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Originally published August 2, 2013 at 11:16 AM | Page modified August 2, 2013 at 11:43 AM

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Hula hoop it up and get your cardio, core groove going

Hooping stabilizes the core and is good cardio. But more importantly, it's super fun.

Special to The Seattle Times

Where to start

School of Acrobatics & New Circus Arts

674 S. Orcas St., Seattle

206-652-4433

www.sancaseattle.org

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I remember I could hula hoop with the best of them as a kid. Tried it once as an... MORE

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ON THE FIRST day of hula hooping class at the School of Acrobatics & New Circus Arts (SANCA) in Georgetown, you get to pick out your hoop. A big, awesome, heavy hula hoop.

Then you put it down and are handed a plastic hoop the size of a Frisbee. My face fell.

Our class, the first one in a 12-week series, gathered in a circle to learn some hoop fundamentals, which apparently start with arms. Teacher Leslie Rosen had us extend one arm forward, thumb up, and hang the mini-hoop between thumb and first finger. She told us to start with a big circle and then little ones to keep the momentum going to spin it around our hand.

Easier said than done. Hoops went flying. More specifically, mine went flying while my fellow hoopers for the most part appeared to calmly twirl.

We learned to stop the hoop, reversed directions and switched hands. We figured out how to move the hoop all the way up to our shoulder by lifting our arm, then lowering it to twirl the hoop back to our hand.

Hoop chasing continued. I grew concerned that 12 weeks might not make a difference for someone as hoop-lessly talented as me.

We moved up to mid-size hoops. They were slightly easier to spin. We learned how to hand hoops off between people while keeping the hoop in motion. We walked with spinning hoops. We handed off spinning hoops. Sometimes I succeeded. Sometimes hoops went rogue.

Finally, we were allowed to pick up our original hoop.

We spun it around our hands first, then hallelujah, we set up to hoop around our waists.

Leslie had put one foot forward for balance and showed us how to move our hips to keep the hoop spinning. Thankfully, the bigger and heavier the hoop, the easier it is to keep it going. And the best part was that the only place the hoop could fall now was down.

Leslie coached us to keep our hands pressed in prayer in front of us instead of dangling like "T-Rex arms." She pointed out when I did the "woodpecker" with my head, bobbing back and forth as I hooped, and tried to get me to keep my upper body stable.

Once we got the hooping, we worked on walking in a circle in both directions and also learned to do quick spins at the speed of the hoop, which was fun and made me dizzy.

By the end of 12 weeks, hoopers learn to spin the hoop around their knees, to get it back up to their waists, to spin around their chests, necks and above their heads. Hooping stabilizes the core and also works the shoulders when spinning a hoop on your hand. It also is good cardio if you keep going. And going. And going.

More importantly, it's super fun. One cool element of taking a class at a school for circus arts is that all the circus arts are going on around you. We were surrounded by aerialists, jugglers and people jumping on trampolines.

I was impressed, but not distracted. Hula Hoop Mastery or Bust.

Nicole Tsong teaches yoga at studios around Seattle. Read her blog at papercraneyoga.com. Email: papercraneyoga@gmail.com.

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