[Hooping.org columnist Lara Eastburn invites us to put ourselves on restriction.]
For some time now, I’ve been experimenting with putting varying restrictions on my hooping practice. Though I was inspired by friends who would invent a new and zany rule for each round of their backgammon marathons, the concept isn’t a new one. It is commonly accepted that when deprived of one sense, for example, the others become heightened in order to compensate. Likewise, when I noticed some “crutches” in my hooping — like one go-to move I repeated ad nauseum, or a sequence so well-learned I couldn’t do it differently — I decided to put some random limits on my experience and movements to see if, by restricting some parts of my hooping, I could enhance them all. Not only did I find the following exercises effective, they shook things up my daily practice and helped me discover moves I didn’t know I had.
I tend to apply only one restriction at a time and for just the duration of one song. But there is fun to be had, too, in combining some and increasing the time you spend with them. To get started, spend some time hooping while taking note of where you feel most comfortable and where you feel yourself resisting. Then tailor your own restrictions to help you break through those walls. Blindfolding yourself while hooping is a more well-known way to do this. Here are a few more examples of what has worked for me over the years.
Busting Out of Basic Comfort Zones. When off-body hooping first began rising in popularity, I experimented with a no-core-hooping rule that did wonders for my creativity in that arena. I had been a largely on-body hooper for many years, so breaking out of what I was used to, in my mind, required drastic measures. What happened when I challenged myself to not put the hoop on my body for the length of an entire song? I had to figure something else out. A lot of something “elses” in fact. More recently, however, I found that I’d gotten so entranced with off-body, I hardly body-rocked it any more. So this time, I applied the restriction in reverse. I hooped only on-body for an entire month and rediscovered the freedom of movement I’d once enjoyed there exclusively. When I eventually reincorporated off-body fun, my body felt less biased towards one or the other and perceived a whole new world to hoop in.
Similarly, I was terrified of hooping in my non-dominant direction. I hated how everything I’d learned seemed to disappear on my “other” side. I cringed at the thought of starting all over. Even though I knew it was good for me physically, I resisted with a vengeance and I knew I was too stubborn to do anything about it without forcing it. I started by hooping in my opposite direction for 15 seconds and added 15 more each day until I could hoop in my non-dominant current for an entire song. And then, until I couldn’t tell the difference. Perhaps no other restriction brought more to my hooping style and skills than this one. These days, though, I’m working on yet another foundational comfort zone. In two months, I’ll celebrate my 10-year hoopiversary, and I have been a sustained spinner (I turn constantly while hooping) for every one of those years. Accordingly, my body seems to have no memory of how to hoop without turning. Like, none. So here I am back at the drawing board, re-learning how to hoop without my long-loved spin. And it’s awesome because even after all this time, I’m pushing myself again and in brand new ways.
Nothing But … This. For a while, I’ve been concentrating on shoulder hooping. I’m obsessed with the idea of opening and closing my arms (like a bird’s wings) while the hoop circles effortlessly and non-chalantly around me on one plane. And this is what I do for 15 solid minutes every time I hoop. Nothing but that move. While some might find the repetition boring, I revel in that space of one-minded focus. And, well, practice does make permanent (as my husband says). Some days, I do the same with knee-hooping or vertical planes. It takes a load off to think to myself, “This is all I’m going to do today.” It frees me up to experiment within that space and forces me to hone one particular skill.
Turn off the Music. What?! Blasphemy, I know. The mere idea gave me chills. But after reading an article about it, I figured it was time for me to suck it up and pause the iPod. The world around us, and even our bodies, communicate their own rhythm, a natural beat that is there for the hearing. You can be your own conductor of these sounds, raising the volume on some, turning down others, to craft your own orchestra. You may even find yourself humming along to its song. When you’re ready, pick up your hoop and dance.
Hoop to Music You Don’t Like. Or music you would never think to hoop to. I happen to dig old-timey gospel, but it was never my music of choice to dance to. Until some was played at a workshop I attended. Turns out, I’m the best gospel hooper you might ever meet! HoopGirl Christabel Zamor once suggested that you hoop to any song as though it were the last music you’d ever hear. Your body may respond to new music in ways you would have never expected.
“Drunken Master” Hooping. Now, I’m a big fan of kung fu films. As a rule, I spend every Valentine’s Day watching them in marathon-style. But, The Legend of Drunken Master is special. For one, it’s freaking hilarious. And two, it’s got a lot to teach us about hooping. The idea behind this odd brand of martial art is two-fold. One, pretending you’re inebriated will lead your opponent to underestimate you. And two, there is a whole lot of versatility and power in keeping your body very, very loose. I’ve been applying the “Drunken Master” style to my hooping ever since I can remember. It just made sense to me. In a culture where we spend most of our lives being “stiff”, it can be helpful to begin the process of loosening up in our hoops by exaggerating the idea of being unbound and unrestrained in our movements.
So clearly, in this exercise, the restriction you’re putting on your hooping is the removal of restriction itself. Here’s how to start. Just stumble around like you don’t remember how to walk. Dip, stumble, fall, turn … it doesn’t matter … as long as you trust your hoop to follow you. It does. It will. What I call “Drunken Master” hooping taught me that my hoop will follow me no matter what. And I, in turn, took my first steps in following my hoop. Loosey goosey, my hooping friends. Try it. While you can watch the film for free online, if you’re not a kung fu fan I’ll save you an hour and so by telling you the part you MUST see is at or around 1:17:00. I’ve always thought there could be a great hooping parody of it.
By placing temporary “rules” and hooping restrictions on my hooping at times I find that the structure is a whole lot easier for me than just vaguely instructing myself to just try something “new” or to do something “differently.” By allowing the hoop to continue to be our guide within a constrained environment we’re opening ourselves up to new possibilities and inevitably, limiting myself in the hoop always leads to unleashing something novel and spectacular in my hooping. Open your mind, limit a hooping modality and see what might be in store for you. The possibilities are endless.
Lara Eastburn has been dancing in meadows and singing with the moon while spinning in circles for eons at Superhooper.org. Beyond commenting here, you can also discuss this and other topics related to the Hooposophy for living in Hooping.org’s Hooposophy Group and Forum. Lara is also the planting and gardening force behind discovering our hooping community roots at The Hooping Family Tree Project.