If you are like me, the words Hula-Hoop make you think of kneeling down to pick a pink circle of plastic up off the grass, trying to swing it around your waist only to watch it twirl to the ground, then picking it back up again. The Hula-Hoops of my childhood were weighted down by gravity to an astounding degree.
Hooping, the modern term for using a Hula-Hoop, is popping up as a form of self-expression and exercise throughout the Midwest. Despite my hooping scars, I got swept up by the craze and gave it a whirl once again at an introductory class.
“Hooping is the magical gateway to fill our desire to move, to feel beautiful,” says Michelle Schaeffer, artistic director of St. Louis' STL Hoop Club  for the past five years.
Pop music on a boom box set the mood for a rigorous hour and a half (hooping burns 7 to 10 calories a minute, almost as many as an aerobics class). First we went through stacks of black hoops brightened with neon gaffer's tape (the stickiness helps keep the hoops up). Picking the correct circumference determines success. “The right size hoop is important,” Michelle says. “Bigger ones are slower. They take less work, but your moves have to be more exaggerated. Small hoops take more energy; they’re more of a challenge.”
No matter what size you choose, the basic move is the same: Hold the hoop level with your waist, plant one foot a few feet in front of you, give the hoop a swirl and start tapping your toes. It’s the exaggerated toe-tapping of the front foot that makes the hoop rotate around your waist.
Michelle insists that with the right tools, anyone can hoop. She might be right. We quickly advanced to spinning one our on arms, neck and legs; adding another hoop; then jumping through one. And I spent hardly any time at all picking the hoop up off the floor.
“I tell my students that this activity could change their life. It’s really powerful. It’s the freedom of expression,” she says. “It forces you to be expressive; you have to smile while doing it. It is magical.”
If you want to try hooping, clubs are popping up throughout the Midwest and fitness centers often have classes. You could also try it on your own with just a hoop and an instructional video, such as the one at hooping.org .
St. Louis photos courtesy of STL Hoop Club.
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