Spins and Turns: How to Prevent Dizziness and Maintain Balance

December 15, 2011 Caroleeena hoopdanceHoopingPoiUncategorized

Turns and spins are a beautiful part of hooping. However, there a challenges related to turns and spins — specifically, keeping our balance, staying in one location, and dizziness. Let’s talk a bit about each one.

Sometimes in hooping it can be challenging to keep our balance. It can be even more challenging to stay in one place while turning. I think one of the biggest reasons people lose their balance and engage in unintended travel is not dizziness, it’s that they haven’t built their foundation from the ground up. They are not rooted to the ground. Many hoopers teeter up on their toes so that the slightest thing can make them tip or travel. Add a little dizziness or bumpy ground and you’re all over the place. Try putting your heels on the ground, feeling all four corners of your right foot, all four corners of your left foot and all for corners of the box they create together. Keep your knees soft. (When they’re not, when they’re locked and stiff, it inhibits blood flow, which also creates dizziness. That’s why people often pass out at the alter during weddings.) When you find yourself on your toes, especially if you’re feeling dizzy, put your heels down! Then, soften your knees and, if you’re still turning, slow to a stop. Connect to the earth. Let gravity be your friend rather than something to fear.

Turning comes naturally in hooping. Hoopers tend to turn using one of two methods — the step-step-step method, taking small baby steps while walking in a circle, or the method of planting one foot and either walking around it or spinning on the ball of it. In both cases, we are likely to travel if we do no return to the same starting place each time. Using a piece of gaffer tape to mark the “front” of the turn can be really helpful in learning to turn 360-degrees (rather than anywhere from 180- to 355-degrees). Check in with this spot each time you turn, gently returning your gaze without whipping your head around in search of this spot. Soon complete turns will be part of your muscle memory and spotting will no longer be necessary.

If, while turning, you feel dizzy, remember: The ground is what supports us. Balance begins in the ground! When we feel off balance, go to the ground. Bend the knees and put the heels down. If you need to, sit down. Resist the urge to adjust from the top of the head. This never works. This just throws us more off balance and generally makes one foot lose contact with the ground, which makes us reel while trying to adjust. Instead, put your heels down and soften the knees and grip the ground with your toes. Ground.

Dizziness occurs when we slosh around the fluids in the inner ear. This means you don’t want to move your head all around but, instead, you want to try to keep your chin level, no matter what your body is doing. (Think of ballet dancers.) This also means you don’t want to suddenly stop. That can make you pass out. Instead, slow your spin until you stop, then, if you feel dizzy, turn three circles the other direction. This will almost always set you right.

Ways to prevent dizziness — 1) Focus on your hand or on your hoop while you’re sustained spinning or keep a soft focus on the ground (I prefer this. I gently cross my eyes, so my eyes are not constantly trying to focus on what is whirring by. This also allows me to see kids, dogs or hoops coming at me), 2) Keep the head level – do not let it flop right or left, front or back, or around in circles (unless you’re doing Nick Guzzardo’s head hooping Build up to that! It takes time). This sloshes that inner ear fluid. You want to keep that still, like water in a glass , 3) Keep your nasal passages clear (using a neti pot is great for this but a moist q-tip will work) and breathe deep and slow, 4) maintain a constant speed. Resist the urge to speed up!  5) slowly build your tolerance for spinning. Count your turns, then your minutes that you can turn. Build up to lots of turns while balanced between both your feet, 6) Make sure you’ve eaten a healthy meal. Sometimes low blood sugar leads to dizziness 7) Stay hydrated with water or electrolytes. Alcohol can also add to dizziness, 8.) slow to a stop. Do not stop abruptly. This is the most common reason people fall over.

A word about spotting: Some people prefer to spot, or gaze, at something that is not moving… say, your hand on the hoop or your hoop itself. This method works better than spotting at something in the distance, such as a piece of tape on a wall, not because that doesn’t work but because most people think you are supposed to whip your head around to find that spot again…which sloshes your inner ear fluid and defeats the whole purpose. If you want to use the distant spotting method, keep your eyes on the spot until you can’t anymore, then let your torso continue to turn until it is facing the spot and let your head follow naturally until it finds the spot again and stays on it as long as it can. Again, do not whip your head around. Simply keep your gaze on the spot as long as you can once you’ve found it, then return to it upon completing the turn. I talk about this more in the video below.

I have a tutorial called Some Pretty Turns I Love that talks a bit about turning and also about building your foundation from the ground up. You might want to check it out. Here’s a link:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95vvIO93ggE

If none of this works for you and you continue to feel dizzy, you may have an inner ear infection or other health issue. Get a doctor to check it out. Vertigo is also a challenge for some hoopers. It can be overcome though and these tips can help.

If you have spun so much that you feel like you’re going to puke, one of the most effective and almost instant treatments for nausea is tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. It remedies most nausea in about five minutes. When I worked at the National AIDS Hotline, we used to recommend it to the AIDS patients who were having trouble keeping food down. I’ve also seen it work wonders for hoopers who were ready to throw up or feeling terrible after their first long session of sustained spinning. (Note: This queasiness doesn’t usually happen immediately. It’s usually 15-30 minutes later.) With practice and good technique this goes away, like dizziness, but there are ways to treat queasiness so it doesn’t ruin the whole rest of your day.

Spinning is something you can build up a tolerance for but don’t push yourself. When you practice sustained spinning, it’s important to keep the same speed (don’t speed up and slow down), a soft focus on the ground or on the back of your hand or on your hoop, keep your head level (not looking up, then down), slow down instead of just stop, build your foundation from the ground up so you’re not turning on your tip toes and, when you get to that place where you think, “Oh gosh! I feel like I might fall down!” remember to breathe and maintain your same speed keeping your head level and say to yourself, “This is just fear. If I keep going, this will pass.” Which it will. Keep going. This fear holds us back more than the reality that we might fall. We often stop because we are afraid. Or, if we do fall, it’s because we change our focus or just stop, or move our head up or down or around from its original position. Those things we can recognize and avoid. Overcoming the fear of falling will help us spin like sufis. Once you get over that hurdle, you can spin and spin and spin…

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