Fitness From The Field: Hula Hooping
The Rural Intelligence region offers a plethora of fitness and healing modalities, but it can be hard to know which is the one that fits your needs, your body type and your schedule. Enter Paula Boyajian, a yoga instructor certified in Interdisciplinary Yoga and Yoga for the Special Child, who has taken on the role of RI’s fitness contributor to sleuth out the details of the many health and wellness options in our area.
Usually, when I’m driving to a class, I’m full of anticipation and questions. But as I headed to Hula Hoop class, the only thing circling my mind was joyful expectation. I’d just talked with instructor Ashley Gannon, who assured me that my silly and downright goofy nature would be assets in her class. So, if you find yourself at Poughkeepsie’s Inner Light Studio, get your goofy on and be prepared for a surprisingly powerful workout.
What Is It?
Just what it sounds like: working out with a hula hoop — but not just “waist hooping.” As in most classes, there’s a warmup, but unlike most classes, it involves the hoop to assist in stretching and to get comfortable with the prop. We then learned how to keep the darn thing around our waists and were led in arm “tricks” (Ashley’s term). There was freestyling time to address things you enjoy or want to improve. Then we put it all together — and by “we” I mean most of us got some of the moves down. And that’s the essence of hooping — saying goodbye to your ego, enjoying a good guffaw at yourself and embracing a unique form of exercise. There was another pleasant surprise: I didn’t feel like a kid; instead, I felt graceful and even a little sexy.
After just a few moments of waist hooping, I could feel my heart pumping and my entire core firing up, which I even felt (in a good way) the following few days. Over the course of the class, though, my entire body was challenged. In fact, one regular student, Joan, said dropping the hoop actually adds another benefit: lots of squats! The upper body is targeted, too; just getting the hoop to go around and holding it properly during overhead tricks gives your arms definition and strength. Coordination and balance are improved, as is body awareness. With Ashley’s exacting one-on-one assistance, I learned proper hand placement and hand-eye coordination. At that point, Ashley’s words of wisdom to “not think so much” rang true, which leads to other benefits: a clear mind, self confidence, stress relief and, oh yeah, you can burn up to 600 calories per hour.
All levels. The only requirement for hula hooping is a willingness to laugh at yourself and have fun. Ashley makes sure she gives each class member personalized attention. So although one gal was hooping like a pro, I was struggling and another was working on range of motion, we all fit. Ashley’s hoops – which she makes herself – range in size and weight. She assigns the appropriate one to each student based on her level. I incorrectly assumed newbies would use small hoops, but Ashley explained that larger ones move slower and are easier to handle.
From her earliest memory, Ashley wanted to teach, but hula hooping wasn’t the subject she had in mind. Before becoming a certified hula hoop teacher, she became a certified math teacher. But while attending the annual Mountain Jam she saw a hula hoop performance and fell in love with its grace and beauty. She started teaching friends who encouraged her to teach professionally. Her natural ease as a teacher shines through as she cheers everyone on no mater what level, all the while beaming. Although certification is not necessary to teach hula hooping, Ashley sought out a place to study and ended up in New York City for certification. She said it increased her understanding of the necessary vocabulary, anatomy and, maybe not so ironically, physics.
Inner Light Studio (not to be confused with sister site Inner Light Spa for massages and facials) is one big room with a check-in area in front of a large practice area. Its shiny wood floor and open space allow for plenty of hoops to spin and it hosts many other classes like tango, belly dance and Zentangle. One lovely thing about the studio is that on May 2nd there will be an ALS Guardian Angels fundraiser.
$17 per class or $56 for four classes.
Inner Light Studio
1 East Dorsey Lane, Poughkeepsie, NY
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