Monday, February 22, 2010

Hoop Your Way to Happy and Healthy

As the electric blue and silver hula hoop circles my body round and round in a sort of hypnotic rhythm, I begin to understand why the fabulous women who run the leading hoop-based fitness company chose the name 'hoopnotica' for their product. Much like yoga, hooping is a great low-impact way to connect with your body, your joy, and to still your mind. It's very much a moving meditation and one can't help but feel light-hearted when hooping, as it brings back the care-free feelings of childhood play and unabashed fun. You could easily forget that you are exercising when hoop-dancing which, I believe, is the whole idea...

Many celebrities are incorporating hooping into their exercise routines. Liv Tyler, Beyonce, and Olivia Wilde have whittled their waists by hooping. First Lady Michelle Obama swiveled her hips for the Healthy Kids Fair at the White House. Maris Tomei recently showed off her hooping skills on The Ellen Show, saying "I have a travel's really good for your core strength. You're looking at me like I'm pulling your leg. You think I'm putting you on, don't you? I'm telling you it really works!"

And it does!

Hoopnotica has trained instructors and classes in many states, but if that's not available or ideal for your lifestyle, try the DVD. The level 1 DVD goes over hooping basics, including waist-hooping, pelvic-hooping, the halo, floating, and the corkscrew. (Certainly beyond the playground basics of my elementary school years.) Once you have a feel for the basics, the idea is to just take them and make them your own, perhaps going outside (or finding a space inside that gives you at least 8x8 ft, as recommended) and just playing with all your new moves while you firm your middle and burn mad calories. As you progress, you can add to your hoop skills by learning moves from the Intermediate and Advanced DVDs.

I tried the Level 1 DVD on Saturday afternoon. Quite honestly, I thought that this was going to be a piece of cake for me. I was surprised by how much concentration, skill, and strength goes into the moves. I really liked all the variations, as waist-hooping for a long time could get a little boring. They gave me enough options in the Level 1 DVD to keep me occupied for months! And Sunday morning, I was definitely feeling my obliques (side abs), hips, and back muscles. I can't wait to take the hoop outside with all my new techniques, put my favorite playlist on my iPod, and just hoop-dance away. I have been looking for some variation in my cardio options, and this will definitely be on the list from now on.

I have a lot of people write to me asking me advice on yoga videos that they can try at home, and I never have a great answer for them because a live yoga class is really best. But for home fitness enthusiasts, hooping is a fantastic option. All you need is the hoop and some space, and no two workouts will ever be exactly the same which is key to 'tricking' the body and seeing continued results. This is also a great option for people who think that they hate exercising. Since this feels like playing, you won't realize that you have worked out until you notice the sweat on your brow and your waist size go down.

So, give it a try. Hoopnotica offers a 'Starter Kit' which includes a "Travel Hoop" (the one I used, which comes apart for easy carrying), Level 1 and 2 DVD's and two "Hoopmix" CD's, priced at $89.99. They also offer a bunch of colorful weighted hoops from around $40-50.
Check them out at

Happy Hooping!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Warrior 2

Warrior 2 is great for developing strength in the quadricep, hamstring, inner thigh, gluteal and core muscles. Holding this pose is also a great exercise for the mind--as you grow uncomfortable in this pose, try to disassociate with the pain. In other words, you are not the pain in your leg. You are something else. The pain is temporary and is making you better, stronger, healthier. Just breathe.
Point your right foot towards the front of your mat. Step your left foot back at least three feet and turn your left foot in slightly. Straighten the left leg completely, lifting the knee cap to engage the quadricep (thigh) muscle. Look at your right knee. Point it towards the second toe of the right foot and bend until your thigh is parallel to the ground. Your knee should be over your ankle--if it isn’t, step the right foot out further. Line up your rip cage directly over your hips and lengthen the tailbone towards the ground as you rotate the left thigh inwardly towards the ground. Lift up all four corners of the rip cage toward the sky. Lift the crown of the head towards the sky. With fingers together and energized, bring the right arm over right leg and the left arm drawing in back of you, parallel to the floor. Gaze past the third finger of the front arm. Hold here, breathing, for 1 minute. Switch legs.