Twelve women, hula hoops in motion, watched their instructor, Cynthia Narcisi, hop down from the raised stage and skip across the floor to show one of them a new move. Ms. Narcisi’s twirling hoop never even wobbled as she crossed the room.
The Friday morning, 45-minute “Hula Hoop Core Challenge” fitness class at the Evanston Athletic Club has been running for five weeks now. The students are all impressively dexterous, able to hoop in both directions, on tiptoe, while walking (some more, some less) and manage several “off-body hooping” moves, rarely losing control of the hoop. When a hoop does crash to the floor, its user bends down immediately to retrieve it and begin again with a smile. Everyone seems to be enjoying this novel form of exercise.
Ms. Narcisi is a certified Hoopnotica instructor. Hoopnotica, a company out of Venice Beach, Cal., that has “distinguished [them]selves as the global leader in hoop fitness,” according to their website (hoopnotica.com), has broken instruction into hoop-dancing and hoop fitness. They say they teach how to give “patently clear instruction” and “break hoop moves down into a science.” Certification gives notice that the instructor is a serious hooper. Ms. Narcisi also practices and teaches yoga, most recently at McGaw Y and at LA Fitness. Her yoga, she says, “has a definite influence” on how she teaches fitness hooping.
Hooping trended in the 1950s in the United States even among young adults, and has been making a comeback here and in Europe for more than five years, often accompanied by poi-dancing, a movement form from New Zealand. Both can be seen at spring and summer festivals, and are stunning to watch – especially when lit up with flames. Fitness hooping is not so flamboyant – but it also requires training.
Ms. Narcisi constructed the 20 hoops she brought to class using instructions from the Internet and materials she bought locally. The hoops come in different sizes and weights, all larger and heavier than the ones many readers used as kids. The larger the hoop’s circumference, the slower it spins, making it easier to control, she says. The same is true for heavier hoops. Moves can become complicated, as with the “limbo,” in which the user, while hooping, moves the hoop to a tilt upward from her/his body, or when “shimmying” the hoop up and down the torso. Students usually start with a larger hoop.
Ms. Narcisi says that hooping promotes well-being in more ways than one. “The rhythm of the hoop becomes like a mantra,” she says. “But it’s also a workout – it can burn up 600 calories an hour.”
Her students say it is also fun. After class, one student told the RoundTable, “I told my 4-year-old daughter, ‘I’m going out to hula hoop!’ She said, ‘Are you looking forward to it?’ She’s going to tell her class, ‘My mom hula hoops!’”
Those who wish to try out this means of “achieving their fitness goals while discovering the pure, playful joy of hula hooping,” as Hoopnotica says, will have several opportunities in Evanston. In addition to the EAC class, Ms. Narcisi also teaches hoop fitness at Hip Circle Studio on Washington Street and is hoping, she says, to offer some introductory classes in February at Dharma Yoga on Emerson.