How Limiting Yourself in Your Hoop Could Improve Your Skills
For about a year now, I've been experimenting with putting varying restrictions on my hooping practice. Though I was inspired by friends who would invent a new and zany rule for each round of their backgammon marathons, the concept isn't a new one. It is commonly accepted that when deprived of one sense, for example, the others become heightened in order to compensate.
Likewise, when I noticed some "crutches" in my hooping -- like one go-to move I repeated ad nauseum, or a sequence so well-learned I couldn't do it differently -- I decided to put some random limits on my experience and movements to see if by restricting some parts of my hooping, I could enhance them all. Not only did I find the following exercises effective, they shook things up in my daily practice and helped me discover moves I didn't know I had.
I tend to apply only one restriction at a time and for just the duration of one song. But there is fun to be had, too, in combining some and increasing the time you spend with them. Here are a few examples to get you started!
Turn off the Music
What?! Blasphemy, I know. The mere idea gave me chills. But after reading about the origins of whirling, and then a blog prompt from Kinetic Kristen on our hooping.org forum, I figured it was time for
me to suck it up and pause the iPod.
Since so very many of us depend upon music to get us going, here is a pointer from Tantra Yoga. With your hoop nearby, sit or stand with your eyes closed. Become aware of the sounds nearest to you
- the thump of cars going over a speed bump, the barking dog, the lawnmower, the playground across the street. Now tune your ears to the second layer of sound - the chirping bird, the subtle breeze,
the drip of the garden hose. Now your heartbeat. Now your breath.
The world around us, and even our bodies, communicate their own rhythm, a natural beat that is there for the hearing. You can be your own conductor of these sounds, raising the volume on some, turning down others, to craft your own orchestra. You may even find yourself humming along to its song. When you're ready, pick up your hoop and dance.
Alternate: Music You Don't Like. Or music you would never think to hoop to. I happen to dig old-timey gospel, but it was never my music of choice to dance to. Until Ann Humphrey's workshop at HP4. Turns out, I'm the best gospel hooper you might ever meet! HoopGirl Christabel Zamor once suggested that you hoop to any song as though it were the last music you'd ever hear.
Drunken Master Hooping
Now, I'm a big fan of kung fu films. As a rule, I spend every Valentine's day watching them in marathon-style. But The Legend of The Drunken Master is special. For one, it's freaking hilarious. And two, it's got a lot to teach you about hooping. The idea behind this odd brand of martial art is two-fold. One, pretending
you're wasted will lead your opponent to underestimate you. And two, there is a whole lot of versatility and power in keeping your body very, very loose.
I've been applying the "Drunken Master" style to my hooping ever since I can remember. It just made sense to me. In a culture where we spend most of our lives being "stiff" (something I touched on here), it can be helpful to begin the process of loosening up in our hoops by exaggerating the idea of being unbound and unrestrained in our movements.
So clearly, in this exercise, the restriction you're putting on your hooping is the removal of restriction itself. Maybe you've seen me demonstrate it. But if you haven't, here's how you do it. Just stumble around like you don't remember how to walk. Dip, stumble, fall, turn ... it doesn't matter ... as long as you trust your hoop to follow you. It does. It will. What I call "Drunken Master" hooping taught me that my hoop will follow me no matter what. And I, in turn, took my first steps in following my hoop. Loosey goosey, my hooping friends. Try it.
You can watch the film for free here on hulu.com. If you're not a kung fu fan, I'll save you an hour and so by telling you the part you MUST see is at or around 1:17:00. I've always fantasized about making a hooping parody video of it. But given my reluctant relationship to video, I invite -- nay, beg - you to beat me to the punch!
Does your hooping practice include some kind of "restriction" exercises? Tell us about them!
Did you try one of these? What happened?