Recently I was asked in a circle of spinners to share my current favorite hoop move. My answer was actually: “Hoopstretching.” For those of us who regularly use a hoop to assist us in our various stretching practices, we know that there’s an ability to experience a broader range of movement in the rather safe-feeling confines of the hoop. Often in classes I refer to the classic Leonardo da Vinci drawing above (Vitruvian Man, 1492) in which the human figure has outstretched arms and legs- and fits perfectly within the circumference of the circle. Having a rounded object such as a hoop to hold while warming up before more dynamic hoopdance helps us move through our ranges of motion feeling a deeper sense of groundedness, stability, and hoOpfully doing so a little further than we might otherwise be able to go sans hoop. For my particular body & range of motion, the hoop informs me of when I’ve stretched to my limit, and because of it’s circular shape, it more safely brings me back into my upstanding position with ease. In addition to helping with deeper side plane & forward/backward bending stretches, twists are significantly easier while wrapped happily inside a hoop: Holding the hoop while standing in the middle of it (hands on the sides around 3 and 9 ‘o clock’ with hoop equidistant from torso on all edges) is a great position for doing torso twists which help to keep the spine limber and complement the typical back and forth hip motion that waist hooping requires. Depending on the height of the hoop in this twisting exercise, one can get specific with the area of spine that you are loosening rather precisely (envision hoop below waist level, at waist, at chest, at head, overhead). Similarly, if you lean forward while twisting (like steering a wheel upside down) it helps to stretch the oft-tense sheets of muscle on the sides of our spines. Twisting variations abound- from the center-standing variety to placing the hoop against the front or back of your body for arm adjustments & consequent flexing of different muscles areas.
Taking the time to stretch in your hoop is also a wonderful opportunity to deepen your breath, release or ‘table’ distractions in order to become more present, set an intention for your practice, and generally become more embodied in the beauty & simplicity of the circle. Please do let us know how you like to warm up with your hoop, if you in fact do! Flexing blessings your way~