The Hoop Practice

The last six weeks or so have been some of the most difficult in recent memory.  Though I am deeply and truly happy here in my new life in Brooklyn, and have not questioned my decision to relocate here for even a moment, I have felt growing dread and anxiety which have seemed to rapidly pile up like the big dry yellow leaves in the yard of the Compound.  Of course it’s the seasonal change–suddenly, so much darkness–of course it’s leaving my home, of course it’s turning 40, of course it’s feeling wearing-down in my shoulder joint that might be injury, of course it’s feeling so acutely my facelessness in the hordes of human life here in this enormous city after 15 years of being called by name on every corner…of course.

Of course it’s my hair turning gray.  Of course it’s being overwhelmed trying to keep up with the new opportunities I am so lucky to have coming into my life every day.  Of course it’s still the loss of my relationship–the warmth, the daily presence of my favorite hoop co-conspirator, our generous expressions of love.  Of course it’s not meeting someone else.  Of course it’s almost getting sick a third time, needing to take it easy and rest for another week.  Of course, it’s missing time with my hoop.

In this extended period of adjustment, I have come up against insecurities, vulnerabilities and feelings of isolation that had seemed long-gone from my life at this point.  Having learned through my hoop to flow with things rather than resist them, I have continually bowed in welcome to these visiting spirits, all meant to show me something I’m ready to see.  For me, the Hoop Practice opens a space for such meetings to take place.  With my hoop, I have learned to keep company with the Shadow aspects of my being, and allow them to reveal themselves to me.

But it wasn’t working, entirely.  With every passing week I was feeling more and more thrown off.  I felt more behind, slightly panicked.  I couldn’t keep up with my to-do list.  I looked at piles of mail and unfiled bills.  Clothes I had just left stuffed in the suitcase from my last trip (weeks ago).  I lost my voice.  My dear friend Anna came for a visit and I had earnestly resolved to get a list of four essential things done before she arrived.   I finished none of them.

One of those things was actually writing this blog.  I had promised great friend and hoop colleague Jaguar Mary X that I would write something about what I plan to teach at the upcoming Sacred Circularities Retreat she is organizing in Bali in March.  This was something I looked towards with a strange feeling that was both echoingly empty and cranked up, active, jittery.  I knew I had just the thing I wanted to say and was capable of saying it, yet there was no beginning, no context.  I needed to get this done.  I wasn’t getting it done.  First, I need to get the newsletter done. I became more uneasy.  Was I really committed to teaching, to hooping, to following up on my word?  Why couldn’t I get around to paying those parking tickets, too?  And couldn’t I actually give my dog Vincent enough time outside?

Things rushed into these zones of judgment.  I could see that I was there, but, like being stuck in a too-small parking space, I was only aware of changing gears and inching back and forth.  I’ve got to get that piece written today.  Ok, by 4 o’clock.  Can still walk the dog before the sun goes down…and another day would be over.

When Anna got here, her even-tempered, easygoing curiosity and deeply integrated and relaxed sense of self offered me a thread to follow through the darkening light.  I remembered what my friend Ferol had shared with me about understanding when it’s your time to relax into receiving.  Realizing that trying to do was not doing, and that whatever method I was attempting was not working, I finally allowed myself to surrender into simply receiving Anna’s good company and the warm, sweet feeling of sharing my home again.

Of course, I did not hoop.  I was finally getting my voice back, knowing I needed to make sure I could talk loud & clear for Tuesday night’s hoop classes.  I spent some time stretching on my mat and walking Vincent, but at this point it had been over a week since I spent any time alone with my hoop, and weeks since I had practiced for an hour or more.  Sunday night, after Anna’s departure, I slowly cleaned and organized my apartment and took a bath—my first in this new place.  I allowed myself the whole night to continue resting and receiving.  And I set the alarm.

Today, I finally finished the newsletter.  At 4 o’clock.  I took Vincent for a nice long walk in the unbelievably mild Brooklyn evening.  The moon was huge and bright gold.  And wonderfully still in the deep blue night sky.

Home from the walk, I felt energized and thought to go ahead and jump on the blog.  I even sat down and wrote out a couple of poems–my first in months and months.  I had some good mojo going.  But first I would take a shower.  Maybe stretch out on my mat.  And yeah…maybe hoop some, too.

Warm and clean, I made a playlist–old and new songs–and slowly started moving.  Because of the way I’ve learned hoopdance–which is as an occasion to move authentically–the hoop is not always necessary.  I was just present, alone, in that time and space, for movement.

Because the Practice was there, I had a way of staying present with the unbelievable waves of feeling that arose as I finally danced for myself alone again.  I suddenly saw my judgment of my own aging–my aversion to the vulnerabilities of my body–my skin, my hair–my immune system.   My impatience with my body’s needs, which I have meant to make my friends and Divine Guides.  I had lost faith in myself.  I had looked at myself with disgust, and hatred.

But because the Practice was there, there was a way to stay with this painful and sorrowful understanding of how I had yet again imprisoned myself in judgment.  The power of the Hoop Practice is its capacity to contain our human pain, sadness, and joy–to channel and express these forces that make us what we are.  The Hoop Practice prepares a place for our feelings to be felt as deeply as they need to be.

Within the inviolable sanctity of my Practice, I finally had the opportunity to wrestle with this Shadow, hand-to-hand.  Through my Practice, I had built my body’s core strength so that it could withstand the onslaught of the pain of my judgment.  Through my Practice, I had supported my body’s capacity to yield completely into what is, instead of continuing to brace against what might be.  Through my Practice, I honored myself by showing up and being Present.  Through my Practice, I finally understood what the long season of discomfort was readying me for.

All I really ever hope for as a teacher of hoopdance is to offer people access to the crucible of healing I have found in my hoop.  It is the thing of greatest value in my life, and was gifted to me by my teacher–and it is my honor and privilege  to offer that gift to any student.  Of course, if my students are happy, I’m happy–it’s not my job to decide what people are or aren’t getting out of a hoop class.  But what inspires me and feeds my teaching is what I find in my own Practice:  the power of authentic movement to release us from the crushing intensity of our human pain, to set it free from where it hides in the unfathomable complexes of our brain-dominated human bodies, and let it reunite with All That Is.


About annhumphreys

I travel and teach hoopdance as a movement meditation. Yes, I mean meditative movement with a hula-hoop. The hoop can playfully and gently bring anyone into their embodied center and open the world of dance and creative expression. My greatest joy is to witness this blossoming in my classes and workshops.
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23 Responses to The Hoop Practice

  1. Jaguar Mary says:

    Beautiful, Ann. Thank you!

  2. Bonnie MacDougall says:

    Thank you for this Ann. As always, your words are powerful, but this blog I connect to on what I would call a cellular level. It has moved me in a profound way, and I am grateful to you. Your honesty is a blessing. Gratitude, Gratitude, Gratitude.

  3. Kim Ray says:


    As a 41 year old hooper facing a total knee replacement…I literally feel your pain:) My graying hair is dutifully covered with dye and I struggle with aches, pains, and twinges of jealously towards young, perky, healthy hooping bodies. Aging is so very difficult, isn’t it? Thanks for letting me know that I am not alone in my journey towards self acceptance and living for this moment now. My hoop practice is a life-line to sanity in the stormy sea of self doubt:) I am so grateful for the gifts of hoop meditation that you bestowed on me at the Memphis Hoop Path retreat. You are beautiful:)

  4. "Surprise!" Katie Desmond says:

    Wow, I am relating so strongly with what you are saying here!! Thank you for being so honest about it. Some days I feel so ready to take on the world and some days I feel, just. so. blah. I have a hard time promoting my events, preparing my classes, answering emails, and updating my website. And then I beat myself up over it. Glad you are back to feeling the lightness.

  5. Mary Water says:

    Holding space with you dearest Ann. I too understand your story and feel your self observation and struggle. Sharing offers us all comfort in knowing we are not Alone. Thank you for giving of yourself to express so openly. We beings often hold our pain In silence but this compounds the pain. Processing this with all your brothers and sisters who love you so much. Holding you present in my heart. Love you.

  6. Nicki Chaconas says:

    I love you, girl.

  7. Jenn Lackey says:

    Wow. Thank you for sharing this Ann and being so exquisitely vulnerable with your writing. I can relate a lot to this. I’m 37, just moved here from Portland, OR after being there for 15 years and severely needing a change. Your feelings of anxiety and self pressure mirror many of my own feelings to the point where my immune system is feeling it. You’re so right: regarding the lack of light and time of year etc., etc., know you’re not alone. Thank you, thank you shedding light on the fact, I’m not alone either. You’re beautiful lady!

  8. Tink says:

    Thank you for sharing that intimate view into your life, Ann.

  9. Anna says:

    Beautiful writing!
    So honest… so real! I totally relate to what you are writing.. and it makes me feel less alone in everything i’m going through and quite important… what i have been going through! I have had some pretty upsetting years including a big break up, move out of our house, moving to another country, and then moving to a different place – Amsterdam – a massive city compared to where i had always lived, with very little green compared to the mountainous environment i had lived in for 6 years, different type of people, an other language, illness of both of my parents, a deteriating dad who passed away a year ago on the day, a broken ankle… and i can carry on for quite a while… And that all over the cause of 2 years…

    The good news is… this is how i found the hoop, and then… found myself in the hoop!
    And it still helps me to quiet my mind, listen to my soul and feel my body! And having great teachers like you Ann, and many other great hoopers… has kept me going and growing for the last 7 months now..

    And i just want to say i am very thankful for that! To you Ann and all the other beautiful hoopers… And it feels very special to read your beautiful and honest story on this special day!

    Thank you! And may you keep finding yourself in the hoop,

    Warm greetings from the Netherland,

    Anna Loots

  10. Joan Warburton says:

    Besides hormonal changes and my hair beginning to change back to the tow head I was when I was born, I remember back to when I turned 40, the problems, the pitfalls and summits. It’s probably one of the hardest years of a woman’s life in our society which emphasizes youth and beauty. It won’t take you too long to realize that you’re entering your strongest and most beautiful time in your life. You will realize that you look your best, you’ll feel your best and you’ll develop that insight into problems that will put things in true perspective. What’s important in life will become so evident and thinking about how other people see or perceive you will take a back seat. Friends are so important but they will no longer be necessary to define you. You will become your own best friend. It’s the best time of your life and you will continue to shine, only brighter.

  11. jen anderson says:

    love love love every part of this. can relate to a lot of it. thank you.

  12. cybersass says:

    i relate to so much of what you’re saying. the aging, the creakiness, the judgement. thank you for sharing. xxx

  13. ferolhumphrey says:

    Ann, this is so beautifully done. I find it wonderful. You are doing it.

  14. Arno says:

    From a stranger to a stranger, much of what you wrote is about me…and apparently its about many others too. You’re a beautiful person, and I thank you for being you, and for ‘performing’ you, in public, with a particularly gorgeously brilliant feminine honesty and strength. You inspire, guide, and teach this stranger. You also make my lonely little world a little cozier, a little more familiar. I thank you.
    Arno, in Toronto.

  15. Ann,

    I can’t tell you how deeply your expression resonates with me, and I’m sure, with many, MANY other hoopers. I just want to thank you for sharing in the way that you do and let you know that it is truly and deeply appreciated. …absolutely beautiful.

  16. Anneli says:

    I read this more than once because it is a profound and honest message. I am sending you a hug because I think you deserve one special lady. And leave you with the thought that life begins at 40 so you have the rest of your life to enjoy yourself, find yourself and finish that to do list 🙂

  17. Bunny Star says:

    Emotional activation, recognition, received it all… thanx for the transmission babe! XOx

  18. Erin Sparrow says:

    “The power of authentic movement to release us from the crushing intensity of our human pain, to set it free from where it hides in the unfathomable complexes of our brain-dominated human bodies, and let it reunite with All That Is.” ~Ann Humphreys

    Wow!!! You are a Divine Mother of Inspiration and True Beauty! In awe of everything you sing. Your song is immaculate! A pure cleanse of mind, body, and spirit. Gratitude & Love!

  19. Deanne says:

    Thank you for this beauty.

    I felt every word, some like a blow to my core as I realized that giving up my hooping practice, letting life, heart ache and judgment get in the way, has been so ridiculously detrimental and backwards. All sorts of crazy…and yet, it is what it is.

    Thanking you for the reminders, the openness, your truth and love. Sometimes things just take time and pop up only when time and space allow, cannot be forced no matter how neat our to-do lists are. Had you rushed the writing of this blog it may not have been quite as healing for us all.

    Powerful wisdom Ann, again much gratitude. Your authentic divinity is nothing short of rad!


  20. Hi Ann,

    I only met you once at the Hoop retreat Workshop in San Francisco in SOMA and saw your performance at the small space on Mission and 8th St.

    Thanks for your guiding light and your bravery and heartfelt through here on there pages on the web. Just being open to discussing them w/o fear is brave. I am not sure I would have the courage to do so, so I have taken my thoughts and put them in a book via poetry and images.

    In any event, your brief women in time was greatly appreciated my me. You are a kind women. I get you props for taking a change to change your life in a way that wall challenge one’s sense of security. I don’t at this stage in my emotional life that would be a good thing. However, I know what it is like to pick up everything and move to a new place alone w/o close friends near by. But it seems that you have a few people in you life that have your back.

    AC aka April in San Francisco

  21. Debby Norton says:

    Moving through, staying open….your sharing is courageous, Ann!! Love the word crucible, so perfect. Love!!!

  22. Ter'i says:

    Ann, I was finally able to read this all the way through today, the day after having finally made it to a Hoop Meditation Jam with you in Brooklyn. Having STARTED hooping at 40, much of this resonates for me, but from different directions. During my recent “Leap of Faith Tour”, I even made peace with – found joy in – letting my silvers come in, my moonbeams, my salt n peppa. Never gray. Not gray.

    But the rest of it…the anxiety, the deep self-judgment…these things are all still front and center for me. Especially this morning as I experience the spaces opened by last night’s hooping. Stuff I’ve been back-burnering, stuff that feels like too much to look at, stuff I know I need to look at and dance with. So…I just want to thank you for holding space last night, and for finding the words here to write this out, too.


  23. Outstanding blog post, I look forward to reading more.

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