One year ago today, I returned home from a weekend at the Jersey shore to find a special gift waiting for me on my front porch. It was ten o’clock on a Saturday night in August and I was perplexed for a second before realizing that the circular package wrapped in heavy brown paper must be the hoop I had ordered online a few weeks earlier. In the chaos of a weekend spent with family visiting from Florida I had forgotten about it, but once I tore into the wrapper and held that teal and purple striped adult-sized hoop in my hands, I couldn’t wait to give it a whirl.
Do you remember your first time? It was love at first spin, and I remember laughing and feeling like I was getting away with something. I’ve said it before in this column, but it bears repeating: it blows my mind that something so fun can be so good for me, too. Over these last 12 months, as I have learned more about hooping, met other hoopers and shared my own personal journey through Hooping.org, I have discovered that hooping has given me so much more than just a fun way to exercise. On this, my first hoopiversary, I’d like to celebrate these eight surprising gifts the hoop has brought into my life.
1. A way to meditate that fits my life. For years I’d been telling myself I really needed to start meditating. And I never did. But recently I realized that those minutes spent inside my hoop when I am not working on a move or consciously exercising, are moments of true meditation. When I lose myself in the simple act of spinning the circle on my body and my mind is quiet, I have achieved a key goal of meditation. And unlike carving out time each day to sit and focus on breathing, hooping is something I do make time for. I know that traditional meditation has value, but for now, finding my center inside the hoop works for me.
2. A passport into a whole new world. Sure, every time you take up a new hobby there is an opportunity to learn and grow. But with hooping, a year later, I am still curious and fascinated by this previously unknown world of hoop dance and performance. One of the things I find so exciting about the culture of hooping is that it also encompasses so many different subcultures as well. If I could draw a circle and write the word hooping in the middle, from that circle extend lines out to countless sources of influence: burlesque, belly dancing, ballet, hip hop, folk music festivals, circus acts, vaudeville, yoga…it seems endless.
3. Connection to a community. There really is a recognition you share when you discover that someone else enjoys hooping too. Like you are both in on this really great secret and instantly, your obsession is validated. Hooping.org has expanded this sense of community for me, connecting me to fellow hoopers across the U.S. and across the pond. There really is something special about hoopers, too. Is it me or does this feel like a really accepting, supportive group of people? Maybe it has to do with hooping being a form of expression. Maybe it attracts a more sensitive, compassionate type of person. Or maybe it is hard to be anything but welcoming and happy when your passion revolves around a childhood toy.
4. A really fun calling card. I’ve started bringing an armful of hoops with me when I visit friends. Always there is someone who appreciates the opportunity to give it a spin, and I usually leave promising to make someone a hoop for next time. It’s like breaking out a game of Twister. There’s a touch of nostalgia, sometimes a moment of embarrassed hesitation, but usually it results in a lot of inclusion and laughter. Hoops also make an awesome gift, and if you know how to make one, it’s adds a more personal touch.
5. Goals to strive for. I’m a mixed breed personality. One part Type A, driven Capricorn, always pushing to succeed, and one part dreamer, seeking spiritual answers and looking for ways to enhance my connection to the universe. Hooping speaks to both parts of me. There is a never-ending succession of tutorials to study, moves to master, and sequences to practice until perfect. Each achievement is as exhilarating as the first. And for the part of me that is fascinated by the mystical, hooping offers another gift…
6. Connection to an elemental part of myself. Yeah, this sounds a bit airy-fairy, but stay with me for a second. I know I’m not the only one who has felt it. There is something magical about spinning in the hoop. It is healing. It taps into energy from within. It calls to mind metaphors about circles and spirals found in nature. It brings me to a state of bliss with no bad side effects except the occasional bruise. It is so much more than just a toy.
7. It lets me play. Let’s face it, hoops may be a lot of things but they are also TOYS! Big, fun, colorful, sparkly, pretty, playful toys! Yippee! Come on, how often do we get to play as adults? Simple, easy, non-competitive, just pick it up and get started play. And if, like me, you sometimes feel the need to rationalize taking a break from responsibility to do something as frivolous as play with a hula hoop, you can point out that hooping burns a boatload of calories. So there. (now stick out your tongue and flounce away)
8. It’s helped me find my voice. I make my living helping hospital systems and large corporations communicate through design and words. As a writer, I am hired to speak for others, and my words are often written for CEOs and surgeons, to be their voices and represent their messages. When Hooping.org put out a call for writers last fall, I jumped at the opportunity to give voice to my own experience as a newbie hooper, and by articulating my own hoop journey, to hopefully help others better understand the joy and excitement, insecurities and achievements to be discovered in this amazing world of hooping, I am truly grateful for the gift that this column has given me. I thank each of you for taking the time to read my words and hoop with me on this journey.
On this, my first year hoopiversary, I am filled with awe and gratitude for these gifts and more, and I look forward to continuing to learn more about the hoop and about myself in the years to come. And now it’s my turn to ask: What gifts has hooping given you?