Meet Mandala Ataksak, the Whirling Warrior.

Eleven years ago, 20 year old Ataksak found herself on a road trip hitting up festivals in the South Eastern United States with her cousin. One festival in particular changed her life forever. The String Cheese Incident was playing, and unknown to Ataksak at the time was that they had a large group of hula hooping followers.

“I just thought I would try it and I put it on my waist, and man, it was the most, it just felt so right. It was great, I absolutely enjoyed it.”

This new form of movement captivated her enough to leave her with bruises on her hips, a smile on her face, and a desire to learn more.

Ataksak just had to have a hoop of her own. But she had a hard time finding one, as very few places sell these larger hoops for adults. So she thought she may as well look into making her own instead. After hitting up the hardware store, Ataksak made hoops like there was no tomorrow. She sold them at the festivals, and ended up funding herself for another six weeks of travelling during that same road trip.

Ataksak has been making and selling hoops ever since, playing with different types of tubing such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) irrigation tubing, polypropylene (polypro) tubing and high density polyethylene (HDPE) tubing. PVC tubing was the first material Ataksak began working with, which makes for a slower moving hoop best for beginners and adults. It is the polypro tubing that changed Ataksak’s way of hooping, as this material is much lighter and more responsive for off body hooping, tossing and isolations.

“To have a form of expression and a way of moving your body is super, super important. Because, like, if you’re not expressing, than who are you? It really helps you to feel like yourself when you have a creative outlet,” explains Ataksak.

Ataksak has always loved the movement in dancing, and sees hooping as an extention of this. Ataksak explains that hooping is not only great for exercise and strengthening the body, but also empowering the mind and soul.

As the Whirling Warrior, Ataksak not only makes and sells custom hoops, but she also offers workshops, private lessons and performances, mainly throughout the Brantford, Paris and Hamilton area. Ataksak says there is a large hooping community growing throughout the Toronto and Guelph area, with many very talented hoopers whom she connects with. Further, she added that the hooping scene is also beginning to grow in Hamilton as well. Ataksak explains that hooping in itself helps create community, and this meeting in movement and inspiration from other hoopers has added to Ataksak’s happiness.

“For me, honestly, hula hooping is such a beautifully grounding experience, and it puts me totally in the moment. You know? It’s very present and I think that that’s my favourite thing about it. It’s such a… It’s a practice where I truly feel like myself. I don’t know how to put it any other way.”

Ataksak can be found busking and selling hoops at the Hamilton ArtCrawl when she is not busy working at an organic vegan smoothie bar, teaching yoga or spending time with her 7-year-old daughter, River Dawn. Ataksak plans to hold upcoming lessons at the Spice Factory, as well as Soul Session both in Hamilton once the back-to-school roar has tamed down. Events such as these will be announced on her Facebook page titled Whirling Warrior or Instagram @whirling_warrior.

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