Tips For Beginner Hoopers

December 9, 2015 Caroleeena hoopdanceHoopingTutorialUncategorized

hoops

Picking Your Hoop:

Start with a Big Groove Hoop. One that stands up to your nipples when it is on its side is ideal. It is slow and wonderful for grooving in. The bigger around the hoop is, the slower it moves, meaning it hits your belly less frequently and you have to push less often. For a small hoop, you have to move fast — almost like you’re having a seizure! A larger diameter allows the hoop to come around slower, to close on you less often, to give you more time to feel each closing and envision and begin to predict each push.

I prefer the 100 or 125 psi tubing for groove hoops because they are lighter and ultimately are more versatile and easier to use off-body and also to transport than hoops that are 160 psi. That said, access to a 160 psi hoop or a groove hoop with a half-cup of water in it can also be really helpful, especially in the early days. The weight and/or the counter-pull of the water help the hoop stick to the body so you can feel and fall into the motion of push forward-pull back. (Honestly, it’s ideal to have THREE hoops! A heavier Groove Hoop, a lighter Groove hoop, and a Sport hoop. That first one is the one you’ll use to teach all your friends!)

I encourage all hoopers to have at least two hoops — a big Groove hoop and and smaller, lighter Sport hoop. Like any athletic endeavor or artistic exploration, having the right tool is key! The right hoop helps you be successful and works with you and not against you. Different sizes are ideal for different moves. They also help us avoid injuries.

  • The Groove Hoop is the one that will facilitate understandings about core hooping such as waist, hips, chest, shoulders, neck and even face and legs. Your Groover will also allow you to repeat, repeat, repeat…ultimately in a way that is less likely to leave you winded. You can go longer and each repetition is a learning experience building muscle memory. (Also, if you start with a big Groove Hoop and you later want it smaller, they are easy to cut down! As you work down, you can cut some of the length out, put in a new connector and bam! New hoop.)
  • The Sport Hoop – I also encourage people to have Sport hoop. This is one you can easily spin on your hand without bruising your hand and hold at arms length without over stressing the pectoral (chest) muscle or the connective tissue in the shoulder or the elbow or the wrist. The way I recommend measuring for this hoop: Bend forward at a 90-degree angle with knees slightly bent and soft. Hang the hoop from the shoulderblades. You will want at least 4 inches between the bottom of the hoop and the floor. This size is going to allow you to do vertical forward hooping, stir-the-pot, and a forward infinity without hitting the floor or yourself, respectively. I recommend Sport Hoops be 1/2″ in diameter, 100 psi tubing. Sport hoops are largely used for off-body moves such as hand hooping, body rolls, tosses, isolations…and all those things benefit from being done with a lighter hoop that has a smaller hand-grip that it’s easy to close your fingers around.

Finally, what your hoop is wrapped in matters. Electrical tape is slippery, especially if it gets wet. Those shiny metal tapes are also. Cloth tapes, like gaffers, hockey or medical wrapping tapes, are the grippiest of the tapes. A mixed media of tapes (say, one row metal or electric mixed with another wrap of a cloth tape) also tend to be grippy because they have texture. Another option to make a hoop grippy is to not wrap it at all but to sand the tubing with 65-grit sandpaper, something coarse!, and sand it inside and out. I love sanded hoops and if you sand them til they are rough, you can really feel them. They are also lighter for not having tape on them. If you like your hoops lighter, then sanding is for you. If you like them heavier, the more tape you add, the heavier they get. Each layer of tape = weight. Last thing: There is an amazing grip tape you can put inside your hoop to make it really, really stick to you! 3M Translucent Grip Tape helps the hoop stick to you so much it is really good for learning shoulder hooping, chest hooping and leg hooping because it prevent the hoop from sliding and allows you to get up under it and push. I highly recommend investing in it. I get mine from Identi-Tape: http://www.identi-tape.com/specialtytape.html or, if I want to invest in two rolls, from Amazon. (Friction tape, which you can get at any hardware store, also works but it comes off on your clothes. Good for training. Bad for hooping in on a hot summer day.)

Dress for Success!

What you wear really matters. Exposed skin grips the hoop best. Try hooping in your underwear with your belly exposed and see what happens! Next to exposed skin, natural fibers that are form fitting work best. Think cotton, wool, leather, hemp, bamboo, or silk. The thicker and bumpier the material, the more it grips. Non-natural fibers (polyester, spandex, rayon, nylon or anything made from fossil fuels) are slippery! A lot of people think they can’t hoop when really the clothes they are wearing are working against them! The higher the percentage of non-natural fibers, the more slippery the garment is.

Posture:

Your posture is upright, shoulders over hips over heels. Mostly people lean forward without realizing it. Instead, lift up from the top of the head, roll the shoulders up, back, and down and then settle the weight in the bottom and in the heels. Soften the knees. The knees are not locked and the juicier and more bendy they are, the easier it will be to shift your weight.

Here is a short Posture-building ritual. I recommend doing it before you hoop, every single time you hoop. It only takes a second to reset optimal posture for movement arts, to build a posture of strength in your full range of motion.

  • Start from the ground up: Feel your weight in your heels. Lift and then place the ball of each foot on the ground, one at a time, under the hips. Spread the toes. Grab the ground with your toes. Soften the knees. Grip the Earth! Feel the weight in your feet, especially your heels. Tighten the lower abdomen. Tighten the gluts. (You have now completed the lower half of setting your posture. On to upper.) Breathe in. Roll the shoulders back and down. Lift from your Heart! Palms up. Lift the chin. Look up! Lift through the top of the head, like you’re on a string. Settle. Feel Balance. Feel Strength. Breathe.

This is how we create balance in our body. If you only have one ritual before hooping, this would be a good one. It’s also a great way to greet your day and embark upon it from a place of balance and strength.

Movement:

We are not doing a circle inside the hoop to make the hoop make a circle. Our torso is the axis. We push the hoop with our hand to get it spinning around our core, which is the axis, and then we move that core like we are shaking a finger — either forward and back or side to side. We are moving in a push/counter-push, either side-to-side or front-to-back or possible catty-cornered over one hip bone and pushing back through the opposite buttock. Your posture is standing tall with the chin and head lifted (don’t look down! It makes your bottom stick out and drives the hoop down. Look up! You don’t have to look at the hoop. Close your eyes if you find you keep doing this.) Stand with your knees slightly bent so that you can squat easily if you need to get up under the hoop to keep it from moving down or to shimmy it up to another part of the body.

  • The forward push is kind of like when you are bumping bellies with someone. When you bump bellies, you don’t hit straight on. You kind of come up and under. (Picture your feet leaving the floor so you bump bellies in the air. Then don’t let your feet leave the floor.) Think of it like you’re going to bump bellies in mid-air. Up and under, up and under.When you’re hitting it straight on, it’s easy to knock it down because it’s easy to accidentally come over the top and force the hoop down, but if you’re coming up under it, you can keep it from progressing down and even wiggle the hoop up.
  • Don’t lock your knees! If you lock your knees you’re done for. Keep them juicy and slightly bent so that you can bend them more at a moment’s notice!
  • Start with the hoop against the small of the back. Give it a smooth even push and don’t let go until your hand reaches, and touches, your opposite waist. That’s how you know when to push with your body.Many people let the hoop go before their hand actually reaches the opposite side. This means they don’t know when the hoop will land or how fast it is closing. Instead, close it like a door and don’t remove your hands until your fingertips touch your opposite side.
  • Push slow to moderate speed. If your push is fast, you have to hoop fast! Push slow so you can move your body slow. Many people think that if they push fast it will give the hoop more momentum and it will go faster, giving them a chance to catch up with their push/counter-push. Nothing could be farther from the truth. If it’s too fast we can’t catch up! If we deliver it slower and wait til our hand hits our opposite side to release it, then we know exactly when to push with our body and we are in control from the very first rotation!
  • A lot of folks get started and then get excited and stand up straight and lock their knees. They also look down. Notice if you are doing this and concentrate on keeping the knees juicy and keeping the chin level or slightly up. Focus first on keeping your knees soft, second on looking forward or up.
  • Feet are no more than hip distance apart! Don’t spread your feet too wide or you can’t bend your knees. Don’t have them too close or you have to move faster. Hip distance is perfect.
  • Front/Back hoopers often prefer having one foot in front so the hips and pelvis slide forward and back over the front foot. (It doesn’t matter which foot is forward but if you are pushing from the right, you may wish to try with your right foot forward first so you can place your attention on your right pelvic bone and push that forward and back over the forward foot.) Side/Side hoopers often prefer to have their feet side by side. Play with both, especially if you’re still trying to find your hoop groove.
  • Another option is to spiral inside the hoop. This is achieved by going forward, side, back, opposite side, forward…like our waist or hips or chest or whatever part we are hooping on is a kitchen spatula and you are wiping the left over brownie mix from a big bowl using your body as the spatula. Circle, circle, circle, making sure to hit all four corners — north, west, south, east (or vice versa). This way of hooping is helpful for spiraling the hoop up and down the body.

Ultimately you will use all these methods — forward/back, side/side, catty cornered forward/back, and spiraling. Sometimes your right foot will be forward, sometimes your left, and sometimes your feet are side by side. Try them all!

We are happening to the hoop. The hoop is not happening to us. I encourage you to close your eyes and feel yourself pushing from inside of the hoop, out. Baxter of the Hoop Path encourages people to hoop blindfolded and it really does help. It limits all the distractions and helps you feel the moves in your body. Really internalize them. You are happening to the hoop. It wouldn’t be spinning if you weren’t coming up and under it and moving in a push/counter push or a swirl.

Another strategy for keeping the hoop going is to turn the same direction as the hoop. For example, if you push the hoop from right to left using your right hand, turning to your left will give you more time before the hoop closes because you are, in effect, turning away from it. Sometimes that extra bit of time can be all it takes to get control of the hoop. Just know that if you start turning, you need to keep turning. Don’t stop turning when you launch the hoop because it will catch up quickly and mess up your timing. Keep turning, then, once the hoop is started, shorten your steps and slow to a stop but keep hooping. Voila! You are standing still and hooping. (Note: If you turn against the hoop, it will feel like the hoop suddenly started going a lot faster. Regroup and turn the other way.)

This tutorial on Walking While Hooping talks about the pushes and delivery and also how to shift the weight in the body in order to walk while you are hooping.

If you have trouble at first, check your clothing, check your posture, and check your hoop. Make sure your knees are juicy, like you could squat easily. Lean back a bit and come up under the hoop.

More importantly, be patient, be persistent, and know that you will get it if you keep trying! Just keep at it! It’s a matter of time! Put on some good music, something you enjoy moving to, and have at it. Even if you only hoop for one song. One song at a time you will dance your way into hooping.

 

 

 

 

 

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