I know what you’re thinking—“I can’t hoop” and “I’ve never been able to hoop” are phrases I hear all the time. But the first thing you need to know is that Hoop Play is not done with those small, store-bought, hula-hoops you may have used as a child. Hoop Play involves using a much bigger and heavier, adult-sized hoop. The larger the hoop is, the slower it rotates around your body. The heavier it is, the sooner it will gain momentum. So, even if you could never hoop as a child, you’re sure to learn with these new adult-sized hoops.
Once you’ve found yourself an adult hoop, here’s what to do: put one foot in front of the other, hold the hoop on a flat and horizontal plane against the small of your back, twist in whatever direction feels natural, give the hoop a strong toss, and ROCK-IT!
Contrary to what most people think, hooping does not require you to rotate your hips in a circle. Rather, it requires you to rock your hips and torso forward and backward. And if the number one reason why most people can’t hoop is because their hoop is too small or light, then the second most common reason people can’t hoop is because they are not moving fast enough. So let go of your inhibitions, breathe into your belly, and let the energy of your inner child take over!
If you are still struggling with hula-hooping, here are a few tips. Try standing with your feet wider than hip-width apart and rocking side to side, lift your chest up to the sky and pull your shoulders back and down, and brace your core as if you’re about to get punched in the stomach! You can also try filling your belly up with air and pushing out against the hoop.
Once you get the basics down, challenge yourself. If your goal is weight-loss, then focus on spinning the hoop as quickly as you can for an efficient cardio workout. You can also work up to dancing with your hoop by starting with small steps, or turning in a circle in the same direction your hoop is spinning. To strengthen your core muscles, alter your stance: put the other foot forward or try standing with feet hip-width apart, bring your feet together ankle to ankle, stand on one leg, or practice standing on your tippy-toes. To improve your balance and stability, move your arms up over your head, follow your fingers with your eyes, or hoop in the opposite direction. When you’re ready, try shimmying the hoop up and down your core, see what happens when you play with your hoop off your body, or try your luck at the thousands of free, online hoop trick tutorials.
Like other creative arts, hooping has also evolved into an expressive, grounding, and meditative movement practice. Since, for many of us, hooping is easier when spinning in the same direction as the hoop, sustained spinning has become a popular method of entering a meditative state while hooping. Most hoopers experience a deeper connection with their core energy as a result of the increased blood-flow and movement of energy from the core body. I find that the hoop reminds me to pay attention to my gut—I notice what I feel in my core body more often, and start making connections between my bodily sensations and my emotions.
The beauty of Hoop Play is that in the beginning its fun and goofy—allowing your inner child to play—but after some practice, it becomes sensual and introspective. It’s like fitness for your Core-Self.
Katelyn Selanders, BA (PSY), BSW/RSW, is co-owner of the Saskatchewan-based business, Solstice Hoop Play. In addition to offering hula-hoop fitness classes as a certified Group Fitness Leader, she utilizes integrative expressive arts, play, and body-oriented techniques into her workshops and lessons. She also offers hula-hoop teacher trainings and shares Core Self-care lessons from the hoop through her blog, “The Hula-Hooping Social Worker.” To learn more, or to purchase a hand-crafted hoop, please visit www.hoopplay.ca.