[Hooping.org Assistant Editor Bonnie MacDougall shares her thoughts on hooping as meditation]
Why do you hoop? For fun, fitness or as a way to release your mind from everyday worries that hinder you from staying in the present moment? There is no right answer to this question. Over the years I have found that at different times I have hooped for all of these reasons. In fact, sometimes all of them simultaneously. What keeps me coming back into the hoop, though, is the peace I encounter with each spin. For me it becomes a type of movement meditation unlike any I have experienced before. I become lost in the cradle of the hoop’s touch as it rolls around my body. My mind sinks into a place where there are no thoughts but the present moment. I am in a state of mindfulness throughout the hoop session, and feel refreshed and calm when I am done. Sure I have frustrating times within the hoop, but when my goal is meditation, the hoop works wonders as a tool for this end. So how can you find this tranquility in your hooping practice as well? Here are some tips:
1. Find a quiet, serene place to hoop. Location can be everything when attempting to use hooping as a form of meditation. Rather than hooping in a crowded and loud venue, look for a softer place, perhaps in a more natural setting. For many of us, nature allows us to begin to relax the moment we are fixed upon it. If this is not your inclination or it isn’t possible, then find the place that most calls to you as being a comfortable environment.
2. Breathe. Allow yourself the opportunity to breathe deeply and with intention. Hear your breath and take note of it. Breathe from your belly rather than just from your chest. If needed, place your hand on your stomach to feel the inhalation and exhalation of each breath as it enters and leaves your body. Throughout your hoop session, take time to notice how you are breathing.
3. Begin your hoop practice with a slow, deliberate warm-up. Perhaps start by moving without your hoops, stretching, or with slow movements within your hoop. Be aware of your body and how it is responding. Does it feel tight, sore or limited in any capacity? Notice what is around you in your physical environment. Are you able to move freely? If so, then center yourself in your body and take as long as you need to find that place that feels comfortable to begin spinning in your hoop.
4. Use intention when making your playlist or hoop in silence. Consider turning the music off as a possibility, but whatever you choose, whether you are listening to music or focusing on the sounds surrounding you, bring intention into it. Create a music playlist that matches the mental space you hope to obtain in your hoop practice. During your warm-up start with something slow that matches the pace you need. Build upon that with songs that will motivate you to stay in the present moment and to leave the daily worries behind. And if a song doesn’t resonate with you at a particular moment, don’t be afraid to skip over it and move on to the next one.
5. Dont be afraid to drill. Often times we think that a hooping meditation session is not a good time to work on practicing/drilling a certain skill. On the contrary, this can be one of the best times to work on drills, as long as you practice patience with yourself and allow yourself to be present. Focusing on one skill can become a meditative movement in itself. Working on angles, for example, is sure to have you breaking a sweat and it’s hard, but your mind is focused and present as to what is happening and the repetition often creates a space for us to let go and stay mindful of the task at hand. The key is patience with yourself and not allowing frustration to enter into the picture and stay with you. Staying frustrated takes us out of the present moment. Instead, try acknowledging the feeling of frustration and letting it go.
6. Just dance. Sometimes all that is needed in a hoop practice is to dance, allowing the hoop to fully engage, becoming our partner in the spin. Have you had those moments where you are so lost in the rhythm that you aren’t sure if you are controlling the hoop or the hoop is controlling you? You are one in the flow and it feels perfect. These are the moments when the “hoop bliss” we so often hear about arrives. It often surprises us when we are just dancing with our hoop. Not concerned with what anyone else thinks, not concerned about learning a new trick, but just living in the moment and dancing for ourselves, we find our flow in a state of movement meditation within the hoop. We are present to only the here and now and full of joy.
One of my students once told me that “When I’m hooping I can’t have a to do list going on in my head.” This has stuck with me for years and I use it in classes periodically. She expressed so clearly what so many of us feel. When my hoop is a place for me to clear the mind, a place for refuge, it is all about letting go. With so many people sharing their stories of healing within the hoop, I can’t imagine that I am alone with these thoughts and feelings and I am curious about yours and your tips for hooping as a meditation practice. I invite you to take this time to share your experience of presence and the presents that have come to you through hooping.