How Hula Hooping Resets Body, Mind, and Soul
Hi and welcome to the BAS Weekend Wellness Column! My name is Erynne Elkins and I’m a Well-Being Advocate and Certified Breathwork Facilitator. Every Friday I’ll share a holistic wellness modality available here in the Bay Area. Cheers to good health!
How Going Round in Circles Pays Off
This just in. There’s another Superhero to include in the Bay Area Wellness fold. South African native, dedicated toddler mom, beautiful wife, and bad ass hula hoop instructor, Otillia Ward has something very important to say about mental health. “I had depression in college. My therapist was like, ‘get a hobby’. I definitely wanted to lose some weight and I came upon hooping. It probably took me about a week to get it down. But after that, I was hooked. I distinctly remember a few months after that being like ‘one day, I really want to share this with other people’,” Otillia told me recently over Zoom.
Hula hooping is more than just a plastic circle one wisks around their body at varying speeds. And it’s also more than an add-on one might stumble upon at a yoga festival. “It really is exercise disguised as fun. Before you know it, people are losing pounds and feeling better. Hula hooping is low impact, so you do see a lot of older people partaking because it’s good for your joints. It can help with flexibility as well,” Otillia pointed out.
Whether you believe good or bad things come in threes, two years ago a life altering trifecta changed Otillia’s life in such a radical manner that it positioned her to be who and where she is today. “Not only did I have depression, I had post-partum depression on top of that, and I have something called hypothyroidism which means I don’t make enough thyroids (hormones) which basically helps keep you alive. I tend to be a lot more tired than regular people because my body is compensating to keep me alive. I ended up in a behavioral facility and while I was there, my psychiatrist prescribed me hooping for 30 minutes a day,” she revealed.
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Otillia emerged stronger and healthier after completing her stay. “I walked out of the facility hooping. The exercise part, the science part, and the friends and family part…all three of those made my circle. Because of that, I was able to climb more out of my shell. (I realized that) I need to pass on this message. Within my community I am a spokesperson for mental health and flow arts. Hooping is part of a bigger picture called flow arts (which) has a lot more toys in them. It’s called prop manipulation. Hooping is like a puzzle. You have to figure out how to control your body, how to control the prop, and over time the puzzle keeps expanding,” she explained.
When Otillia speaks of flow, it’s deeper than the common directive of “going with the flow”, it’s also a researched phenomenon of activity. “The first person to study the idea of flow in the human experience (is) Mihaly Csikszentmihalyli. He interviewed people from all walks of life. He found they all experienced being in “the zone”. So hooping, a part of the flow arts, is very much based on that. When I play, I get so lost that I fall into the flow and time keeps going. I’m using my whole body and everything starts quieting the mind,” she added.
Practical tools for navigating everyday life also accompany stepping into a hula hoop and whirling it around one’s body. “The health benefits of hooping aren’t just physical. It’s mental on a lot more levels. It can help me to learn how to tap into the flow where I can’t (otherwise) in my own life. I learned I’m always dropping my prop, but I keep picking it up and keep going. Sometimes it means, (I) put the practice aside, because maybe I’m just tired. And when I come back to it I’m ready and charged,” Otillia explained.
Making a conscious decision to show up for oneself is a daily commitment. And some days, for some, it is not an easy feat. However, when there’s an intention to do what one can in any given moment, sometimes that’s more than enough. “Every day I take my meds like I’m supposed to and hooping is a part of my meds. We’re so conditioned to be serious and getting the job done. (Hula hooping) is bringing play into people’s lives where they might not have play anymore. If I can help someone who was where I was, that’s enough for me. The cherry on top (is) that I can make someone’s day better,” Otillia imparted.
For more information about Hula Hooping in the Bay Area, please visit Otillia’s website and check out her amazing Instagram below.