“Moving the body is like religion and moving my body is the portal to that place.” This is one woman’s description of her practice of hoop dancing, a form of hula hooping that combines adult sized hoops and dance music. Her experience is not unique; in fact, the number of descriptions of hooping as a practice that is “like religion” serves as the basis of our research. In this essay, we examine the connection between embodied experiences in the hoop, the identification of those experiences as religious or spiritual, and the communities that are created as hoopers attempt to continually recapture the experiences (of flow) that they deem extraordinary. New religions studies is a field interested in the emergence of new religious paths, and our contribution to this academic discourse is in the form of an ethnography of value of the hoop community as an emerging religious path. Our work attempts to reconceptualize newness in the field through innovations in the hoop community. We examine the ways hoopers deem transformational experiences within the hoop as spiritual or religious and how they construct paths to truth and authenticity through embodied practice. These new religious movements are not institutional nor are they tied to formal creeds; rather, they reflect the ways in which religion has become a category of experience that can create meaningful communities of practice for individuals.
Finding Religion, Spirituality, and Flow in Movement: An Ethnography of Value of the Hula Hooping Community
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Martha Smith Roberts, Jenna Gray-Hildenbrand; Finding Religion, Spirituality, and Flow in Movement: An Ethnography of Value of the Hula Hooping Community. Nova Religio 1 February 2019; 22 (3): 36–59. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/nr.2019.22.3.36
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