5 Ways Poi Can Help You Relax and De-Stress

A simple ball on a cord is helping people across the globe find calm and relaxation.

With stress and anxiety becoming frequent guests in our lives, one begins to wonder if relaxation is an achievable goal or some kind of mythological creature that we can only catch glimmers of through the haze of existential dread. Well, I’m here to tell you that relaxation is not only achievable, but that all it takes is….a ball on a cord. Yes that’s right! A ball on a cord. This simple object is an art form called poi, which involves spinning a weight on the end of a flexible cord in circles around your body. A clinical study on poi proved significant improvements in physical and cognitive health after just one month of poi practice. So, without further adieu, I present to you 5 ways that spinning poi can help you center, de-stress, and genuinely relax.

1. Get Moving

We all know exercise has tons of benefits, but as University of Illinois researchers point out, “Exercise is a lot like spinach — everybody knows it’s good for you; yet many people still avoid it, forgoing its potential health benefits.”¹ So, what’s the key to actually getting up and moving? Wanting to get up and moving. If you really enjoy something, you’ll have no problem finding the motivation to do it. And that’s where poi comes in. Poi is undeniably fun, and offers endless challenges that will keep you coming back for more. After a half hour of playing poi you will have worked up a sweat without even realizing it, releasing those feel-good endorphins that help us stay healthy and happy.

2. Get in the Zone

Have you ever enjoyed doing something so much that you totally lost track of time and were completely absorbed in the moment? This is something known as the “flow state”, a term coined by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihaly. Csikszentmihaly’s research shows that people are their most creative, productive, and happy when they are in a state of flow.² There are a few elements involved in achieving flow state, such as finding a balance between challenges and skills, freedom from distractions, clear goals every step of the way, and immediate feedback. Poi is the perfect cocktail of all of the elements necessary to slip into a flow state. Poi artist Shanan explains, “I used poi to cope whenever I have a bad day. It frees my mind and allows me to just exist with these two bits of fabric and bean bags. I have my own space and the more I move the more the depression lifts.”

Photo by Nick Woolsey of PlayPoi

3. Disconnect From the Screen

Research shows that disconnecting from your devices improves your quality of life and helps you recharge. Therapist Heidi McBain says “Unplugging from technology for a while can help you feel more centered and grounded in the present moment.”³ The question is…what the heck do you do with yourself after you’ve unplugged? Spin your poi of course! Whether you are just taking a 10 minute break in the middle of your work day, or you’re going for a sunset spin on the beach, grab your poi and take a moment to turn off those screens and connect with the present moment.

4. Feel the Rhythm

For some people dancing is an act of relaxation and bliss. For others, it’s a real source of stress. As noted by Dance Psychologist Peter Lovatt – “if you do a bad job, people think you look stupid, you get rejected, and you wind up embarrassed.”⁴ The amazing thing about poi is its innately rhythmic, and a great way for dancers and non-dancers alike to groove to the beat. What’s even better is that your focus, and the focus of those around you, will be absorbed by the poi, meaning you are free to dance or flail to your heart’s content.

Photo by Nick Woolsey of PlayPoi

5. Play

Humans are designed to play, but unfortunately as adults we tend to dismiss play as just fun and games (which technically, it is!). But we know play has profound health benefits such as keeping depression, stress-related diseases, and poor immune systems in check, as well as fostering innovation, adaptability, and resilience.⁵ Poi is intrinsically playful, meaning it’s done for its own sake with a focus on the experience rather than an end goal. It gives us the space to improvise, imagine, and explore. It just feels good! As poi artist John states, “Shortly after I started spinning poi I began to notice changes in my mood. I would find myself feeling positive about life and my place in this world. I have now been spinning faithfully everyday. I no longer suffer from depression and my anxiety problems have also greatly improved. I would recommend spinning poi to anyone, not only for the health benefits but for the hours of fun that follow.”

So, what are you waiting for? Give poi a spin!

If the world does implode, I want to be there to watch it go down in a spectacular flurry, instead of being too depressed to even get out of bed to look out the window. So what are you waiting for? Start your poi journey today with our FREE poi & wellbeing guide.


1. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (2005). “Exercise Adds Years To Life And Improves Quality, Researchers Say.” ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/11/051110215438.htm

2. Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1996). Creativity: Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers.

3. Higgins, M  and Thorpe, JR. (2020). Experts Explain Why Unplugging From Tech Really Is That Good For You. https://www.bustle.com/wellness/188786-5-scientifically-proven-benefits-to-unplugging-from-technology

4. Lovatt, P. (2010). “Dance? I’d Rather Have My Fingernails Pulled Out!” https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/dance-psychology/201003/dance-id-rather-have-my-fingernails-pulled-out

5. Brown, S. (2009). Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul. New York, NY: Penguin Group.

About the Author: Dr. Kate Riegle van West is a scientist, artist, and entrepreneur with a passion for play and wellbeing. She completed her PhD in the health benefits of poi at the University of Auckland, and is the global leading exponent in working with poi and health.