This is my girl Fancy Pants, cat guardian, extraordinaire, overseeing my hoop practice, last Sunday.
I saw a couple of girlfriends from out of town recently and finally got a chance to properly introduce them to hoop dance. I showed them a few basic moves as well as some simple ways to use the hoop for warming up and stretching. They each went home with a shiny new hoop.
I checked in with them by email to see how they were doing. It’s not uncommon for those new to hoop dance to start off with a lot of excitement and enthusiasm. Then they hit the inevitable wall we all hit when learning something new. As adults, especially, many of us have this crazy idea that we should already be good at things. And if we aren’t, then there must be something wrong with us, so we get discouraged. Maybe we even give up. I’ve seen this enough times that I do my best to reassure the newbie hoopers in my circle that going through the challenges is part of the journey.
I emailed my friends a few simple ideas for easing into a long-term hoop habit. I thought I’d share some here, too:
1. Make it play. All creativity stems from open curiosity and willingness to explore. Suspend all ideas of what you believe hoop dance SHOULD be and instead, think of your hoop as a toy. (I dare you.) Pick up your hoop and experiment with it. Use your imagination and see where it takes you. I start every class with a warm-up of guided hoop play that helps us all to come more fully into our bodies in preparation for learning new moves and getting into dance flow with our hoops.
2. Make a game out of it. See how many revolutions you can do on the waist, the hips, the chest, the shoulders, the hands. Challenge yourself by switching directions. If you are working on getting more mobile with your hooping, see how many steps you can take forward and back while keeping your hoop in flight. Or practice turning. See how many times you can turn with your hoop.
3. Make it stylish. Hooper fashion rocks. For many of us, part of the fun of hoop dance is that, as a hooper, you have permission to wear whatever floats your boat. Whether it’s funky or fashion-forward, hippie or gypsy or a techie top and Spiderman leggings, it’s all good in the hoop world. To bring a little of this culture into your hoop practice, ditch the yoga pants and sensible tank top and use your imagination. Wear something fun.
4. Make it educational. If you want to become a better hoop dancer, your practice sessions can turn into personal mini hoop classes by watching some of the amazing hoop dance tutorials on YouTube and Vimeo. There is no limit to what you can learn by finding a teacher whose style works for you.
5. Make it colorful. The colors we wear and spin can affect the way we feel and the quality of our experiences. Start with a hoop in colors you love. As the hoop whirls around you, its hues stir and activate your energy. Choose your hoop dance clothes in colors that match your mood. The colors with which we feel aligned, on any given day, can help us feel more connected to our inner being, the source of our creativity. Every color has a vibration. Some days, calming gray is the perfect choice. Other days, you’re feeling blue. And then there are those days when only fire engine red will do. Honor your inner color consultant and notice how that supports your practice.
6. Make it musical. To me, the whole point of hoop dance is to cultivate beauty and joy and share that with others. A great mix of music will set the tone for practice sessions and keep you energized and engaged. It is possible to hoop dance to virtually any kind of music you love. Turn up the volume and dance!
7. Make it fun. One of the best things about hoop dance is that it allows us to get out of our heads and into our bodies. There are no rules or strategies or requirements. In my experience, those who have fun with hoop dance, get much more out of it and are more likely to continue with their hoop dance for years longer than those who are overly serious in their approach. As adults, especially, it is vital that we spend time doing things that bring us pleasure and enjoyment. Exercise that we enjoy doing is much more beneficial for the body than exercise we hate. It turns out, making it fun is serious business.
8. Make it a solo. With the hoop as your partner, you don’t need anyone else to join you, in order to have a successful hoop practice. I love having the freedom to step into my backyard, crank up the music and hoop. Though I enjoy hooping with others, my practice time is sacred. Just me and the hoop. Exploring, experimenting, expressing and DANCING.
9. Make it short and sweet. Your hoop dance practice doesn’t have to be thirty minutes long to be of value. If you are just starting, sometimes hooping to just one or two songs is plenty to get you moving and improving. It all counts and it all adds up. Do what feels good to you. For just as long as it feels good. Then congratulate yourself on getting your hoop practice in and get on with the rest of your day.
10. Make it count. To get the most from your hoop practice, I highly recommend having a starting ritual that helps you let go of everything but being present for your practice with your hoop. The more fully you show up, the more you will get from your practice in terms of benefits to body, mind and spirit. One of my favorite ways to start is by spinning two large hoops on my waist for one song and then reverse direction and repeat for one more song. The weight of the hoops and the body rocking of the rhythm never fails to release me from the cares and concerns of the day so I can flow freely in my hoops. For you, it might be doing the same thing, but with one hoop. Or perhaps you’d enjoy easing into it by doing some gentle movement while holding the hoop. Whatever works best for you, do that. Rituals signal body and being for what is to come.
Whether you are just starting out or have been a hoop dancer for years, I hope this list helps put a little wind in your hoop practice sails. Remember that the hoop will meet you wherever you are. It is the perfect partner whether you are slow dancing or totally rocking it out.
I’d love to hear about your hoop practice and any tips you have for making one’s hoop practice play.