What is Hooping?

When most people say “hooping,” and what I mean on this site, we are speaking of moving a hoop around the body or off the body for fitness, self-expression, performance art, challenge, meditation, or simply for fun! The hoop doesn’t have to spin–it can balance, stall, break, bounce, climb, wobble…or whatever movement your imagination creates.

Is that like hula hooping?

Hoopers dropped the word hula to differentiate themselves from the fad of the late 1950’s. They used the term “hooping” to announce a new community and a new way to use the hoop, embracing dance, tricks, technique, and even performance and spiritual practice.  Hooping uses special, usually handmade, hoops rather than toy hoops. These hoops are generally larger, heavier, much sturdier, and often more fancifully decorated than toy versions. Buy a hoop.

Is hooping just for kids?

Not at all! Sure, kids love hooping, too, but bigger hoops make hooping a fun workout for adults. Hooping can be enjoyed by a huge range of ages and body types, bringing joy and fitness both for people who are already active and those who have been sedentary. It is so addicting, you won’t even think about “working out”!

I couldn’t hula hoop when I was a kid, will I be able to do this?

These new hoops are bigger and spin more slowly than the kids’ hoops you may remember–that means they are way easier to get spinning, and much easier to keep spinning. I’ve watched people who thought they couldn’t do it pick up a hoop and were confidently spinning in minutes. Other people need more time to learn the movements that make the hoop spin, so it may take a bit of practice. (Classes can help, too. If you are in the Saratoga Springs, NY area, come hoop with us!) Most hoop tricks did not come easily to me, personally, and this made it all the more joyful as I practiced and practiced until I got them. (See this blog post about my thoughts on the hoop learning process.)

Is hooping safe?

Hooping exercises your body. Like any new exercise, you should get your doctor’s approval before beginning hooping, especially if you have any history of cardio-respiratory illness, injuries, or other physical limitations. You also need to listen to your body and your common sense, of course, when trying new movements. See the sections below on hooping injuries and cautions.

Are there hooping injuries? How do I prevent them?

Yes, people can injure themselves with a hoop–people can injure themselves with most anything! The most common complaints are bruises and soreness, which are generally mild and will go away. There are some easy steps you can take to avoid most common injuries, however.

Bruises when you are beginning to hoop around your waist (or a different part of your body) may be inevitable, but they’ll go away and it will stop happening. (This post is about hoop bruises.)

You may feel sore after your early experiences with hooping, a long and/or vigorous hoop session, or practicing a new move. Every time you use muscles you aren’t accustomed to engaging or working them harder or longer (or differently) than usual, you are more likely to become sore. You should warm up before hooping by moving slowly and gradually increasing the intensity and range of motion. This allows the heart and muscles to work efficiently and the body to move without over-stressing joints, muscles, and tendons. After a vigorous hoop session, give yourself 5-10 minutes to cool down, allowing your heart rate to slow, and then do some gentle stretching for the full body.

As you are learning, be gentle to yourself and listen to your body!

Can you hoop anywhere on your body?

Sure, though I caution my students (and people who buy my hoops) that there are two places that new hoopers should be particularly careful about hooping: the neck and the knees. Slamming a hoop around the neck is clearly a bad idea–the hoop is heavy and the neck is delicate. The same is true of knees–there are a lot of vulnerable tissues at the knees and very little protection. My rule of thumb is to wait until you become proficient in hooping everywhere from shoulders down to your thighs–that is your motions are smooth and controlled and you can determine the speed and angle of your hoop anywhere on your body–and only then try hooping around your neck, possibly the knees. At this point you are able to make the hoop roll gently around your neck, at least. I know lots of hoopers like hooping at their knees, but I only do this with my very lightest hoop and only for short periods of time. It’s easier than hooping at the thighs and calves, but I have to wonder if knee hooping could do permanent damage to ligaments or cartilage.

On a practical note, hooping on different parts of your body requires different body motions. You can check out videos online, DVDs, or take a class to learn how to do it!

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