In hooping as well as in dance, I discovered that I often hold my breath while learning a new move or trying to perfect an old one. It seems so simple- just breathe- yet sometimes we unconsciously forget that we need more oxygen in our lungs when we concentrate on technique. If we forget to breathe, the body creates tension and we end up with a pursed lip and a furrowed brow. This ‘concentration face’ really does not look good during a performance and the lack of O2 makes it much harder to get a move right.
Luckily there there were many classes in Week 3 of Sacred Circularities this year that focused on breath. One day Shellie White Light shared a method with us called Tumo or the 9-breath method. The 9-breath method was used by the Shaolin monks in China to create heat in the body. They even melted blankets of ice with it! Done properly- it is an energizing and grounding process. Sometimes it can even flood the brain with natural DMT and create a euphoric- almost psychedelic experience. We spent most of the morning learning the correct posture and technique and at the end of the class had time to do four rounds of 9 breaths. I didn’t experience anything psychedelic, but by the end of the class I had more energy and felt more vital. Shellie says she often uses Tumo before she does a performance.
Caterina Suttin taught also taught an interesting class called ‘Breathing Breaks’. Caterina uses breaks (a move which stops the hoop and spins it in the other direction) along with distinct breath patterns as a meditation. In this class we spent a lot of time learning groovy breaks and just doing them for an entire song. I noticed that when I would lose focus on my breathing that my form would falter, but if I consciously kept my breath in sync with the breaks, the moves became easy, refined and very meditative. At some point, I really felt one with the hoop.
Another workshop Shellie taught was called ‘Breath, Balance and Beat’. The first portion of the class was about a beautiful technique called sustained spinning. In sustained spinning, you use your gaze, foot pattern and breath to keep the flow fluid and to stop yourself from getting dizzy. It was such a beautiful feeling gazing at my hand in the hoop while turning endlessly. It felt like I was in a photograph where the subject (my hand in the hoop) was focused and the rest of the background was blurred. I kept reminding myself to keep a steady breath and I was really surprised at how long I could actually keep turning without falling down from dizziness. No wonder the Sufis used whirling was a form of meditation!
My conclusion is that having enough oxygen in the lungs helps our focus. Breath also relaxes, clears, energizes, and transforms us. Next time you are sad, angry, stressed, trying to get something done, exerting physical effort, or trying to do a new hoop trick- don’t forget- just breathe!
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