After I had my daughter (a difficult birth that resulted in an emergency C-section) it was a long time before I was able to do any real exercise. Even just bending down to scoop her out of her crib caused me pain. For someone who had done yoga regularly and belonged to a gym, it was difficult to accept that the best my body could manage was a few slow walks with the stroller.
Gradually, of course, I healed and my first venture back to yoga was to trek downtown from my northern Manhattan neighborhood to take a class with an old college friend who taught at the esteemed New York City Jivamukti yoga center.
Sandhi had not only become an amazing yogi, but had also entered the wonderfully eccentric world of circus-style acrobatics. She did aerial yoga, danced with fire, and performed incredibly nuanced moves with hula hoops. I talked to her about my pregnancy and how hard it’d been on my body, how slack my stomach had become.
A few weeks later, Sandhi came to my office in midtown Manhattan and delivered one of the best things I’ve ever been given: a handmade (by her) extra-large hula hoop tricked out in shiny orange and fuchsia stripes.
I was so excited that I actually started hooping right there in the lobby of the publishing company where I worked. The hip-gyrating motion that I hadn’t done since childhood came back to me surprisingly easily, even with the bigger, more challenging hoop. Not only did my body remember the motion, but my heart did too. I was grinning like a kid, the absolute joy of hula hooping was as exhilarating as it had been when I was ten.
After that, I started taking my hula hoop to the park on warm spring days, laying my baby girl on the grass next to me. The hooping was not only helping my stomach muscles get stronger; it was also dragging me out of mild post-partum depression.
I got really good, and people would actually stop to watch me, both kids and adults. I’d smile and just keep spinning, working the hoop all the way up to my neck, getting fancy and turning around in circles as I kept it moving. Shortly after, hooping really caught on and a whole group of moms and kids started meeting weekly in the park for hooping. Sharing the experience was even more fun—and we’d stop and help strangers who wanted to give it a try.
Now, six years later, the very same hoop that my dear friend gave me has become a source of fun for my daughter. After seeing me hoop for so long, she was finally old enough (read: coordinated enough) to give it a try.
It took her over a week to get it, but once she did, there was no stopping her! She swung her tiny body as fast as it could go while she counted aloud. When she got to choose something to share with her kindergarten class, she asked if she could bring in the hoop and perform for the class. The kids went wild for it, counting in unison as Nina rocked it.
They all begged for a chance to try; most of them couldn’t get it since it was a big hoop and they’d never done it before. I smiled as my daughter sweetly (but knowingly) counseled them on how to do it. She was so proud!
The hula hoop still gets used by both of us, but also now by adults and kids who come over for dinner parties. One night we had a family over and Nina got out her hoop to show them. Though their three-year-old was too young to do it, that didn’t stop her mom.
My friend grabbed that hoop with a determined glint in her eye. Like me, she’d hooped as kid too. One, two, three times she tried. Finally, memory muscle kicked in and the hoop was sailing around her hips, and we were all shouting “Go Kelli, Go Kelli!” The best part was when Kelli’s normally quiet, shy husband finally grabbed the hoop and tried every kind of gyration possible to get it going, all of us cheering him on ecstatically. It was a priceless moment.
But, really, I wasn’t so shocked. I knew the power of my hula hoop: its magical ability to bring an adult’s guard down and plunk them back into childhood reverie.
From saving my body to entertaining my child to bringing grown friends to fits of laughter, this circle had truly come full circle.
Are you a hooper? Leave a comment with your experience!