Monday, February 28, 2011

Ahhhh I Hate This F---ing Hoop!


Wasn't that last post so lovely and full of zen? Ah, yes. Well - of course - we can't always be in that place, and sometimes nothing tests us more than A NEW HOOP TRICK!

Today I have been going over some new material for my classes and there is nothing quite like a BIG OL' CHALLENGE to start your day. I've walked away - smarter, yes - but bruised, humbled, bandaged and with a swollen lip. The hoop was uninjured.

Also, I have an industrial piercing in my left ear.  Now, imagine doing THIS and having the hoop spin around, smash your ear and then rip it a bit as it clunks it's way onto the floor. (Followed by my own descent to the floor in a wash of frustration and tears.)

Exhibit A - metal rod in ear.
Sounded like a good idea at the time
Not only was the trick a wash, but my ear was also in a screaming, throbbing pain. 
Perhaps we should not suffer for fashion after all. 

Now, I am going to be honest. It has been a long while since a hoop trick was very challenging. This is not because I am a hoop goddess - but, I do enjoy certain moves more than others, and that's what I practice. I've been doing this so long I sometimes forget that there is SO MUCH more to learn then when I began hooping.

I was basically a big whiny brat about the whole thing all morning. I hadn't really challenged myself in so long that I felt like I would never get the trick. I was pretty disappointed in my reaction. But - I sure did learn something.

PLEASE CONTINUE TO CHALLENGE YOURSELF. If something is so hard it makes you want to cry - GOOD! Keep going! When you get there you will feel exhilarated. 
If you go and go and don't seem to make progress and want to throw your hoop at the most breakable thing in your house - well, stop. Take a breather. Read the post below. (cliffs notes: Emotional reactions are a choice. After I was done choosing to be a big brat, I learned much faster.)

You CAN learn. You WILL get this trick.

I finally got what I was trying to learn. I breathed. I watched the tutorial again. I put on a bike headband to protect my ear (best. idea. ever.)

I'm writing a mental love note to my headband
and I just tried again. and again. 
My mind is changed. I am going to quit resting on my laurels and keep trying new things. If I wanna cry about it - well, I must be doing something right. 

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Finding Flow Without Your Hoop: Interview with a Yogi

The face of a calm yogi
With everything that we all have to balance and attend to daily, a quiet mind is a gift indeed. But how can we get there? I use hooping to reach this sense of flow. Recently, I practiced Ashtanga yoga with my sister, Cyndi, and realized that it is simply a different set of actions that can bring people to the same sense of flow  as the hoop. I’ve never been much for yoga and I certainly didn’t ascribe to the meditation mumbo jumbo that always went with it. But my new experience gave me a deeper understanding of flow and helped answer questions about what flow is, how to get there, and it’s importance.

Hoopers talk a lot about “flow.” There is some debate over what it means and it’s importance to hooping. Flow is a mindset - not a skill set - it is different than fluidity, which you may see in a well choreographed routine. Flow is a satisfying mindset, reached when your actions draw your focus so completely that you are immersed in the present. No dizzying thoughts of the past or future. No lists, worries, concerns. You can feel your body moving without consciously directing it. Reaching flow turns off your mind.

My body can just flow through this? Really

You do not need to be a ‘good’ hooper to experience flow and good hoopers don’t need to think flow is important. It’s really up to you. It’s all about focusing your mind. Haven’t experienced “flow,” or “bliss?” Well, I understand. That’s how I used to feel about finding peace while doing yoga. I kept trying, but something just didn’t click. I just wasn’t understanding what everyone else was falling in love with. Then I realized that I was too focused on becoming “good” at yoga to really get lost in it.

So, how can someone get closer to flow?

I chatted with Cyndi about how she thinks of, and finds, flow in practice and in life. Below she talks about finding the equivalent of “flow” through practice of Ashtanga Yoga.  

K: Did you start Yoga with an understanding of “flow”
C: No.
I never thought that flow was even a part of yoga, I didn’t know what to expect. I had heard of the meditative qualities but I never expected to achieve that at all.

why is that?
because meditation brings to mind images of people with long hair on a mountain top or bunch of hippies. Haha. With my background, it really wasn't something i thought I’d understand, especially not from jumping around on a mat. Yoga sounded fun, so I decided to do it.

Probably the reason most folks try hooping. So, when did that start to change ?
When I started to do enough Ashtanga that I didn't have to worry about the movements as much - as soon as I became consistent.

So would you say that practice is an important  element to finding flow?
Yes. When I first started I was decent, so the movements were challenging, not impossible. That’s how is was for a few months, I would go 1/wk, and felt great after class but without consistency I wasn’t able to to forget the postures and focus on my thoughts. It was a more “outside” experience then “inside.” I needed to do it more regularly to change that.
Yoga can make you levitate

How has finding flow in yoga impacted your non yoga life?
Well, it’s basically changed my outlook on life because I know what its like to bring a calmness to my mind in spite of lots of external stimulation - whether that be burning muscles, the discomfort of a new pose, or if I have no seat on the train or someone is rude. The distractions exist everywhere and are telling you not to be calm, but you get used to bringing that calmness in in spite of everything. You start to realize that it’s a choice. Your emotional reaction is a choice.

What if you are having a really off day - how do you get in the zone, then?
Some day's you don’t.
The important part is to show up.
There are really good days, where I am so ready - but there are others, maybe I didn’t get enough sleep or something, that I am super aware of the time, the effort, everything.
But those experiences are also learning tools.

How so?
With Ashtanga - the sequence is the same everyday - the difference is YOU - so why would today’s practice be harder - what are YOU bringing - what choices went into your current feeling state?
I accept it for what it was and am grateful to be able to show up, and proud that I did it. It’s okay that “flow” is not everyday, you cant always be in a zen state. Still dealing with life is part of the challenge. And there is always tomorrow

Do you think it’s important for everyone to find some type of flow?
Well - I can’t speak for everyone. It was extremely helpful for me, someone who has NEVER had a calm mind. If you are always stressed or anxious, this is a good healthy method that will last for life
If you don't like it, don't do it. It doesn't mean you shouldn't give it a real try. If you aren't getting it, that's totally okay too.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to get started finding flow?
Go to an Ashtanga yoga class! Ha ha!
Try and take one minute out of your day to sit and do nothing but breath. See what happens See where your mind goes. That’s the real challenge - you cant “teach” someone to “meditate.” Its a very long process to get an unbalanced mind to focus. Where are you now? Then we can work on getting you to somewhere else.
Just sitting and thinking with nothing else going on is a great first step. The first step should always be noticing where you are now. Just for a minute.

So, how do you feel when you hoop?
I feel like a beginner. It took me a long time to even WANT to hoop because the first few runs weren’t that great. I did it consistently for a few months and finally started to feel a sense of meditation while hooping,. Then life got in the way and I stopped for some time. I am very aware of how I am moving and what I am doing when I hoop. It feels like work, enjoyable work, but still work. But its okay - IT IS WORK, it’s not always easy and pleasant. With consistency - the payoff all makes it worth it. I don't feel “flowy” at all when i hoop - but i absolutely think I can get there even though i am NOT a flashy hooper, I don’t know all the tricks and am a total beginner. I can get there.

So it would seem that flow is all about practice, consistency, and finding your own starting point.

Flow is important because it can impact how you live your daily life. Once the experience has happened you can more easily transition that feeling of peace and calm into every day situations. Trust me, my last experience with yoga was a lot better when my goal became feeling calm instead of mastering the practice. But so was my last experience with a rude customer service rep. or drive in bumper to bumper traffic. Flow reminds you that you don't need to control everything - and that is a wonderful burden to remove from your shoulders and mind.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Boston Hoops

I miss it already and I am still here....

Monday, February 21, 2011

Music Monday: The King of Limbs, Radiohead

Hello Hoopers!

As you may have heard Radiohead just released their new album The King of Limbs. While I have only listened to it a few times through - I can already tell that there are some hoop gems in the mix. 

Would you like to check it out?

Happy Hooping -

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Exercising Beyond the Hoop

Yes, I do (sometimes) exercise using methods other than the hoop, though I tend to fall off the wagon with everything except hooping. These two videos are turning out to be an exception and have kept me coming back for some time now.
Pilates is a great addition to any hooping practice because it focuses on core strength and creating a fluid, lean line. Both of these videos are on Netflix watch instantly and have made me stronger, held my interest, challenged me, and made me more confident in my hooping!

Pilates: 10 Minute Solution with Lara Hudson (2004)

10 Minute Solutions: Rapid Results Pilates with Lara Hudson (2006)

10 minute workouts were all the rage when these came out, and I have to say, I still love them. No overly long, tedious warm-ups and cool downs! If I am going to workout, it better be worth it - and these videos make you feel the burn right away.
Though I’d done work with Pilates some years ago it had been awhile since I had any directed practice. Someone with a moderate fitness level and moderate to high flexibility would find these do-able, yet engaging. The rapid results video is more challenging, and if proper form is not followed could create more strain than tone - so I do recommend starting with the first is this is your first foray into Pilates.
Lara Hudson is a pleasant host who (thankfully) does not become redundant nor annoying upon repeated viewings, and makes everything easy to understand. Five, 10-Minutes workouts focusing on each section of the body compose each video. Usually, I do three of the sections and feel my whole body surging with energy by the end. With normal gym workouts I tend to get very stiff, lose flexibility, and bulk up quite easily making for some some hulky hoop sessions... (not fun)
Pilates is the perfect remedy for those who want to tone, challenge, and create a lean line. After just two weeks I definitely feel stronger and I am still not tired of these two! Check them out - you can even take my favorite approach to a new workout: let the video play out while you are busy with something else. While it's playing, listen and check in to see how you like the routines. If you think it's for you, you can get up and try a few things. If not, no harm done and no money spent! (Thanks Netflix!)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Music Mondays: deadmau5

Hello hooopers!

Turn on some deadmau5 and you will first notice that your head bobs, then your shoulders follow and soon you will be in an all out hoop frenzy. Yes, most likely it will be spastic. Luckily, you have a prop to help guide your movement - so grab your hoop and try a session to this song. I promise, 5 minutes later you will have had a good workout.

I couldn't resist blasting it this morning and heading outside for a multi-hoop challenge:

They're up!

They're down...
Listen to deadmau5 here:

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Top 5: Inspirational Hoopers

I love lists. 
I am going to be doing Top 5 lists now and again for many hoop related goodies and where better to start than those hoopers who first inspired me! Even if you skip the James Lipton-esque descriptions - check out the moves of these hoopers and they will speak for themselves. 

I love hula-hooping more than life itself.

Chika makes every practice look like the most fun you could ever have. Her videos highlight the process of learning, without editing out every mistake. She takes joy in adding creativity into each session, and back in '07 when I was looking for new moves, I would always be inspired to practice after seeing her ridiculously cheery videos.

Ethereal. Not a word I thought would ever be used to describe hula-hooping, but truly, her movements are seamless and other worldly. She somehow manages to move fast and slow at the same time, an illusion created by her precision of movement and total calm in the hoop. An amazing seamstress as well, the skirt I purchased from her at a Hoop Path event is one of my favorite things to wear when I spin.

He makes hooping look cool for everybody. Seriously, I’ve had student's from 25 to 75 watch a clip of him and all agree: that is how they want to hoop. He pioneered Hoop Path to bring his style to others, serving as a kind and inspiring teacher throughout the country.

Starting like everyone else, with a few YouTube videos of her hooping at home, she has now created a Hoop EMPIRE. Workshops, classes, tutorials, a clothing line and - the most effective social networking site for hoopers - are all to her credit. 
She is most inspiring as a teacher, with any trick you want broken down perfectly in her tutorials. They explain everything step-by-step... in slow motion... and with written directions. I've improved as a teacher and a hooper thanks to Safire - and I can only look forward to what she comes up with next!

Sustained spinning is my favorite hoop style and she always brings something new and insanely beautiful to the stage. I never, never get tired of watching her videos and drawing new ideas out of each. Seriously, is she using magic? How is someone this good. She's stayed at my top spot since the beginning. Gorgeous!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Why Become a Full Time Hooper?

 After I left school and moved away, I got a job in admin, as do many 20-something college grads. It was a fine job, with wonderful people. But it consumed me – even though I didn't see it as a career track. I tried to think of it as funding my hobbies, but I felt too tired and drained at the end of each day or week to even think about free time. Then, I realized something about myself: I better do what I love, because I become what I do in spite of myself every time.

And, I love to hoop. Throughout every idea of the future, it was always there, a constant in the background. When I started teaching, I couldn't believe how exhilarated I was after a good class. Finding music, breaking down moves, watching others find the same joy that I did while hooping was such a reward. Did everyone I teach become a hoop convert? Nope. Most don't. Some flat out hate it. It's more of a skill building than a fitness class, which can be frustrating if your expectations aren't set up for that. But, that's okay. For the folks who felt the same way I did, it was wonderful to share. When folks didn't like it, no harm done. 

With hooping, all of the sudden failing didn't seem to be the paralyzing outcome that had haunted me throughout life. It was a process. Just like learning a new move, making it a career is one step, two steps and eventually reaching the goal.

That's where I am now. I am not all the way across the path, but I am making it one step at a time. If anything I do can inspire folks, not only to hoop, discover a new song or move, but to live passionately – well, then I feel like it's been a success.   
This is the one and only time that I will experience this life. Why waste most of it on something that I don't love? In a few months or years from now, if I change my mind or path, then that is what will come. But, I want this – this is my dream and I will always look back and say, “I tried, and for that, I am glad.” Happiness isn't shameful, optimism isn't silly, and reaching for your goals – even the crazy ones – is the only way to live your dreams. That is what I aim to do, and that is why I am a full-time hooper.