Despite what most people think, hooping is way more than just spinning a plastic children’s toy around your waist. It has helped me overcome anxiety, increased my confidence and is my go-to activity for finding calm. The hula hoop has a huge part to play in mental health and emotional transformation.
1. Releases happy brain chemicals
Like with most exercise, hooping releases endorphins. I’ve done loads of other forms of exercise and, having talked to hundreds of hoopers, can confidently proclaim that no other form of exercise seems to have the ability to make people seem as blissfully, people-think-you’re-crazy, happy.
2. Reduces stress and anxiety
Hooping provides a healthy release for tension and pent-up feelings of anxiety by incorporating movement, breath, repetition and giving you something else to focus on. I’ve hooped myself through intense anxiety and major stresses. There’s nothing quite like cranking up the tunes, dancing with a hoop and letting everything else spin away.
Photo credit: Ulrike Reinhold Photography
3. Provides a sense of achievement
By setting hoop goals and practising, practising, practising, you begin to notice progress. It never ceases to amaze me that, no matter how hard a new trick may seem, if I dedicate enough time to it, eventually I hit that can’t-believe-I’m-doing-it moment and I finally nail it. Experiencing this within the hoop has empowered me to set goals in other areas of my life.
4. Increases confidence and self-esteem
Mentally and physically, hooping has given me more confidence and allowed me to feel better about myself than I ever have. This comes from a combination of noticing my improvements in the hoop and feeling content with my body without having to endure the daily grind and repetition of hardcore gym workouts.
5. Accesses a flow state
A state of flow is transformative on many levels. It’s that moment when everything drops away, time passes without you noticing and you are present. It’s that feeling of being in the now, where nothing else matters.
6. Meditation through movement
Like Tai Chi, hooping is a form of movement meditation. By combining a conscious awareness of breath and repeated sequences of movement, I regularly feel myself fall into a meditative state. My students report the same. There’s a sense of serenity that comes after only fifteen minutes of hooping.
7. Creates patterns of joy
Joy is a practise and regular hooping brings regular joy. I’m yet to meet someone who steps into a hoop and doesn’t end up grinning like a child. As one woman said to me on her 70th birthday, “This is great! I feel like a kid again”. The idea of Joy Spirals can be used as a method of healing and journey to change.
8. Connects awesome people together
Hooping is a great way to meet other awesome people that you might not cross paths with otherwise. It builds community through sharing skills, learning and dancing together.
9. Shifts uncomfortable feelings
After 4 hours of straight crying and hooping during a relationship breakup whilst at a hoop retreat in Bali, it dawned on me. Moving allows you to move through things. And so it is with the hoop.
Photo credit: Spinferno
10. Enhances focus
Most of us aren’t born with an inbuilt ability to focus. It’s something that takes practise and is something we need to train our brain to do. Hoop moves are constantly being created, meaning there is always something new to focus on learning.
11. Mentally and physically stimulating
There’s a fine balance between understanding mentally what is required for a hoop trick and then making your body do it. I’m forever saying to my students “now that you understand the move, you need to trust your body to find it”.
Hooping allows the brain and body to learn together.
12. Mind opening
I wasn’t born a hula hooper. I never did gymnastics or circus. I always looked those kind of people as different to me. Hula hooping opens the mind to new possibilities, people, thoughts, festivals and community. It challenges us to think of ourselves and the world around us differently.
13. Promotes laughter
Let’s face it, we’re playing with a kid’s toy! We drop the hoop, it goes flying across the room, we end up with it wedged in the weirdest of bodily places, our hips are swinging wildly around. It’s downright hilarious and, as the saying goes, laughter is the best medicine.
14. Keeps your inner seahorse content
There’s a funny little component of the brain called the hippocampus – from the Greek hippos (horse) and kampos (sea monster). So, we literally have a seahorse in our brain! It’s what brings together information from short-term memory to long-term memory and spatial navigation and it loves hula hooping for that very reason.