Right Brain vs Left Brain Hooping

Good Luck Charlie [Hooping.org’s Editor Philo Hagen gets thinking about how we think.]

by Philo Hagen

A quite proficient long-time hooping instructor and I were recently talking about a new student of hers that she was finding to be quite challenging. “My new students wants everything explained to them in the most minute sequential detail,” she explained, adding, “It’s driving me nuts. And as soon as they’ve achieved a new move even just one time they immediately want me to teach the move that comes after that. There isn’t a proper order to learning hooping, is there? And when I don’t have everything broken down enough for them verbally she just rolls her eyes at me. I really don’t know what to do.” I asked her some more questions and we talked some more about it. Ultimately we were able to come to the same conclusion. This was yet another one of those Right Brain Hooping vs Left Brain Hooping scenarios.

Scientists have been telling us for quite some now that we don’t all use our brains in the same way at all. In fact there is a hemispheric division in the brain itself between the left side and the right, and while there are those that seem to navigate both sides relatively effectively, most people tend to “function” in their lives using one side more than the other – or should I say we each prefer one mode or side over the other. Them scientific types have shown to us via experimentation that the two different sides of the brain are also responsible for different manners of thinking. So again, while some are equally adept at getting through the day utilizing both modes, generally speaking we tend to either favor left-brain thinking or right-brain thinking. The left-brain is all about logic, analysis, precision, accuracy. It’s objective. It views the world from the outside. Right-brainers, however, have a different focal viewpoint that zooms in on the aesthetics, feelings, intuition, creativity. The right brain is subjective. It’s on the inside looking out.

So when someone seems to excel in the creative arts, is excited about doing hands-on activities, and exploring and experimenting, they probably lean heavier on the right side of the brain. They’re a right brainer like me. And while right brainers are often quite skilled in these sorts of positive attributes, we are sometimes thought to be rather unorganized and easily distracted, particularly by the lefties out there. One of the reasons for this difference lies within the fact that we learn differently too. Right brain dominant people are visual and spatial learners and what may seem unorganized is merely the brain tapping into learning through visual clues, preferring to get all of the information at once, or even just the basic gist of it or idea, then to go about learning by doing and making it happen. We’re not big on observation because right brainers are subjective, not objective.

Being left brain dominant influences your learning style as well. Left brain thinkers tend to excel in math, language studies (yes, language is a left brain function) and logic problems. Are you great in math? Do you pick up foreign languages easily? Dr. Carolyn Hopper explains, “The left side of the brain processes information in a linear manner. It processes from individual parts to a whole. It takes pieces, lines them up, and arranges them in a logical order; then it draws conclusions.” Left brained thinkers like to make lists and have the fine details organized. They complete tasks in order and take pleasure in checking them off when each item on the list is accomplished. My hooping instructor friend has found herself within a very Left Brain oriented hooper, and she’s right brain by nature. Her student is frustrated with her because they are looking for all of the components clearly defined and presented in a logical order so they can learn more effectively. She’s frustrated with her student because she’s a Right Brainer. She learns and teaches hooping differently.

Mercedes Benz Ad: Left Brain vs Right Brain
Mercedes Benz Ad: Left Brain vs Right Brain

Take the Mercedes-Benz ad pictured above, for example. The text for the left brain reads:
“I am the left brain. I am a scientist. A mathematician. I love the familiar. I categorize. I am accurate. Linear. Analytical. Strategic. I am practical. Always in control. A master of words and language. Realistic. I calculate equations and play with numbers. I am order. I am logic. I know exactly who I am.” And the text for the right brain reads: “I am the right brain. I am creativity. A free spirit. I am passion. Yearning. Sensuality. I am the sound of roaring laughter. I am taste. The feeling of sand beneath bare feet. I am movement. Vivid colors. I am the urge to paint on an empty canvas. I am boundless imagination. Art. Poetry. I sense. I feel. I am everything I wanted to be.”

Then we ended up having more of a philosophical discussion about it. Given that we are both right brain hoopers who are classified as “body rockers”, meaning we love to have the hoop on the body with the music cranked rocking out with it, we began to wonder – is there a brain mode correlation at play here? Thinking about the Right Brain vs Left Brain learning styles, it would make sense that a Right Brain hooper would prefer to be inside the hoop making it happen (the subjective view), expressing themselves creatively through dance, putting their emotional natures into their physical movements. Meanwhile, Left Brain Hoopers might simply be more adept at off body hooping maneuvers (the objective view), focusing in on sequential patterns and drawing clean lines with definite precision. My friend eventually said, “I think we may have just stumbled onto something pretty big in terms of hooping and learning styles. Don’t you think?” To which I responded, “Maybe so. I think I’m going to have to pose this question to the community and we’ll find out.”


Philo Hagen Philo Hagen is the Co-founder and Managing Editor of Hooping.org. He’s been spinning things up online and off since April 2003.

9 thoughts on “Right Brain vs Left Brain Hooping

  1. Fun ideas to play around with definitely!! Interested to see where this goes.. Personally I’m a definite right brain kinda guy and I looooooove off body hooping even more so then on body xD

    Happy Hooping!

  2. How is this:
    be more adept at off body hooping maneuvers (the objective view), focusing in on sequential patterns and drawing clean lines with definite precision.

    not creative?

    to come up with those sequences is a creative thing, i don’t quite believe in this right vs. left for your student i do believe in smart ppl who wanna go go go and at the same being a teacher who sees this and saying..how can i help this student learn to find their own path as opposed to always coming to me for the next thing?

    when they pull that trick and finish it, what can i tell them about exploring movement from that one place and seeing where it goes. how do i get that student to go back to a curious mind that looks for answers instead of constantly asking me for them?

    to teach that is pretty logical and at the same time is creative and not very structured and prolly why i’m not totally on board with right/left brain. i do believe in that idea, but maybe not in this.

  3. As someone who works in psychology I can tell you that Philo’s left and right brain summations are classically textbook. Nice job. Left brain users such as myself can be creative too, and emotional, although these things are not our most definitive characteristics. They are things I have to work at as well, they do not come naturally to me. When I am creative I am quite methodical in doing so. I had not previously considered that off body hooping is objective until now, but I am realizing in my case it is. This is very interesting. I hope more hoopers respond.

  4. Right brain or left brain doesn’t resonate with me so much. It’s too complicated when all I really want to do is have some fun. I have noticed two things.

    Teaching is a gift. Some wonderful hoopers have the ability to teach and are good at it. And some fabulous hoopers just don’t have the gift to be able to teach. I think this is why I seem to be able to learn easily from one, and can spend time trying to learn from someone else, and it just won’t resonate with me.

    Alternately as much as I want to learn a particular trick or sequence, my hoop seems to have a life of it’s own and out of nowhere a trick just magically appears in my repitoire. And I follow the tao of my hoop.

  5. I’m not sure the left or right brain has anything to do with their ability to learn to hoop but I think it’s the difference between someone who needs to be shown tricks as opposed to making them up or coming up with them on their own.

    A loose analogy might be an academic (book/lecture learner), also known as a nerd, lol, who plays basketball will need to know and understand all the rules and regulations first.

    People learn differently whether it’s hooping or hopscotch. There’s visual, auditory and tactile learners. Some people need one, two or all three to learn to hoop.

    The person who needs everything spelled out is an auditory learner. An auditory learner has a tough time with learning something physical and you might help by having her close her eyes and try to “feel” the hoop (tactile cue).

    An auditory learner will excel in a lecture scenario.

    You might show the move (visual), explain it (auditory) and tell her where to “feel” the hoop (tactile). She might surprise you and ultimately turn out to be very creative.

    Just my thoughts….

  6. mm yea textbook description is great and at the same time maybe not applicable to the situation.

    i feel like this comes down to the teaching and another issue the community has talked about before tricking vs. dancing.

    if anything, i think this article captures me feelings about the issue

    The instructor is encouraging,
    …he’s throwing out a few last minute reminders,
    …and then, he says exclaims,
    “And this time, make it your own!”

    You have maybe heard this phrase tossed about before but what exactly does it mean?
    With this statement, essentially the teacher is letting you know that you have some freedom to interpret the movement. In fact, when an instructor or choreographer throws this out at the end of a class, I suspect that the purpose is less an invitation and more a reminder — Up until that point he has not seen enough personality in your dancing and, now that you have had time to familiarize yourself with the movement, and practice it a few times with relative accuracy and clarity, he wants you to transition from just replicating steps, timing, and even movement quality.

    a tricker in my mind is someone who is “just replicating steps, timing, and even movement quality”

    a dancer tries to make it their own.

  7. superlike! I totally see the correlation between learning styles– there are those who respond more to modeling & feeling into/through it (right) and those who respond more to detailed descriptions (left), and the best teachers do both, imho. I also think, as i know it’s been pointed out elsewhere, that hooping’s the kind of activity that bridges both hemispheres & so facilitates neural growth between– the focus on planes&shapes seems to me left brain, the bodyrocking & just flowing with music seems more right. And/but: to call only right-brain activity/folks “creative” is problematic I think. The entire brain (the entire Everything) is I think inherently creative. Mathematicians, programmers, etc. are creative too. Let us all own creativity! :)xx

  8. Awesome. In my mind, we can’t have too many ways of trying to understand how each of us comes to and occupies our hoops.

    And hilarious. Because this article HAS helped me understand something about my hooping. I’m a dominant left-brainer that spends a lot of time wishing I was a dominant right-brainer. I WANT to be a happy body-rocker. I want to just flow and not think about it. I want that for every part of my life. But especially my hooping. Until Now. Because now I’ve got a way of articulating to myself why that’s just not going to ever work for me. I’m going to always want to know how everything works. It’s a thing that I do. And it’s totally OK. And creative. Point is I still get in the damn hoop.

    And yes, this is helpful for instructors. If I’m a left-brained hooper, I’m a right-brained instructor. How the F did THAT happen? When students want every step explained, I pull out my Socratic-method hat. I model the movement as slowly as I can with as much direction as I can (always metaphor) and ask the learner to narrate it.

    But this can also be a sign of impatience. I didn’t learn the movement in 10 minutes, which is what that learner is asking for. On repeat, always, in my classes, is ‘Be Patient with Yourself. This took me 4 months to learn.”

    Rock on. Thank you, Philo

  9. I understand the learning correlations but as someone predominantly right brained (painting, drawing, poetry, creative writing, photography etc) and learns visually and often explains things in images I am more an offbody hooper. So I’m not sure what that’s about 😛 I wouldn’t call my off body hooping clean or about lines either… when I’m doing it it feels messy! And that’s how I like it!

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