[Hooping.org columnist Shannon Herrington embraces hoopers of all sizes.]
Recently I was introducing myself and the woman I was talking to asked what I did for a living. When I told her that I was a hooper she responded, “You’re a big girl. That’d be a funny sight to see you hula hooping.” I was flabbergasted. While she is right, I am a bigger girl, should hooping only be for skinny people? I think not, though watching videos where most of the hoopers are toned and svelte, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it sometimes feels that way. Many in and out of the hoop world struggle with issues of weight, identity, and self acceptance. Not everyone in the hooping community understands what being overweight is like. Recently, while perusing a hooping teacher group, I was astonished to hear instructors ask, “Can obese people hoop?” It hurts my heart when those who are spreading hoop love in their communities aren’t aware of just how much help they can be for people who may need hooping the most. The hoop is such a powerful, transformational tool to help all of us on our journey in embracing ourselves, no matter what our size.
Hooping isn’t all about weight loss for us either. Hooping is about simply finding yourself inside the hoop. No one should be afraid of giving it a spin, or being the big girl at the jam or in class. My hooping journey has helped me a great deal. As a result I finally felt good enough about myself to post a video and called it Big Girls Can Hoop, dedicating it to all the plus-size hoopers in the world. How was it received? The response has been phenomenal with over 1,500 views and beautiful comments like, “I seriously thought this was impossible till now. You’re amazing!”, “That was such a cute video! I was smiling throughout the whole thing!” and “Thanks for this video. It’s inspired me to do it too!” One girl told me she was inspired to start filming her hoop experiences too after watching my YouTube channel. And here I was afraid to post a video on YouTube, but by walking through my fear I not only found greater self acceptance, I found greater love and support. Which got me thinking, why don’t we see more videos from men and women of size? And how can we as a community be better in spreading acceptance of our selves and our larger friends inside the hoop? Here’s what we need to do:
1. Have larger hoops for larger people. This may seem like a simple thing, but it can be really hard for some hoopers to find that goldilocks hoop. Whenever you buy a hoop on the internet, you have no clue if that hoop is perfect for your body. Some hoop makers may make the error of promising to make the perfect hoop for you without ever realizing what a larger hooper needs. I went through purchasing four different hoops online before finally making my own perfect hoop for myself. If you are a teacher or organize a hoop jam, make sure you have large hoops for your students or visitors who are struggling or plus-sized. And not just your definition of larger, but a larger we can really use. This Hoop of Self-Esteem will empower your students and it will be fun to boot! There is no limit to the size of a hoop. If the perfect hoop for you needs to be as tall as you, rock it!
2.Prioritize Your Practice. Everyone has potential to be great, but we can’t get better till we work on building the muscle memory needed to perform. Flight hours inside the hoop are imperative for all of us. If you don’t give hooping time, you won’t be able to improve. Plus sized hoopers may throw in the towel more easily because we’re often told we can’t do things. Sometimes we even tell ourselves that. Therefore it’s up to all of us to promote prioritizing practice. This will allow the body to get to know itself again and get used to movement. Half my day is spent tweaking arm movements and foot positions outside of my hoop. These movements don’t always transition into the hoop, but if I’m constantly moving, I’m forcing my body to make new muscular connections and comfort in movement means practice makes progress!
3. Get and Give Social Media Love: If you see an amazing hooper that does not have a traditional body, pass it on and spread the love. I remember reading the Huffington Post article about Philo’s amazing Gotta Hoop video and was distraught when one of the commenters said, “I’m a little disappointed to find out someone can hoop so much and still have flabby abs.” Right or wrong, we might expect this type of behavior from the outside world, but in our community we need to support all hoopers no matter the size. We need to be a welcoming community for everyone so if you see someone who doesn’t necessarily fit the mold, for whatever reason, give em a hoop hug.
4. Celebrate Joy in Movement. Today you may be upset because you can’t learn that backwards scorpion twizzle stick move, but don’t be depressed. You are moving your body! In today’s world, most people hardly move. Even 15 minutes of physical activity can help increase your lifespan by three years. Movement in our lives is cause for celebration! We are twisting, jumping and letting our bodies be free! You are dancing to the music and have a partner that will never reject you. Enjoy 30 minutes to yourself. This is your time to move. If a hoop goal isn’t flowing for you right now, then just spin your way around it in your circle. Go for it. Feel like a kid again!
5. Love Our Bodies. If a body is larger it means we will have to make allowances for that, not that we’re out of the game. If knees are hurting, tone down the vigorous jumps. Move with your body and make friends with it. You have to live with yourself 24/7, not anyone else. Listen to what your body is saying. It will tell you what it needs. Now I don’t want to hear any excuses, so stop blaming your body. It wants to move, even if you are only hand hooping or waist hooping, just please keep on hooping. Hoop for yourself. It’s okay to be a casual hooper. This art form is supposed to be empowering. Lately I’ve been doing odd things with the hoop that aren’t graceful necessarily, but they make me happy. That’s what the hoop should do for you too. We don’t all start in the same place and all of us regardless of size learn at different paces. Love your body and it will help you learn.
One amazing and inspiring curvy hooper is Rowan TwoSisters of Punk Rock Hoops in Houston, Texas. Rowan currently teaches classes and is one of the organizers forHottie Hoop Camp which is about to start it’s third year with “Hot ‘n Sexy.” There will be amazing classes on how to tailor clothes and costumes for a curvy body and how to make portable hoops in larger sizes. I’m excited that she’s developing a teacher certification while keeping in mind plus-sized bodies – and she doesn’t believe curvy hoopers should get “married to waist hooping” either. The biggest keys for her are to be able to get the hoop off and on the body. After that, feel free to experiment. Rowan told me that even working mainly off body will help a hooper develop proprioception which will aid us in developing stronger muscles and body awareness.
We can all do our part to make sure that hoopers of all sizes feel more welcome inside our circle. We can join the Curvy Hoopers forum and support one another there too, but the greatest issue is probably visibility. If we don’t see others like ourselves hooping, how can we – or anyone – know that it is all possible for us? I’m challenging myself to post a hooping video once a week and I am challenging you to join me. If you’re worried about negative comments you can allow only approved comments to appear on your YouTube channel, or post your video on Vimeo.com where such problems rarely occur. Peruse the ten easy hooping video tips and go for it. The biggest tip I have taken to heart is resisting the urge to say something negative about my videos when I post them.
Embracing hoopers of all sizes will help all of us show that one need not be the small girl in the bikini to hula hoop. Join me in doing something today to support curvy hooper visibility and inclusion. You’ll be glad you did. Now go get your hoop on and have some fun.