Tag Archive for Hula Hoop Practice

6 Tips To Make Your Hooping Practice Count

6tipsforhooping by Katie Sunshine

Is there anything better than spending a sunny afternoon or quiet evening at home with just you and your hoop? One of the things I’ve always loved about hooping is that practice doesn’t feel like work. It’s energizing, enjoyable, and rewarding. But are you getting the most out of your hoop practice? Whether you’re a new hooper wanting to nail down some new tricks, or a seasoned performer practicing your routines, these six easy tips may be just what you need to take it to the next level.

1. Warm Up. There’s a lot more to it than you might think. A good warm up increases your heart rate slightly, gets you breathing more heavily, and increases your body temperature – hence the name. And get this – if your body is warm, then your muscles are warm. Warmer muscles have a lot more elasticity in them. They’re not only less subject to strains and pulls, warm muscles have more range of motion for reaching, pulling, and stretching your hooping body. You might just take that hooping move farther than you ever have before, literally. I also highly recommend stretching if you’re going to attempt some kind of acrobatic hoop moves. Stretching comes after a warm up, when you’re muscles have more flexibility. Some good warm ups can be non-hooping activities like walking or aerobic stepping, or they could be simple hooping movements like waist hooping to warm up the core, and passing the hoop in your hands around your body to warm up your chest and shoulders. Need more warm up ideas? Check out 9 Great Warm Up Exercises For Hoopers.

2. Wear Something That Exposes Your Skin. As you may already know, those skimpy little outfits you often see hoop performers wearing are not just to get attention. Many tricks are much easier to do on bare skin. The hoop sticks to bare skin in some cases, where it might slide or slip right off of regular clothing. So when you’re practicing, choose an outfit that exposes as much skin as possible. When I first started my hoop journey, I would always practice in a sports bra and gym shorts because I often found the secret to unlocking a new trick was trying it on bare skin. Even now, after five years of hooping, I still plan my performance outfits to expose the following areas: arms, shoulders, and legs. So whether you’re in public or practicing in the privacy of your own home, consider donning that tiny bathing suit and start practicing!

3. Listen To Music You Like. For me personally, listening to good music while I practice makes all the difference in the world. Practicing with music that inspires you to dance and move also helps you find your flow with the hoop. Good music encourages you to move rhythmically, and if you’ve got your hoop then your discovering ways to incoporate the hoop into that movement which is key to unlocking a fluid dance sequence. And if you’re listening to music you already know and love, you already know all the spots that the tempo changes, things speed up, the right spot for a dramatic hooping moment and more.

4. Record Yourself. Having the ability to watch yourself hoop is invaluable. Many times I’d be following along with a tutorial and I would think “I’m doing everything like they say, but it still doesn’t feel right. Am I doing it right?” At that point, out would come my camera. I’d use the back of my couch as an impromptu tripod, punch up the video function and record myself doing the trick. Often times, when I watched the video back, I would see that I was, in fact, doing the trick correctly and that gave me the confidence to keep going. Alternatively, I’d sometimes see that I wasn’t doing the trick correctly, and I could see what I needed to fix. I’d say to myself, “Oh, Ok, I need to get that hand out of the way to land this trick.” Recording yourself also has the added benefit of documenting your progress. Weeks or months or years down the road you will have a video diary of all your progress and accomplishments.

5. Get Inspired. Nothing motivates you to practice and try something new like that wonderfully yummy feeling of being inspired! For artists and hoopers alike, inspiration can be an idea that compels you to create, that motivates you to get up and do something, and makes you say “I MUST create something beautiful right this very MOMENT!” There are things you can do as a hooper to encourage this feeling too. Something I like to do before a hoop practice session is what I formally call “research.” Research roughly translates into binge-watching all the videos on hooping.org. It’s actually a great way to get inspired. You might see a trick, or transition, or combination of moves you really like and think “Oh, I really like that! I bet I could get that with just a little practice.” Watching videos may also inspire new ideas for videos of your own – and there you go! Congratulations, you are now inspired!

6. Practice With Friends. This tip goes hand-in-hand with number five. There’s nothing more inspiring than being around other hoopers. Just as a painter or sculptor can get inspired by watching or being around another artist, we do too. When you see someone do something you like, you can say “Wow! that was cool, can you teach me that?” Nine times out of ten they will! Conversely, you can do the same if someone says to you, “Wow, that was really cool, can you teach me that?” It’s not only a great confidence booster, but teaching others new moves gives you a better understanding of them. Where you live may make this a challenge, but set a goal to hoop with others once a week, once a month, or as often as you can.

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Katie Columnist Katie Wilson, better known in the hooping world as Katie Sunshine, is a teacher, a painter, a performer, and above all a proponent for the powerfully positive change hooping brings to one’s life. She picked up hooping in 2009 at a music festival and she hasn’t put it down since. A Hoopie Award winner with many YouTube viral videos, Katie lives in Conway, Arkansas, USA, with her wonderful husband and her two lovable dogs.

Harness the Power of Muscle Memory to Improve Your Flow

Harness the Power of Muscle Memory to Improve Your Flow “I believe that we learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing, or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same.” ~ Martha Graham

In her 2009 essay, An Athlete of God, legendary dancer and choreographer Martha Graham celebrates the magic of the dancing body and the practice required to achieve that magic. She declares, “It takes about ten years to make a mature dancer.” Then she explains that maturity emerges through dedicated training by which “the body is shaped, disciplined, honored, and in time, trusted.”

While her personal level of rigor for training and the 10 year time-line is beyond the experience of most hoop dancers, her advice is nonetheless illuminating, even for those of us who practice, perform, and play in more informal settings. She reminds us that a compelling and marvelous hoop dance requires two simple ingredients: practice and time. Regardless of our learning curve or the amount of time we can put in, there are a few things to keep in mind to make our practice more effective and fulfilling as we work toward our hooping goals.

Foremost is the concept of muscle memory. Muscle memory is the “pay off” of practice — whether that practice is a marathon hoop session or a quick hoop break during lunch hour. According to neuroscientist Daniel Glaser, while muscle memory “obviously manifests itself physically as far as dance is concerned, what actually happens. . . is that the movements become thoroughly mapped in the brain, creating a shorthand between thinking and doing.” What muscle memory actually describes is procedural memory, the memory of how to do things. It requires no conscious effort to access. As such, it is a form of implicit or unconscious memory. Patterns of movement are practiced to the point where they can be performed automatically.

This shift from actively thinking about the process to automatically performing it marks a shift from the cerebrum to the cerebellum. The cerebrum is the “thinking” part of the brain. It is what we use when we stop to recall information like an address or a fact from a history book. It’s also the part of the brain that hoopers use when actively thinking, “Ok, when I release the hoop I need to make contact with the back of my hand. One…two…three….release….and give it some back-spin.”

With enough practice all that information becomes encoded as procedural memory. At that point, the cerebellum steps in. The cerebellum is conceptualized as the “skill center” of the brain. It deals primarily with motor skills. It controls equilibrium and balance, fine tunes movements, and coordinates movements produced in other parts of the brain so they can be carried out unconsciously. The cerebellum is also highly adaptive. It accounts for less than 10% of the brain’s mass, but it contains over 50% of the brain’s neurons. Neurons are specialized cells in the brain that transmit information as electrical impulses. The cerebellum and the cerebrum are in constant communication, so you can think of the cerebellum as a super-conductive part of the brain that takes signals from other parts of the brain and carries them out, making fine-tune adjustments along the way. Thus, while your cerebrum reminds you that your toss needs back-spin, it is the cerebellum that initiates and distinguishes between the flick of the wrist that actually creates a back spin versus forward spin.

So what can hoopers take away from this crash-course in neuroscience?

For one, muscle/procedural memory reinforces the importance of practice. Only through repetition does information shift from conscious to automatic. The shift takes time, but interestingly enough, some studies show that practicing daily in short sessions yields better results than practicing in one long block.

Similarly, coaches and trainers warn against repeating failures. Muscle memory makes little distinction between right and wrong — though some research suggests that the endorphins released during a success does contribute to mapping correct movements into the brain. Nonetheless, if you find yourself unable to grasp or improve a movement, it can be helpful to take a break and return to it later. The goal is to avoid encoding errors into your muscle memory that force you to unlearn an incorrect motion before you can learn it correctly.

Another concept important to muscle memory is “chunking.” Chunking describes the process where individual bits of information are linked together into longer, more complex blocks. This is the difference between a single movement (a forward weave) and a combination (a forward weave into an elbow toss followed by a coin-flip). The intersection of chunking and muscle memory is a reminder to practice new moves in connection with other movements. In a flow-state, a hooper is drawing primarily on muscle memory, so if your only access point to a movement is from a static, disconnected grip, you’ll never automatically “trigger” that new move you worked so hard to learn.

Muscle memory also helps explain the difficulty we experience trying to break down a movement or sequence to teach it. Memories that are accessed consciously are more closely connected with verbalization. Implicit (or unconscious) memories are not. Breaking down a movement becomes a challenge similar to describing how you balance to stay upright on a bicycle. You can do it, but to explain it, you have to re-access the “thinking” part of the brain to break the process back down into conscious steps.

To return to Martha Graham, the key to growing as a performer is practice and time. Understanding muscle memory can help hoopers cultivate an effective practice and reminds us that over-time, what we learn will essentially become a part of us. Muscle memory serves as a gate-way to what hoopers tend to call flow, but Graham conceptualized as trust in the body and grace. Her essay ends with a compelling reminder that where practice ends, “…there is grace. I mean the grace resulting from faith… faith in life, in love, in people, in the act of dancing. All this is necessary to any performance in life which is magnetic, powerful, rich in meaning.”

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Heather Hughes Contributor Heather Hughes is an analytic English major by day and a cosmic dancer by night…when her children go to bed on time. At home in rural Missouri she coordinates Sedalia Spin Gypsies, a local performance group that focuses on community events and promoting hoop dance as part of the healthy, empowered lifestyle. Between teaching, creek-stomping, and devouring science fiction novels, she blogs about the good life at Tangle and Spiral.

Ask Hoopalicious: What Helps You Stay Committed?

Ask Hoopalicious Dear Hoopalicious,

What’s the one most valuable feature, attitude, mindset, complimentary practice….that one thing that helps you stay committed to your hoop practice religiously or compliments your hooping bad assery abilities?

Thank U hoop mama of ALL hoop mamas ;o)
Suni Shine

Hi Suni!

Thank you for your great question. I struggled for YEARS to get myself to have what I considered to be a regular practice or to, as you say, “practice religiously”. Discipline has never been my strong suit! I am convinced that the reason I have hooped for so many years consistently is my innate love for movement and community. My best hooping moments and most powerful practice times have always been at a jam, a party or generally in social environments. This is likely because I got my hooping start in the music festival scene, so Hoop Dance has a very festive and social connotation for me. Knowing this about myself has been hugely beneficial because it means that I know the environments in which I shine the most! Then I just need to be sure I get myself out to hoop-able environments or invite people over to hoop often enough to be hooping at least a couple of times a week.

I do have a goal (resulting from being inspired by the Aerialist community) to hoop regularly in a dedicated practice that doesn’t need to be social. It is certainly a shift and there is TONS of resistance! How I am handling this is embarrassingly simple… as it turns out. Ha! I am committing to myself to hoop everyday for at least 30 minutes, and hopefully longer, everyday. When it comes time, and I am feeling all that resistance, I just… DO IT ANYWAY. What always happens next is I get in my hoop (after a good amount of stretching), and after a few minutes of complaining in my head I begin to enjoy myself and all is WONDERFUL! Resistance is nothing other than a thought form we take too seriously (not to be confused with real intuition, but you will know the difference). And through this simplicity I am finding my way (even if it is kicking and screaming) to a disciplined, regular hooping practice. YES!

As for the general bad-assery, I attribute my passion for dance and inherent sensual nature to my ability to rock the hoop. When I hit my groove I am feeling nothing other than my enjoyment of the music and the feel of the hoop on my body. After some time in the “hoop zone” new patterns of movement begin to arise spontaneously because of the space of flow. My mind is in the co-pilot seat instead of the lead.

SO, long answer to a short question, but the short of it is know yourself. Where are your favorite places to hoop and how can you bring more of that into your life? What are your goals for hoop dance? What is your relationship to discipline and the resistance to it? When you hoop are you allowing your passions to rise and REALLY enjoy it or has it become a “task”? I hope this rabbit hole of inquiry will help you create a powerful practice that is just right for YOU.

In hoopiness~
Hoopalicious

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Hoopalicious Need some advice from Hoopalicious? Anah “Hoopalicious” Reichenbach has traveled the world teaching and performing and is highly regarded as the founder of the modern hoop dance movement. In fact, her Hoop Revolution™ curriculum is the foundation for most well-known hoop dance curriculums out there today so if you’ve got a question just ask at hoopalicious@hooping.org. Anah appears in The Hooping Life documentary and was our first inductee into the Hooper Hall of Fame. She lives in Los Angeles, California, USA.