In childhood, I wasn’t looking for movement meditation, I was terrible at hula-hooping. I once learned how to hoop on my knees, but not for long. I chalked it up to being like most other things sports and fitness related—just not my thing! I liked to read, write, craft and talk—all activities that could be performed from the comfort of my chair. Even in theatre, a place I considered home for a while, I stuck to singing, acting or backstage work. No performative dance for me, thank you very much.
Then, at 21 years old, I reconnected with a childhood friend who was hooping, and I was completely mesmerized. She could hoop anywhere on her body—arms, legs, feet, waist, shoulders, head—and off her body, making geometric patterns through the air with grace, precision, and fluidity. I wanted to do that. I wanted to move like that.
Fortunately, my friend had a plethora of hand-made hoops and a desire to share. Turns out, my failed childhood hooping wasn’t my fault—my hoop just wasn’t big enough! Bigger hoops have a slower revolution time, which makes them easier to manipulate. I chose a BIG hoop, with a diameter measuring from the ground to just above my navel and affectionately called her Big Mama.
Big Mama made waist hooping instantly accessible to me. She was just my size and speed. She stayed in motion as long as I moved. I took her everywhere. What started as waist hooping for a few minutes at a time quickly turned into hours of movement a day within this safe circle. All music became perfect for hooping – I began learning to dance. It gently taught me about rhythm, connection, patience, and self-love. Now it’s my favorite way to dance.
Then came the meditative aspect, or what I refer to as the flow state. I distinctly remember the first time I became aware of it. I was sitting on the floor cross legged, right arm overheard, my hoop spinning counterclockwise on my right index finger. I was feeling into the individual revolutions of the hoop, slowing them down, counting them and adding a finger to the inside rim of the hoop each time I felt the revolution turn towards emptiness: 1 finger, revolution, 2 fingers, revolution, 3 fingers, revolution, 4 fingers, revolution. There it was, the repetitive, calming lull. I could just loop my brain with it and once my body found the rhythm it was easy. With this single point of hyper-focus my mind did not have to tell my body what to do anymore; my body just moved. In that space my mind became light and free, able to become an impartial observer of itself—a concept in various forms of meditation.
Since learning to hoop nearly 8 years ago, I’ve explored other forms of movement meditation, such as conscious dance, yoga, and other flow arts. Nonetheless, the hoop is still my most treasured medium. It helped transform my mind with repetitions, shapes, and endless 360-degree metaphors. It continues to be my non-judgmental dance partner, a boomerang of my own energy, a transformative vessel spiraling bad moods into good, and teaching me, ever so patiently, how to move, how to meditate, how to be.
For me, hooping is more than just a form of fun or exercise; I use it as therapy. Would my movement meditation be the right practice for you? – Let me help you find out.