10 reasons to try hula hooping

Michelle Tan from The Hula Hoop Institute makes hooping look effortless, but she tells us there's way more to it than just fooling around with a hoop

By Andrea Tim | Published: 18 Aug 2015

What is hula hooping
Photo: Ash Li Tan/The Hula Hoop Institute

Ahead of her workshops at the Malaysia Urban Retreat Festival (MURFEST) from 13 to 15 November at Pullman Kuala Lumpur Bangsar, Australian hula hoop dancer and founder of The Hula Hoop Institute Michelle Tan speaks to ELLE about everything there is to know about hula hooping.

Why should I hula hoop?
"You should hula hoop if you want to do something different; if you need to introduce exercise in your life but you don't like running, cycling or the gym; if you want a fun toy to take to parties and festivals; if you want to meet new people; if you want to be reunited with your inner child; if you want to do something other than hang out at the mall or in a café in your spare time. And because it's more fun than you've had in a while!"

Who can take up hula hooping?
"Hoop dance is for everyone – men, women, boys and girls! To date, The Hula Hoop Institute's classes have been a mix of men (30%) and women (70%), and we have an equal ratio of male and female instructors and performers."

How is hula hooping different from other forms of exercise?
"It's much more fun and you laugh a lot in classes! There is no competition, no mistakes. Unlike other dance or fitness classes there are no set steps to follow. If you have dance experience you can incorporate that into your hoop style but it isn't necessary to have any experience or fitness level at all."

What is hula hooping exactly?
"Hula hoop dance combines technical moves and tricks with freestyle or technical dancing. It also incorporates elements of modern and contemporary dance, acrobatics, circus and fitness. Hooping has come a long way since just spinning a hula hoop around your waist. It is the manipulation of, and artistic movement or dancing with, a hoop (or hoops).

Hooping is an expression of your own personality: Everyone's hooping style differs from one another. There is no structured routine, or only one kind of technique. Everyone's movement changes according to the music they are listening to or the way their body naturally moves. It's beautiful and that makes hula hooping special."

What physical benefits does hula hooping offer?
"Hooping is a low intensity exercise, which means it is suitable for even those without an exercise regime or any fitness and dance ability. Time flies when you are hula hooping and you will find you are getting a cardio workout while increasing muscle tone in your arms and core. Over time, benefits include increased coordination and rhythm, better use of the non-dominant side of your body, balance, peace of mind, weight loss and body toning. Hula hooping also decreases stress and tension in the body."

(Photo: Andy Chan Photography)

What parts of the body does hula hooping target?
"You can hoop dance with almost any part of your body – from your waist, to hips, chest, neck, shoulders, thighs, knees, arms, hands, thumbs, feet and toes. Despite being slim to begin with, I have seen increased toning of arms, shoulders, legs, and waist. People comment regularly on my abs."

What fitness practices and habits should accompany hula hooping?
"There are no shoulds or must dos, but I have found benefit in regular stretching, and core strengthening practices like yoga and Pilates. Whether hula hooping or not, it is beneficial for anyone to eat a healthy diet – my personal changes include increased fresh produce, grains, fruit and vegetables, decreased processed food, carbs, sugars and meat."

What does someone need to bring to a hula hooping class?
"Bring yourself, be ready to play and learn something new. Also bring a bottle of water and wear comfortable, fitted clothes. If you have a hula hoop bring it along! If you don't have one yet, hoops are provided for use and purchase in all classes."

Where can I take hula hooping classes?
"The Hula Hoop Institute offers group classes and workshops in various locations around Selangor, as well as private classes."

How did hula hooping come about?
"Hula hooping was popular worldwide in the 1950s. The modernised 'Hoop Dance' movement started in the West Coast of America at the start of this century and has exploded across North America, Mexico, Europe and Australia over the last decade. In 2015, The Hula Hoop Institute set up in Malaysia to offer hoop dance classes as something new for the community who want to get involved in a movement class that incorporates fun, fitness, movement and dance."

For more information, find The Hula Hoop Institute on Facebook or follow The Hula Hoop Institute and Michelle on Instagram. Catch Michelle at MURFEST this 13 to 15 November 2015. Get tickets here.


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