When I was a kid, an open lawn meant spinning in circles, summersaults, cartwheels, handstands and hula hoops!
Oh how I loved hula hooping. There was something about dancing in that little circle that brought a smile to my face and magic to my mindset. As I got older, priorities shifted, as they tend to, from spinning in circles on open lawns to more of a raking and cutting the lawn reality. The hula hoop faded into a distant memory.
Decades passed, and suddenly it was the day after my *cough cough-th* birthday. There was a bit of a post-party mess on the lawn, including some hula hoops, which were probably meant for the kids to play with. Long story short, I picked up a hoop, swung it around my waist and didn’t stop for about three hours! Since then I’ve been totally hooked on hooping…again!
It astounds me how such a simple little dance can make me feel so amazing. I can’t get the damn smile off of my face. It feels like I’m inside a vortex, creating a world of pure fun and joy. And I’m not a person who often uses the word ‘joy’ in my vernacular. Since rediscovering the hula hoop, I have encountered others who share the same intense happiness and who have even experienced unexpected physical and mental health benefits from hooping. So I thought I’d outline the most common ones and share them with you all.
Full Body Workout
Confession: I love cranking up Shakira when I hoop. There’s just something about Hips Don’t Lie that makes my hips, well, not lie.
Confession number 2: I hate exercising. However, combining music, dance and a whole lot of play adds up to a great total body workout that I am not only happy to do, but usually crave at least three times per day.
Hula hooping uses over thirty muscles, increases the heart rate, burns hundreds of calories and helps with the strength and flexibility of the spine.
All that twirling and swirling of the hoop across the belly muscles provides a great abdominal massage which can help digestion along. When waist hooping, speed up to nudge the hoop higher on the abdomen and slow down for some lower abdominal engagement. To encourage digestion, it’s helpful to rotate counter clockwise, the direction of the descending colon. This is a great practice for before breakfast, followed by a glass of lemon water for extra digestive support.
& Mental Clarity
Job pressures, financial stress, family drama, the overwhelming to do list, the underwhelm of a dreary day, the occasional existential crisis and the weight of the world we all feel from time to time. When any of this comes up for me, I reach for my magic circle. 20-30 minutes clears my mind, releases stress and allows for more discerning and focused thinking. Why is this?
When we exercise, the brain increases its production of mood regulating, reward-giving, happiness-creating endorphins and neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. This makes us feel good! However, this happens with any exercise, so what makes hooping so special?
Hooping engages the body and parts of the brain that activate motor control, memory and quick decision making. Basically, we get an extra boost of dopamine when we plan and pull off a sweet move. More serotonin, norepinephrine and endorphins are also released. With this enchanting neurochemical potion, the pre-frontal cortex, which is our planner and inner critic, can become temporally deactivated (shhhhhh), which leaves us happily without doubts, insecurities and self-consciousness for a while. We can lose our sense of individuated consciousness and feel connected and at one with everything. In short, it’s very meditative.
Hooping also encourages our inner child to come out and remind us that life doesn’t always need to be taken so seriously. This helps to increase our creativity and to approach problem solving with a lighter heart.
Much attention is put on core workouts and toned abs for aesthetic reasons. While toned abs can indeed be sexy, so is great posture, good balance, having no lower back pain and being less susceptible to injuries in general (read: not so clumsy). A strong core leads to all of these things. Hula hooping can be a fun alternative to sit-ups, crunches or running to strengthen the stomach and waist muscles. Hoops are available in different weights, so you can choose how intensely you’d like to work out.
Hula hooping is a great, low-impact method for improving the body’s range of motion by loosening stiff joints. The gentle rocking, rhythmic movements make hooping an ideal choice for people with joint conditions such as arthritis, or for those who are simply stiff from a mostly sedentary lifestyle. Baby boomers would benefit from picking up their childhood toy to help maintain healthy joints, and enjoy some nostalgia.
On a personal note, I have noticed that since I started hula hooping, the pain I experience from endometriosis has lessened in severity. Whether it’s the repetitive movements loosening adhesions in the abdominal cavity or the fact that it’s a stress relief, which also helps with pain, I have noticed an improvement. Further investigation to come!
Hula hooping is fun, meditative and a great workout that brings the body, mind and soul into alignment. I’m certain that there are more health benefits to be discovered from this transcendent and transformational boogie. In the meantime, I’ll be over here, literally dancing in a circle.