Hula Hooping: Why is it so easy for kids?!

Hula hooping in a public place tends to draw quite a bit of attention. Especially if there is more than one hooper present and spare hula hoops temptingly lying around in the sun.  This type of spectacle draws attention from adults and children alike.  Although, their responses to it are usually quite different.   Adults tend to stand back a bit and watch from a distance.  Children are often the opposite.  The longer a child stands there, the closer their fascination draws them, until eventually they are standing just barely out of reach of your sparkly, spinning hoops.

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As a hooper myself, whether I’m heading to a park to practice or heading to a public plaza to busk, I almost always bring extra hoops.  I lay them out around my space, hoping that their loneliness will prompt someone to pick them up and give them a spin.  Even if it’s the first time the person has touched a hula hoop in 50 years. (Believe it or not, this sentiment is not uncommon.)  Children are usually the first ones drawn to you.  Sometimes they’re shy and approach you cautiously, and sometimes they jog right over and grab a hoop…or three!  Adults are more hesitant.  They watch from the outskirts as their kids run straight up and start hooping.  As they move closer, I frequently suggest they give hula-hooping a try as well.  The answer is usually a bashful shake of the head, accompanied by a “Oh! There’s no way I can do THAT! I haven’t touched one of those since I was a kid.”

I used to think the same thing.  But it’s simply not true.

Adults CAN hoop.  There are just a few factors that influence adults differently than children.  So how do kids make it look so easy?

The size and weight of the hula hoop matters.  Unless you’re a professional, keeping one of those dollar-store hoops around your waist for more than 10 seconds is near impossible.  Those hula-hoops are tiny, and they’re incredibly light.  This means that your movements must be much faster and very subtle to succeed.  These toys are made for children, so it is no surprise that they are not conducive to an adult’s proportions.  That being said, it is absolutely possible with a great deal of practice.  If you are just starting out, choose a hoop that is bigger and heavier than the one next to it.  For simple core hooping, the rule of thumb is heavier=easier.

Kids are less self-conscience. Hula-hooping doesn’t come easily to everyone, even if you’re a child.  Sometimes you can feel or look silly.  Hips swayin’, arms flarin’, face scrunched up in concentration…but kids don’t care.  Learning to hoop gracefully takes time and patience.  The awkwardness that comes with your first attempt is natural, but in

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my experience, adults are a little less comfortable with this sensation than the junior crowd.  Young children typically don’t fear observation and judgement to the degree that adults do, and their willingness to freely move their body without regard for judgement results in their ability to “make it look easy”.

Kids are more flexible (and often, more body aware) than adults. Although this trend is shifting greatly with the growing popularity of yoga, it still holds true for the majority.  Partly because a child’s joints, muscles, and bones are young and still forming, but also because they usually have more varied physical activities that keep them active and loose.  Many adults spend their day hunched over a computer, which does you no good in the flexibility and exercise department.  When kids sway their hips from side-to-side or round-and-arch their back dramatically to keep that hula hoop going, they are reaping the advantages of that increased flexibility. Additionally, their activity levels usually assist them in being more connected with their body.  Having a strong connection between mind and body will help facilitate your ability to hoop gracefully.

So you’re an adult who likes (or wants to like) hula hooping.  This information may all be very well and good, but apart from getting a proper size hoop, how do you get passed the other barriers.  Well…it might not happen overnight, but if you practice, it will get easier.  Here are a few tips to help you conquer the more difficult barriers:

♦ When you practice hula hooping, put some headphones in and tune out the world.  That way you will be less likely to be worried about what they’re seeing and more focused on what you’re feeling.

♦ Always stretch before (and after!) hooping.  Especially if it’s a heavy session or you’re going into it really cold.  Focus specifically on warming up your core so that you can keep your back safe as you start spinning that hoop.

♦ Practice more often!  A sunny day or guilty-pleasure TV show is a great excuse to get some practice in.  Hula hooping is all about muscle memory.  It’s just like learning a language…the more you practice, the easier the language becomes.

Happy hooping!


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