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Why Should I Hula Hoop? What are the Benefits?

hula hoop benefits, hula hoop history
An article written by Tomi Jennings about the significance and benefits of hula hooping

Hello hula hoopers of the world! in this article I’m going to be discussing the benefits of hula hooping, some of which are quite special. I’m going to touch on many different dynamics and in the future, we’ll be doing a 3 (or more) part series that goes into deeper detail of these benefits.  I have five (5) topics I’d like to focus on initially and hopefully you will be inspired to try hula hooping too.

 

1.    The Hula Hoop in Ancient cultures:

The circle is a prominent shape. It’s the most naturally occurring shape in nature, and thanks to the earth’s rotation, everything spins.  It’s a nice little gift to be able to take this natural occurrence and put it into physical form.  The hula hoop is life changing, I believe, because of its many many meanings.  Cultures all around the world had different ideas about the circle. The circle represents infinity and is also the symbol for goddesses. It has also been known to represent the spirit of feminine energy and is respected as a sacred space.  Being closed off, a complete circle, bares boundaries.  It’s a physical tool used for developing skills inside your personal space. Finding yourself while being close to self.  Native Americans use the hoop to help with story telling as far back as the 1400’s (to known knowledge).  They used many hoops at one time during a dance or ceremony to represent meaningful flying animals.  Ancient Greeks were known to tie grapevines together end to end to form a circle and would use these circles for exercise. Egyptians during 500 BC and Englanders during the 1800s AD were both recorded playing with the hoop and a stick. The hoop would be rolling along while being pushed with the stick by the children. Over a thousand of years apart, and on different hemispheres of the planet, and this circle toy evolved with the times. It’s quite mysterious why something so simple, yet so divine, has spanned cultures and survived thousands of years of play. This is why I am in love with my hoop(s). We’ll dig deeper into the ancient relevance of our sacred friend in the upcoming series to follow.

 

2.    Physical Benefits of Hula Hooping

First and foremost, waist hooping involves 35 abdominal muscles to maintain its torque and its continuous circular motion around your body.  Not only are you engaging the muscles of your abdomen but also your legs and your back muscles are being worked out.  It’s always best to warm up before any exercise, but when it comes to hooping i just like to do a couple of stretches.  I do a set of 5 lunges per leg, 15-20 squats, and also approximately 20 jumping jacks.  I think it’s smart to also stretch your neck and shoulder/arm areas; especially if you do a lot of off body hooping.  I like to refer to off body hooping as “trick hooping”.

 

3.    Spiritual Benefits of Hula Hooping

When you have gotten to a level of hooping where you can “throw” the hoop around your waist and barely move you are at a point in your journey where you can lose yourself in the moment. Allow this circle, preferably with your eyes closed and your favorite jams playing, to take you to a place where there are no thoughts running through your mind. Concentrate on your body dipping to stay in control of your circle. Lose the thoughts of what you might look like or who might be watching, these things should be the least of your worries when you are beginning to lose yourself in your flow. You will slowly realize that you and this circle are developing a companionship. You will gradually begin to hoop more and more often once you find this state of meditation in your circle. The best advice that I could give in order to reach such a state would be to simply trust your body inside the hoop. Love yourself just as you love to manipulate the sacred circle with your body and your limbs. For a little umph, try listening to binaural beats with a blindfold on while spinning and see where it takes you…intense. I think in one of the upcoming parts, Heather Doxtater will elaborate on the meditative and spiritual responses our body’s experience.

 

4.    Emotional benefits of Hula Hooping

Just like any exercise, when engaged, your brain releases chemicals that allow you to feel good and happy and energized.  Hooping is no different, and to me and many other hoopers, it is an even more incredible feeling than just some good ol’ fashioned jumping jacks or jogging for some miles.  When I found the hoop, my life was upside down.  My mental and emotional health were non existent.  After falling into zones or finding my “flow” I was able to shift on a focus mechanism in my brain.  I became capable of flipping the (pardon my language here) “fuck it” switch to the off position after years of being lost.  Over four years later, I am here, contributing to ShelledHoops.com’s blog feed!  I have also recently started a book I have always wanted to write, and the hoop has given me the courage to do so.  I couldn’t be more excited about the direction of my life right now, and I credit the hoop for this awesome shift!

 

5.    Current Cultural Significance of the Hula Hoop

In today’s trends, the hoop has made its appearance all over the board.  From exercise dens to significant and pricey performance props.  They are laying all over parks and playgrounds whilst being the star of various television commercials. If the hoop has ever made a comeback, the 2010’s has been its most prosperous and dominant time yet!!  People have started incorporating hula hoops in their yoga regimes and also with their hip hop dance routines.  When I hear someone mention that they hula hoop, my first impression of them is that they possess spiritual capabilities and aren’t too proud to fall back and play!  And what I mean by play is to play again as a child while being a full grown adult.  I admire fellow hoopers just for being that beacon of light for others who can’t bring themselves to let loose completely.  There’s a huge benefit in being a grown up and being capable of staying in touch with that fun child that is inside of each one of us.  Some might say that the hoop has become commercial and that there are a lot of performer types that take the community in vain.  The hoop has become more than hobby for some, it’s actually a lifestyle.  It’s not just about music and self art but more about movements, legislation, and freedom of expression.  I’ll be elaborating on this topic more in  another part of the upcoming series.  There’s a lot to learn when it comes to this hooping stuff, not just the actual act and tricks of hooping.

I hope you come back to read the follow up portions so that one can really have an entire understanding of all the dynamic benefits that the hoop life has to offer!!

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How to Fix a Wonky Hula Hoop – Making Your Hula Hoop a Perfect Circle Again

 

Shipping a hula hoop or traveling with a collapsed hula hoop can make the shape pretty weird/wonky when you first put it back to its normal size.  Before you freak out and think your hoop is messed up forever, rest assured knowing that it was a perfect circle before your hoop smith sent it or before you packed it for travel… so it will go back to perfect again, it just needs a little help from you. I made this little video to show you how you can fix the shape of your hula hoop. It’s simple… but I think some people are just so scared they might mess something up, especially with LED hoops. Don’t worry… your hoops are not quite as delicate as you might think. Be gentle but firm, and these methods are perfectly safe for led hoops too.

 

Most people have heard of the ‘letting it breath’ suggestion, meaning to undo whatever it is that is holding the hula hoop into a collapsed form and just allowing it to stretch itself out for some time. This definitely isn’t a bad idea and it does help, but I am usually too impatient for that and its not always necessary. I will say that if its a polypro hoop and its very cold shipping/traveling weather, definitely let the tubing warm up before trying these shape-fixing techniques so that you don’t risk breaking it as polypro becomes more brittle in cold temperatures. Allowing the hoop to ‘breathe’ will allow it to slowly uncoil some, but it will never uncoil fully. If you decide to be patient and do this step, when you do connect it together the shape may still look off. It would look more normal than if you tried putting it together right away, but you can still benefit from this demonstration to get it to that perfect circle that you love so much.

 

When the hula hoop shape is off it is usually either a little flat looking right at the connection, or it is a little bit bowed in at the connection.  Which one of these you are experiencing is usually related to how it was collapsed. We choose to collapse our hoops small enough that the two ends of tubing meet back up and cross over each other, so the Velcro straps we use are wrapping around 3 points of the tubing, and we use two straps.  Collapsing small like this usually results in the bowed in shape initially. We do this small collapsing because it forces the tube to stay in a curved shape during shipping/travel.  Coiling them less than this can often result in the ends of the tubing sticking out straight which I find to be more annoying to fix the shape when the hoops trying to be flat/straight in the connection area.  The tubing rolls purchased from extrusion companies come very tightly coiled. We usually stretch them out before cutting anything off of them, but sometimes we use these techniques to get a perfect hoop from a freshly opened roll of tubing. 

 

The first shape fixing method is the more well known/obvious one. When the hula hoop is connected, you can pull up at the connection while your foot is on the opposite side of tubing. If it is an LED hoop, just make sure the hoop is fully connected into the ‘on’ position. Having the LED hoop in the ‘off’ position and pulling on the connection can put too much stress on that insert tubing and bend/break it, but as long as its fully connected its perfectly safe. If the shape is only slightly off, this method is usually enough to make the hoop a perfect circle again. If it still looks ovular, bowed in, or wonky, give the next shape fixing method a try.  Most people might not think to try this, but it works really well even for the extreme wonky hoops.  You open the hoop at the push button, and one side at a time pull the tube nice and straight and hold it for 30 seconds. Basically the hoop is over coiling, so your just straightening it back out some. It looks a little scary, but it works like a charm….and is perfectly safe for LEDs as well. Hopefully this article and video helps you to fix the shape of your hula hoop into a perfect circle of happiness again!

 

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Benefits of Hula Hooping for Mental Health

hula hooping behavioral health
Author Payton Ruth Horn discusses how hula hooping has many benefits to one’s mental health

 

Hula hooping is such amazing exercise for your body, but it also has endless benefits to your mental health too! Since beginning my hoop journey in August 2015 I’ve been able to remove all the prescription medication I was taking from my life completely! I’m diagnosed schizophrenic so it’s a huge deal for me to be med free and completely stable. Whether you’re hula hooping on your waist or hoop dancing, the benefits really can be life changing with some dedication!

  1. Releases happy chemicals

Hula hooping releases chemicals in your brain called serotonin and norepinephrine. These chemicals are what make you feel calm, balanced and fulfilled! After a good hooping session, I always feel more upbeat and energized. A quick hooping session is a great way to start the day! I wake up and almost immediately stretch and then hoop for 15 minutes. It helps wake me up and shake off the sleepiness, and it always leaves me feeling good and ready to start the day.

 

  1. Reduces stress and anxiety

Hooping is a great way to relieve stress. The hoop gives you something to put all your feelings into, and a healthy outlet to handle and release those feelings. I’ve hooped myself through panic attacks, and out of general funks. Throwing on a good playlist and dancing with your hoop for a while can really lift your mood and calm anxiety. I get anxious quite often and I can usually shake off the tension with my hoop. I have PTSD as well, and surprisingly I can even usually hoop through a flashback. I’ve never found anything else that I can use to get through these other than the meds I used to take. I take a hoop almost everywhere for this reason!

 

  1. Gives you goals

I’ve tried so many things, hobby wise. I’m an artist at heart, but I take long hiatuses in between short phases of constant creativity. It’s never been a true passion that I continually worked at and put my whole soul into. I’ve tried playing instruments and different sports with absolutely no luck in finding a hobby that truly inspired me like hula hooping has. I look back on videos of me from when I very first started and get a rush of pride and satisfaction as to how far I’ve come. I have so many goals I want to reach in my hoop dance and I keep those in mind and make time to practice every day. I was never very goal-oriented before I discovered hooping, and it’s made me more conscious of goals in my daily life too!

  1. Boosts confidence!

This is an important one when it comes to increasing daily happiness. Hooping has given me more confidence in myself than I’ve ever had. I had my son about 6 months before I started, so I had some leftover baby weight that I wanted to get rid of. Within about 3 months after I started hooping, I was 5 pounds less than I was before I got pregnant! I fit into my old jeans and I felt so good about myself! I can go outside (I live in an apartment complex) and dance, without caring what people think about me. It’s a freeing feeling, and I wouldn’t have come out of my shell like I have without my hula hoops.

  1. Unlocking your flow state

When you really put all of your heart, soul and focus into something and that thing seems to happen effortlessly, that’s your flow state. Anything can flow, but I’ve never felt it like I do when I’m hooping. Since unlocking and opening up that state of my being, I can find a flow much easier. Even cleaning the house is almost flowy for me now! I feel as though I execute daily life things with much more accuracy, efficiency and grace.

  1. Moving meditation

Sometimes it’s crucial to just shut out the rest of the world and meditate on the things you need to. I can flow in silence and just let all my feelings be expressed through my movements, while I keep my mind calm and centered. Hula hooping on the waist is great for this as well. You can put all your focus on your meditation and grounding yourself. I’ve never been able to get into a “meditative state” while sitting still in the traditional manner, but hooping while doing it works wonders!

Hooping is a great exercise and outlet for those that struggle with things like depression and anxiety. Whether you hoop every day or once a week, every minute you spend up and moving will make you a happier person! Sometimes in everyday life, we forget that we deserve to have fun. Hula hooping has brought so much fun and childlike happiness back into my life! Life is beautiful with plastic circles.

If you are inspired by this and would like to start hooping, please check out ShelLED Hoop’s shop for beginner, workout, dance, and LED Hoops!

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When People Hate on Hooping

Auther Jill Janosek gives some good advice on how to deal with hula hoop haters!
Auther Jill Janosek gives some good advice on how to deal with hula hoop haters!

 

Most hoopers have seen it, herd stories, or been exposed to outsiders who do not appreciate the art form of hooping. Family, friends, co-workers, anyone you come in contact with will have no idea, or a different definition about hoop culture. When someone is rude, hurtful, or ignorant to the hoop culture, it sets off a chain reaction. The negativity aimed at hooping is now hurt feelings of an artist. Hooping is a passion art and when you are passionate it is easy to feel offended or attacked, but times like these, it can be best to stick to the facts.
We cannot control others but we can change our own reactions, and in turn change the story. Ignorance is the key factor to this problem. What if instead of getting angry and responding with frustration we can take these negative experiences and turn them into learning opportunities.
Recently a co-worker of mine who did not know I was an active hooper made a comment about how girls who hoop are not usually the type to keep their clothes on at work.. I pointed out the fact that I was completely clothed, at work, and a dedicated hooper. My co-worker was not intending to harm feelings or be derogatory, we have known each other ten years and have a great deal of mutual respect. The problem was that the only experience that he had with hoopers was in a setting that caused his remarks. After explaining the weight loss benefits and overall life changing experiences that hoops have brought to me, I could tell that he now saw hooping as a much more versatile activity than he previously was aware.
When we get these remarks it is important to keep an open mind, and fight the ignorance; not the person relaying misinformation. So here are a few knowledge bombs to keep in your back pocket next time you are faced with a derogatory remark:

  1. According tolivestrong.com:“Hula-hooping is a fun way to keep fit, allowing you to target your arms, legs, abdomen and buttocks through a variety of exercises,. It improves flexibility, balance, motor skills, hand-eye coordination and endurance, and a weighted hoop can even provide enough resistance for a strengthening regimen.”
  2. TheFix.comlists hula-hooping as a tested and proven method to help people with addiction treatment and survivors of abuse: “What’s inside the hoop, the thinking goes, represents what’s within one’s control, and clients are encouraged to reinforce this principle by reciting little litanies like “This is a boundary. I am protected and contained.”
  3. The Stroke Foundation also lists hula-hooping as a great PT to help patients: “But for those who can hoop, “just about everything you could teach someone to do with a hoop would benefit a stroke patient in many ways,” said Burns. “Exercises of the legs and arms, which require a midline orientation or crossing of midline, force the patient to use their trunk muscles for stability. Strengthening, stretching and elongation of the trunk of the body are important to improving balance and use of the extremities for stroke survivors. “

We can never expect a change in tone from those around us if we are not ready to rise above. While there will always be the ones who will stick to their stereotypes, and their opinion may never change; that is not something our community needs to loose any sleep over. We can fight ignorance with facts.

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Hoop Related Rejection

Author Jill Janosek discusses how to understand and deal with the rejection some hoopers will likely come across in the hula hoop community
Author Jill Janosek discusses how to understand and deal with the rejection some hoopers will likely come across in the hula hoop community

 

When you diving deeper into the hoop world, chances are you have filled out an application of some kind. Sponsorships, hoop troupes, performances, and more all ask you to fill out some kind of questionnaire and ask you to show off your ability. If you have filled out an application, then you might be familiar with the sting of rejection. According to Fortune.com There are five main stages of rejection denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Denial: The first step in dealing with rejection, is understanding that you have in fact been rejected. Recently I filled out an application for a hoop troupe at a festival, on the application it gave a specified date as to when all applicants would hear back. I marked my calendar and counted the days, and then that day past, and then a week past. While at that point I understood I most likely was not chosen I still longingly stared at my inbox hoping for a miracle.

Anger: Once you understand that you were denied the natural reaction is to be angry. Once I realized that the “Congratulations” e-mail was not going to be sent out to me I was upset. Why would they tell people they would receive notification either way and then just never send anything out? Was I not good enough? Was it personal? (Note: It never is)

Bargaining: As much as you might have been angry, lets face it if you applied for it, you wanted it. After your anger wears down you may start to bargain. I started wondering if maybe I was chosen as a back up, maybe they simply forgot to put my name on the list of congratulations letters, maybe, maybe, maybe.

Depression: Hooping is art. You put your heart and soul into every movement and when you fill out those questionnaires you taken them seriously, you think through your responses and you hope that they take in the passion you are pouring out and when you are not chosen it hurts. You start to question your abilities as a whole and you question if all that time you spent working with the sacred circle was worth it.

Acceptance: Once you have gone though the previous stages you accept that the other applicants were simply better qualified. They may have more experience in that type of setting, maybe they have been hooping for a much longer amount of time, maybe you were up next to be chosen the competition was simply to mighty.

The best part about being part of the hoop community is knowing that the first rejection, is never a final rejection. Yes, it may hurt and you will be disappointed to know that your skills did not yet match up to what they were looking for. When this happens it might be nice to treat yourself. Buy that NEW LED from ShelLED you have been eying, go get a massage, spend a few extra minuets on your morning yoga. You can always reapply to that festival again next year. You were not chosen for a sponsorship? Keep promoting, shop owners will notice! The end is never the end, just the start of the time frame for your next application.

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How a Hula Hoop Made Me Sane

hula hoop for bipolar
Author Payton Horn talks about how her troubling past led her into mental illness and how hula hooping has changed her life to be a happy, stable and medication free one!

 

(Trigger warning: sexual assault, murder, drug abuse, mental illness)

Childhood Trauma

It all started when I turned seven. Up until then, my life was that of a normal, care-free child. Shortly after my seventh birthday, I was sexually assaulted by my then step-brother. I don’t think the effects of that have ever really left me, even to this day. I was tiny, helpless, and severely traumatized. At that time, I didn’t really understand what had happened to me and I was threatened multiple times by him to never tell anyone.  So I didn’t.  I remained in my head,  wondering what I had done to deserve such horrible treatment by my step-brother, who was supposed to watch over me.

Some months after this happened; my father’s long time best friend got brutally murdered by his strung-out brother.  Unfortunately, newly-traumatized little Payton witnessed it. I won’t go into too deep of detail but I will tell you that there was an axe and multiple stab wounds involved. This is where I shut down completely.  I blocked out what I’d been through for a few years after this. My dad shut down at this point too, and still hasn’t come back to me.

Two years later at about 9 ½ years old, I started hearing voices in my head and having some very intense visual hallucinations as well. These continued for seven years before I told anyone about them. I’m not sure how I kept myself together enough to fool everyone into thinking I was okay, because I most certainly was not. For years, I thought I was destined to be like this for the rest of my life.

 

Teenage Struggles

When I turned sixteen I met my boyfriend Michael. He was the first person I ever felt comfortable enough with to tell my story and what was happening inside my deteriorating mind.  He was there for me while I cried all night and explained to him why I was so damaged. He was and still is the most supportive person in my life.

About six to seven months after we met we moved in together. One night we got into a petty argument, but with my unstableness it escalated into me having a major panic attack. The police showed up at our door pretty quickly after this as someone thought he was abusing me from my panicked crying and screaming. When they came through our door he was already holding me and trying to calm me down.  In the state of mind I was in, I made a mistake by saying that I wanted to die while the police were in our apartment. At this point, the police basically pried me away from Michael and transported me to a hospital because I was a danger to myself. I spent thirteen days in the behavioral unit at a local hospital and I want to say that this made me so much worse than I was before I went in.

This is where I finally got a formal diagnosis – schizophrenia, depression, anxiety disorder, and PTSD. As you can imagine the list of medications for this mix of illnesses was a mile long. I had been on Prozac, a regular anti-depressant, for years before this, but now I was very, very heavily medicated. I was taking seven pills a day for the next four years. I never felt like myself anymore, I still heard voices and hated myself. I truly think the medication was holding me down more than I already was.

I turned to drugs and self-harm. From the sixteenth to eighteenth year of my life, I battled addiction. Being high on something — anything, was the only way I knew how to cope with what was happening in my head. Drugs and hurting myself were the only coping mechanisms I had. I will forever bear the scars of what I did when I hated myself. Scars from cuts and cigarette burns cover my left arm to this day.

Michael and my amazing mother always stood by my side. Through all of this, my companion watched me deteriorate farther and farther away from him. My mother watched her only child hurt herself, steal to get her fix, and be completely unresponsive from drug abuse. I can’t even imagine the pain I put them through, all while I was trying to mask my own. I’m truly lucky that I have such amazing people in my life to help pull me through.

 

 Recovery 

About halfway into my eighteenth year of my life, I fell pregnant. I was taking birth control every day, and it still happened. I think it was fate. This was my wake-up call. I had our child in my tummy and I was going to do whatever it took to do right by this baby. I immediately stopped doing all the things I was doing to myself and my psychiatrist took me off almost all of my medication. This was one of the hardest things I’ve ever been through.  I was young, damaged, and so afraid. My pregnancy was a tough one. I was hospitalized multiple times for hyperemesis gravidarum, which is basically just severe morning sickness. It lasted almost my whole pregnancy.

On November 10th, 2014, a couple of months after I turned nineteen, my beautiful Gabriel Alexander was born. He was perfect and healthy. I have never been so in awe of something in my life. The bliss of my new baby and my happy family lasted for about two months before I felt myself slipping again. I was breastfeeding up until Gabe was about eight months old and I couldn’t take the pain in my head anymore. I weaned Gabriel off my breast so I could return to taking medication. I took my meds every day, and once again, I didn’t feel as though it was helping me.

A short seven months ago, I discovered hooping. I don’t remember how I came across it, but there was a video on Tumblr of someone ankle hooping to Bassnectar, and I was completely in awe. I reblogged it to my blog and added a caption saying I wanted to learn. Within the next few days, I got myself some cheap hoops from Big Lots. I spent hours and hours on end trying to master the basics. Once I got comfortable, I invested in my first “real” hoop.  A 34” taped polypro that I will never let go of. I swear that hoop is what helped me recover so quickly. I practiced constantly with that hoop until I felt as though I’d hit a plateau, and it was too big for what I wanted to learn. I moved on to smaller hoops, and advanced every day.

About three months after I started, I went to my psychiatrist and requested to be taken off of all of my meds. He advised me strongly against doing this but I was adamant in my decision.  It was one of the best I’ve ever made for myself. I’ve always been an artist but I never found release in my art. It was always an outlet for all my negativity and sometimes made me feel worse. I found my release through dancing with my hoop. I found happiness and a true positivity that I’d never experienced in my life. I learned patience with myself and a new love for my body. I never would have thought that a hula hoop would be what helped me move on from my past  but I’m so glad I let it overtake me the way I have.

Now I’m twenty. I’m halfway to twenty one and I’m truly happy. For the first time since I was a child I feel free. I don’t have voices in my head and I’m not anxious about the future.  Every time I have negative thoughts I hoop them out. It works wonders to just get lost in the music and dance my pain away. I have a massive amount of positivity and love that radiates out of me. I have a happy little boy and a caring, supportive man that both love me endlessly. I want my story to inspire people that are going through rough, horrible times. I spent over half my life being afraid and suicidal. I never thought I could escape but I did. All thanks to this absolutely beautiful way of life and the amazing community that surrounds it. I finally found my peace.

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Flowing With Diversity

diversity
Author Tomi Jennings talks about the diversity of people who enjoy hula hooping, and how we should all embrace the diversity in life!

 

Allow me to introduce a topic that may be a little touchy. Does any Hooper ever feel the cultural divide that seems to happen almost everywhere, especially if we’re walking in a place with a bunch of hoops hanging off ourshoulder? For instance, walk into a McDonald’s and you’ll see seniors gathered in a corner chit chatting, teenagers hanging out by the bathrooms and skater kids chilling near the windows. Or at a festival, Rasta joners (is this the correct term? I’m not sure) in an isolated area, musicians huddled together by the stages, and hoopers are typically all gathered together in an enchanting cleared out space and so on… Well, being the individual that I am with more biracial family members than not, I seem to notice this more often than most. It may be because I was raised not practicing any form of ‘societal segregation’, so it’s safe to say my personality reflects this. I don’t typically feel pressures that most of my friends and flowmies experience. I have held countless conversations with friends and strangers discussing the anxiety that overcomes them when they are in unfamiliar territory. How, when surrounded by people of different backgrounds or of different taste, they generally become immediately consumed with an intense feeling of nervousness, as opposed to walking into a crowd and noticing clothing styles or music similar to your liking in which you can relate to and be comfortable. It’s a very different approach that gives you permission to open up. When people are surrounded by others who induce feelings of familiarity instead of questions, it becomes a different environment for that individual. My experience is completely altered. I cannot relate to these social inhibitions. The second I feel anxiety socially I face the source head on. I notice these types of social situations and try to mend the gap. I know that at a flow event every being that arrives is there because of a common interest; flowing and giving whilst getting lost in the music. I also know many of us use our hoops (or other flow toys) to help work out confusing feelings like anxiety. ShelLED Hoops has the ultimate range from heavy (PE) to light and tricky (PolyPro) hoops. Her site offers information to allow you to make an educated purchase for exactly what you need. For meditating and anxiety relief, I’d recommend a heavy, larger hoop (between PE & HDPE). The slow flow helps me think out my inner conflicts.

Sometimes, I sit back and think of a society that doesn’t condition us to be so aware of our differences, but of one that focuses on the positive potential that could come about if we HONORED each other’s differences in one another. Just because my lifestyle or beliefs and my environment may differ from someone else’s doesn’t mean one is any less important than the other. It’s true that our upbringing shapes us into the people we are. It is also true that a lot of us are misunderstood or are criticized because of where we find our joy. Where in our lives did we pick up the notion that someone else’s joy is our business?
With that being said, when we come together from all over to flow and jam, try to consciously avoid conducting yourself in such a stand-offish manner. I, too, am guilty of the initial (and nearly sub conscious) pre-judgment issue. But I think I am unique in the fact that I do not allow any of my premature judgments or ideals of beauty keep me locked into a narrow comfort zone. We need to break the barriers of conditioned segregation. I force myself to get uncomfortable, especially in social situations. The moment anxiety creeps up in a social setting, whether it is a cookout with lots of new people or a flow event with many familiar faces, I overcome it. I ask questions and I force myself to engage and interact until that feeling is no longer relevant.
The social conditioning that we are all exposed to has to become something from which we break free. I have an idea that social anxiety is caused by the unknown. Let’s fight back by educating ourselves, make the unknown KNOWN.
We as a community have the power to undo this social conditioning. Being aware gives us opportunities to be more united as a people than ever before. I also believe it should be easier for us flowmies, since we gather together under a common interest of positivity and artistic expression. I don’t like seeing the community limiting itself to specific interactions because we are intimidated by each other’s differences.
Generations before us have died trying to prevent these types of social stigmas. Let’s make a choice as a group of artists and performers, as a new generation, to explore these feelings of anxiety and to ask ourselves why they occur. To not allow society’s ideas control our natural yearnings.
Next time your song comes on, no matter where you are, break out in song and dance. Even if you feel like you’re not any good at it! Next time you are in line at the store and the person behind you has less items, permit that person to go ahead of you, even if they don’t appear to attend the same church as you. Or the next time you see someone embracing their own tune, give them a thumbs up instead of an awkward stare.
If we as a community spread acceptance and kindness, maybe we will be less intimidating towards one another. That alone could possibly break down a dividing barrier. By facing our fears we can change the world, one conscious act at a time. Stay strong, positive, and flexible through every uncomfortable experience. Discomfort causes inevitable growth, so let’s start welcoming it on a spiritual level, and not a human one.
Love You All ~|~

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Hoops for a Bigger Brain: How we are Healing

brain stimulation
Author LaLa Merrit discusses how hula hooping can be used as mental therapy to help keep the brain healthy

 

Yes, you read that right. Your hula hoop is changing your brain, but is it surprising? Hoopers and flow artists everywhere are finding their practice has changed many aspects of their lives, nearly all are positive. I’m sure that, like myself, you feel that way too. It is definitely not an unsupported assumption to make; peers in the community may affirm this, but there is also scientific evidence backing the behavioral therapy we have all been participating in.

Mindfulness is the practice, and probably a word that is not unfamiliar due to its rise in popularity as an effective therapy. Mindfulness therapy is used in psychology to treat a variety of disorders, perhaps the most common being bi-polar and major depressive disorders. It is recognized that several disciplines and practices can cultivate mindfulness like meditation, tai-chi, or yoga. The moving meditation that is often practiced for freestyle flow as well as incessant drills clearly fits these criteria. Mindfulness meditation is defined as “a family of self regulation practices that focus on training awareness and attention in order to bring mental processes under greater voluntary control.” (Walsh, 2006). In other words it means to learn to be in the moment, as opposed to constantly reflecting on the past or worrying about the future. Twenty minutes of dedicated daily practice is all it takes. Try to focus on moment to moment awareness of your experiences without judgment. Eventually this state can be effortless to reach over time.

Mindfulness can explain some of the other improvements that may be taking place outside the circle as well. The attention and coordination that is practiced with flow props naturally transfer to other aspects of mental development. Benefits include improved self control, objectivity, concentration and clarity, and emotional intelligence. The learned skill of self awareness and observation neurologically disengages negative automatic pathways created from prior learning, creating room for new processes. Neuroplasticity, or the notion that the adult brain remains changeable, explains why regular mindfulness practice alters the physical structure and function of the brain. Thicker brain regions associated with attention, sensory processing, and sensitivity to internal stimuli have been observed as distinctly higher grey matter concentrations and thicker brain stems. (Davis, 2011) It is clear we all have good reason to have circles on the mind!

The question remains: are we being mindful in our practice? Better yet, how can we improve mindfulness so that we can continue applying the practice in our daily lives? Begin by being honest with yourself and figuring out if the purpose of your practice is the practice itself, and what we gain from daily commitment. Obviously we practice skills to get better at them, but is the focus on being a better hooper in your personal journey (which is objective in nature), or being the BEST hooper? Comparison is killer, and we all do it in one degree or another, but one cannot be mindful in practice if the focus is outside the self. Awareness of the lack self focus and is the first step in a journey to awareness. Below are a few tips for creating mindfulness you can apply during flow:

– Begin practice with a short meditation. Either sitting or lying down, with body “grounded” or engaged in the sensation of the earth beneath. Bring focus to the breath, and awareness of bodily sensations (What do you hear, smell, taste, feel, and see?). Normal thought patterns will invade the mind, acknowledge them, and let them pass with the breath. Scan the body from head to toe and bring awareness to how each part feels, releasing tension. Repeat this process as necessary.

– Set intention for your practice to keep the focus on self. My most common intention: “I intend this practice for my well-being and to nurture the things I love; myself and my dance.”

-While practicing use the same above techniques. Focus on breath and how the prop feels on or off your body, let invading thoughts pass as awareness re-centers with body and prop, hold intention so that effort is placed valuably.

 

Davis, D. M., & Hayes, J. A. (2011). What Are the Benefits of Mindfulness? A Practice Review of Psychotherapy-Related Research. American Psychological Association, 48(2), 198-208. Retrieved January 20, 2016.
Walsh, R. & Shapiro, S.L. (2006). The meeting of meditating disciplines and western psychology: A mutually enriching dialogue. American Psychologist, 61 (3), 227-239

 

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The Low Down on Flow Sponsorships

 

sponsored hoopers
The current team of ShelLED Hoop sponsee’s

 

Sponsorships in the hoop world seem to be much more common than you would see in other sports or activities, and these sponsorships work differently than your standard company sponsorship arrangement. There appears to be a great interest in how these bonds come about, so here is a little information to help you decide if a sponsorship is right for you.

Who is involved in the sponsorship?
There are two parties involved in a hoop sponsorship, the company and the artist. The “who” involved in these transactions are as diverse as the hoop community itself. The company can be anything from hoop makers, jewelry crafters, flow clothing seamstresses, and more. The artist is a flow artist having one or more important qualities. Sponsored flow artists are people who have honed their craft and have a following in the community or they are members of the community who have great networking skills.

 

What is the sponsorship all about? 
Every sponsorship is different, so the terms change based on each individual connection. Typically each sponsored hooper is given a coupon code for a discount on the company website. Anytime this code is used, the sponsored hooper gains credit towards products of their own. Most sponsorships also come with a set amount of company merchandise they will be given in order to create flow videos.
While the products are a great benefit, there is much more to a sponsorship. Sponsorship teams are not only the company and the hooper, but also a connection between the shop owner and the artist. Just like any relationship this bond is based on trust. The company is trusting you with their brand name and puts the company reputation in your hands, trusting not only your skill but also how you hold yourself as a person while representing the shop. The artist trusts that the company will treat them with respect and honor all agreements. In most cases there is also the benefit of having fellow sponsored artists. While you may never meet your fellow flow artists in person, you are all part of a team. This team works together to not only promote the shop but also to inspire each others to new creative lengths.

 

Where do sponsorships take place?
Most sponsorships take place in the virtual world. You commonly see sponsored hoopers advertising for their shops on their personal social media pages such as instagram and Facebook. Facebook groups such as Hula Hoop Shop Directory or Infinite Circles are often filled with talented artists handing out their personalized codes. This is typically done to entice new hoopers to purchase a prop from their sponsors shop.
Sponsorships can also be seen in the “real” world at festivals or flow fests while artists show off their prize flow toys. The idea behind this is that there is a large amount of consumers in one area that are all within the target market for flow props.

Performances are also common for sponsored hoopers. Specialized performances allow for a wide variety of people within one audience to be exposed to the sponsored hooper, the shop, and the shop’s products.

 

When do sponsorships happen?
Sponsorships can happen at any time, and the terms are set by the shop itself. When a partnership begins between a company and a flow artist they typically agree on a one year term.

Why do sponsorships exist? 
Each party has their own agenda and the idea behind the arrangement is mutual benefit. The company is seeking to have content such as videos displaying their product and promotion of the company on the artist’s social media and/or during performances. The artist is looking for promotion and/or recognition of their skills through the company’s social media and for the financial benefits of lower cost or free products from the company.

How do sponsorships come about? 
There are two ways in which the company and artist create a bond. Either one party (the company or artist) seeks the other out and approaches them with an offer or the artist applies for a sponsorship. A company will post that they are seeking artists to sponsor and will ask for a sample of their art, some information about the artist, and links to their social media page. From there the company will choose which applicants they choose to sponsor.

Each sponsorship is different, some wanting an artist to meet many different requirements in a broad range of criteria, others that require much less. The bond between a company and an artist is a complicated relationship, but a relationship that is mutually beneficial to both parties. There are many factors that determine a good sponsorship relationship, but it all comes down to is trust. The artist needs to trust the company to support them and their abilities, and the company needs to trust the artist with their brand and reputation.

 

Author: Jill Janosek

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Hula Hoop Customization Options: What it All Means

how to customize hoop
Author Jill Janosek’s personal hula hoop collection….and it is still growing!!

When you are new to the hooping world going though all the options while purchasing a hoop is a daunting process. There are so many different categories and styles that it can feel overwhelming. Most shops carry a handful of pre­made ready to ship hoops, but the majority of the time every purchase you make from a hoopsmith is custom made for you. So we here at ShelLED Hoops have put together a comprehensive list all of the options you have, what they all mean, and how they effect the product you are being sent. Once you have a good understanding of your choices, deciding how to custom order your own hoop is a much easier process!

 

Basic Hoop Construction Options

When it comes to basic hoop construction you have three main options to consider: the connector, which keeps the hoop in a circle by combining the ends of the tubing, the material of the hoop tubing itself, and hoop taping options.

Hoop Connectors

Outer Connection:­ This means that the part that holds one end of tubing with the other end of tubing is on the outside of the ends. This typically creates a “cuff” around the area.

Inner Connection: These are more typical than outer connections, and just means the part that is keeping the two ends together is on the inside of the tubing. There are two typical types of inner connections, friction fit and push button. A friction fit connector is a piece of tubing that is placed inside each end of the hoop to connect it; the piece on the inside of the hoop is so tight that the two ends of the hoop stay clamped onto the interior piece. When ordering a friction fit hoop you will often be sent with the connector only attached to one side. To connect the two ends together, you will take some sort of heat source such as a blow dryer or warm water to soften the ends and push the hoop together. A push button connection is when the interior tubing that holds both ends of the hoop together has a small piece of metal hardware attached to it consisting of a riveted end and a button end. The hoopsmith attaches the riveted end to one side of the inner connector piece, then drills a hole into the other end of the hoop tubing where the button end of the hardware fits. This allows for a seamless connection and makes it easier to take the hoop apart and put the hoop back together. When you receive a push button connector on your hoop you will simply take the end that has the small button and put it into the other side of the tubing, you will need to hold the button down until it is almost all the way into the tube, keep pushing until you see the button pop out of the hole on the other side of the connection.

 

Common Hula Hoop Material Choices

Polypropylene:­ Commonly refered to as “polypro”, this is a very common hoop material as it is very light and springy. It is commonly said to be a very “responsive material”.

HDPE:­ HDPE stands for High Density Polyethylene, and is also very common like Polypro. The weight of the material is similar to polypro but it is a harder plastic and is commonly referred to as a “reactive material”.

PolyCarb:­ Polycarbonate is the lightest of all materials, however it is a much more rare tubing choice. PolyCarb hoops tend to be translucent in color, and while they are extremely light they tend to be more brittle, thus making them more prone to cracks.

PE­: Simply standing for Polyethylene, this is what most “beginner” hoops are made out of. While it is a very common material for beginners it by no means is an inferior hoop, many advanced hoopers still prefer this material. It is the heaviest option which slows the hoops rotation and better allows you to learn with the hoop. This material is also very flexible so it allows for a little more give when hooping.

 

Size of Tubing

1⁄2 inch: This is the smallest size tubing you can purchase and is typically found in Polycarb hoops or sometimes Polypro.

5/8 inch: The thickness of these hoops are about the size of your pinky, they are still extremely light. You will find most 5/8 hoops are made from Polypro or HDPE

3⁄4 inch: This is the thickest of the typical hoop tubing and is about the size of your thumb. Most 3⁄4 hoops are made from PE, HDPE, or Polypro.

 

Hoop Tape and Grip Options

Color Morph: Color Morph tape creates an illusion effect of changing colors while the hoop moves.

Reflective: This tape is similar to what you see on road signs at night. It is bright and shinny, but only has that effect when there is a direct light source. The effects are best seen in a video taken with flash.

Specialty: This is a type of tape placed around the hoop that may be in limited quantity, or a color/pattern that is unique that a specific hoop shop.

Gaffer/Grip: This is typically seen as a line inside the hoop, spiraled around the hoop, or in a criss-cross pattern around the hoop. This tape helps the hoop stick to you and makes it easier to learn and progress with on body hooping.

Sanding: This creates extra grip on the hoop without the look and use of grip tape. It is common to have “inside line” which would be only the inside section of the hoop, or having the entire hoop sanded. While some shops list this as an option, this may also come standard on a hoop, or the shop may include a small piece of sandpaper with the hoop so you may sand the hoop to your own specifications.

 

Categories and Sub-­Categories of Hoops

The basic construction options are not the only thing you need to consider when purchasing a new hoop. You also need to know what style of hoop would best fit your needs!

Beginner Hoops: These hoops are made from PE material, with a friction fit connection, they have decorative and gaffer tape.

Day Hoop/ Practice Hoops/ Performance Hoop: They are made from any type of tubing, and are typically seen with a push button connector. If they are listed as “naked” or “bare” they have no tape and will often come with an option of sanding the hoop, otherwise you will be given an option to choose from the shops selection of decorative and graffer tapes.

Single Circuit LED: This is a type of hoop that has a string of lights inside the hoop. Sometimes it may be one color, or it could be multiple colors. Some have strobing lights while some may be static, just be sure to fully read the listing.

Two Circuit LED: These hoops are a little more rare and have a switch that you can switch between two different single circuit LEDs in one hoop.

Smart Hoop: Most commonly found in 3⁄4 HDPE, but there are some companies coming out with selections for 5/8 and Polypro. These are the most expensive hoops you can find and have 300+ patterns (more than one setting of colors in the hoop) and designs. These can range anywhere between $250-$500 depending on brand and customization.

 

How to Find a Hoop Shop That Will Fit Your Needs

The best way to find a shop to accommodate your needs is through referrals, if you have friends or family members who are involved in the hoop community ask what companies they trust and you will be pointed in the right direction.

Reputation: You will also want to be familiar with the shops general community reputation, for instance ShelLED Hoops is known for their amazing quality, fast shipping, and dedication to customer service.

Facebook:­ One of the best ways to find a shop to fit your needs is to search though the “Hula­ Hoop Shop Directory” group on facebook. You can search through posts from companies highlighting their shops specialty, or you could post what you are looking for and shops can comment with how they would be able to accommodate you. If you are unsure about a shop you may also want to check out the Infinite Circles group on facebook, in the files section of their page they have a list of companies who have had complaints in the past this list is posted under “Buyer Beware”

Websites­: When looking for a hoop many hoopsmiths have their own websites which will detail exactly what you are purchasing, be sure to not only read the product description but also the shops general policies and procedures. If the shop you are considering is listed on Etsy, reading through the reviews is a good idea to get a feel of previous customers satisfaction.

Shipping: When considering shipping while purchasing a hoop you will want to read further into the method of shipping, not just asking the question “is it being shipped through UPS, FEDEX, or USPS?”. Because hoops are handcrafted be sure you are also aware of the build time for a shop. Build times typically range anywhere between one week up to two months depending on the style of hoop and type of shop.

 

Keep in mind when ordering from any hoopsmith, they want you to be pleased with your purchase, they are handcrafting an item for you and hope you love your hoop just as much as they enjoyed making it for you. If you ever have any questions about an order reach out to the shop owner or a sponsored hooper and they would be MORE than happy to help you in any way possible! The hoop industry is constantly changing and evolving so don’t be surprised if you see more options for customization or construction in the future!