The MoodHoops Guide to Spinning Poi

Take a journey to discover the ancient, vibrant, and healing art of poi spinning, also known as poi dancing.

Grab some poi and let’s do this!

Step by Step Instructions

What is Poi Spinning?

Poi spinning is a flow art that involves swinging tethered weights in a variety of rhythms and motions to create geometric patterns of light or color. This unique combination of performance art and dexterity play tends make spinning poi feel like an improvisational dance or meditative flow state.

Poi spinning originated with the Māori people of New Zealand, where it’s still practiced today. Poi spinning has gained in popularity and is now practiced all over the world. With the expansion of poi, there has been a significant evolution of style, practice, and the tools used.

“Poi” is used to describe the art form itself and also the specific tools used in poi spinning. A poi is a weighted object – most commonly a ball or a stick – that can be spun and synchronized to create beautiful visual patterns. Poi can be made from various materials, from fire to LED lights and glow sticks, to streamers and veils.

Poi spinning and poi dance are both fun and healing. The practice has also been shown to have health benefits, improving grip strength, balance, and concentration.

Beginner Poi Spinning – Step by Step

Just like with any new skill, it’s best to start slow. While it’s tempting to get excited and jump into advanced techniques, preparing properly and mastering the fundamentals first is the best way to maintain interest and improve faster.

Here is a simple step-by-step guide on learning poi spinning for beginners:

  1. Secure the two loops over your index and middle fingers.

    When you get your poi ropes, there will be two loops secured on the opposite end of the ball. Wrap these around your index and middle fingers and test to make sure the ropes won’t fly off. In most cases, you’ll want to gain control over the rope by pinching your index finger and thumb together.

  2. Make sure you have plenty of space.

    Of course, when it comes to poi spinning, you want to make sure you aren’t in a zone where you could hit or damage anything. Outside in an open area is a popular place to practice. You can also do it in your house, just be sure to move any items or furniture first and make the area big enough for you to have full range of motion with the ropes.

  3. Practice spinning one at a time.

    Start with the most basic technique first: spinning in a circle. Beginning with your dominant hand, start spinning the ball either forwards or backwards. Instead of focusing on speed, you want to make sure you have an even rhythm and that your palms are facing either directly down or up. If your palms are positioned toward you, then the poi is likely to hit you as it swings toward your body. Continue spinning with one hand until it feels perfectly natural.

  4. Practice spinning both simultaneously.

    Once you’ve mastered a basic spin with both hands individually, the next step is to try that same technique with both hands at the same time. It may be a bit tricky to match their speeds at first, but try to go at the pace of your non-dominant hand until you get the hang of it. Once again, you’ll want to focus more on getting a clear rhythm and maintaining position as opposed to spinning quickly.

  5. Experiment with different speeds and rhythms.

    Now that you’ve got that down, you can start to play around a bit. You can try speeding things up or spinning both poi in rhythm but in opposite directions. You can even put on some music and use that to time your spins and find new rhythms.

  6. Begin weaving.

    The next basic technique you’ll want to try is called weaving or “infinity spinning.” To do this, you’ll need to spin the rope toward the other side of your body in front of you and then back again in a figure-eight. If you do both at the same time be sure to keep an even rhythm but have each ball crossing over at opposite times. Like with initial spinning, get comfortable with each hand alone before you start to do it with both simultaneously.


4 More Ways to Enjoy Spinning Poi

As poi spinning has evolved from a traditional art form to a worldwide phenomenon, it has expanded and grown! There are many different tools and methods you can use as you gain skills in spinning poi.

  • Poi Fire Spinning

    The most traditional forms of poi spinning originally involved the use of fire, and fire poi spinning is still beloved and widely practiced today.
    Fire poi uses wicks made from flame-resistant material – most commonly Kevlar or Technora – to act as the weighted ends. These wicks are soaked in fuel, lit on fire, and then spun to produce beautiful and powerful patterns.

    If you’re new to poi fire spinning, take precautions before you begin. Wear tight-fitting clothing made from natural fibers (such as cotton, hemp or leather) and consider wearing Kevlar sleeves. Practice on pavement or gravel to avoid any flammable objects.

  • LED Poi Spinning

    One of the most popular and fun ways to enjoy poi spinning is using LED lights. Extremely popular at festivals, raves, and concerts, LED poi spinning is best in dim lighting or in complete darkness. LED poi can be practiced using balls, sticks, or other light-up objects.
    One of the fun things about LED poi spinning as opposed to traditional fire poi is that you can play with a variety of colors. From neons to pastels, you can create beautiful geometric patterns in the darkness to dramatic, vibrant effect.

  • Spinning Glow Poi Balls

    Glow poi balls can be made from many different materials, while LED lights are the most common. You can also get poi balls (or heads) that are made of other battery-powered light sources, or even chemical glow sticks.
    Keep in mind that when you use artificially glowing poi balls as opposed to fire or heavier objects, they’ll spin much faster with less strength, and your focus will be on controlling the cord itself – more so than the object at the end of the cord. So be sure to account for the weight of your poi when trying out glow balls.

  • Spinning Veil Poi

    Another popular way to spin poi is using silk veils. In this type of spinning, your poi balls have long, colorful veils attached to them, which can add drama and dimension to your performance. Of course, the addition of long pieces of fabric may require you to adjust your movements to accommodate them.
    Using veil poi (sometimes called “voi”) or veil fans is especially popular in the belly dancing community, and is a great way to add additional excitement to your performance if you can’t (or aren’t yet comfortable) using fire.


Spinning Poi Like a Pro

Like with anything, learning to spin poi like a pro takes time. But with patience and practice, you’ll master the basics and gain confidence with your ropes.

When you’re first starting out, it’s important to take your time learning each new trick. You want to make sure you’re really comfortable with each one before you decide to move onto the next.

Begin with basic moves like “the fountain” and “reel turns” and “butterflies.” These movements will help you grasp the fundamentals and develop plane control – an extremely important concept in poi spinning. Try not to get frustrated if these techniques don’t come naturally to you at first. With patience and practice, they’ll feel like second nature in no time.

Once you’ve mastered the fundamentals, you’ll be able to move onto more advanced techniques like “crossers” and “CAPs.” The more you practice, the more comfortable and confident you’ll become.

Have Fun!

Keep practicing and you’ll be on your way to poi spinning like the pros!