[Hooping.org columnist Lara Eastburn looks at the success of the hooping movement.]
2011 will be remembered as the year hooping really began to integrate into our communities. For a while now, hooping has been expanding past the boundaries of festivals and local parks to find more permanent and all-weather homes in dance and yoga studios, YMCAs, churches, and gyms. And from the looks of it, hooping classes have been received with open arms by its new venues. At least it would seem so, with franchises like Curves bringing in hooping and the likes of Yoga Journal calling hooping “the latest trend sweeping the yoga community.” So I was surprised, when researching the trend, to find a response to a column on “When did yoga teachers stop teaching yoga poses?” saying, “I thought I was alone in the land of $125 yoga pants, Yoga and Hula Hooping classes and a myriad of other BS i see in the land of modern yoga.” Now maybe this was an isolated incident, that of a purist or two that are resistant to change, but it did make me wonder about hooping’s growing presence in other communities. Is hooping as welcome as we think? And either way, isn’t our status as “newcomers” to more established practices something we should be conscious of?
I made some calls to gyms, dance, and yoga studios that are among the first to host hooping classes to find out how they’re going, how it’s new audiences are feeling about it, and what can be done to make hooping an attractive and happy addition to their offerings. Studio owners had a lot to say that I think we need to hear. Here are some things to think about and act on as soon as possible no matter whose space you’re teaching in.
Clean up after yourself. Gaffer tape marks left on walls and floors was the biggest complaint. Being respectful of your space should be a given, so take time to remedy this hoop-specific damage after every class. I personally keep a stock of the Mr. Clean Magic Erasers for quick, efficient removal of gaffer take marks from any surface. It’s the only thing I know of that works on walls, but ask for your studio’s preference for cleaning their (especially wood) floors.
You are part of a bigger team. Gyms, dance, and yoga are luxuries that many are cutting from their budgets in a tough economy. The studios you teach in may be struggling, and many bring in hooping in hopes of expanding their reach. (The yoga studio I taught hooping classes in for years in Atlanta has just shut its doors, for example, and it’s not alone). Some studios I talked to felt that their hooping classes hadn’t grown past being an economical indoor hangout for their friends. So, don’t let your marketing stop with your hoop-pals. If your classes aren’t growing and reaching new people, you’re not helping the studio that’s helping you.
Make hooping relevant to the existing audience. Why should a yogi, or a belly dancer, or someone on a weight-loss journey care about hooping? Sure, WE know why it matters, but others may not. Print up a flyer that hints at what hooping can offer your studio’s existing clientele. Ask for a few minutes at the end of the more popular, established classes to tell a little bit about what you’re doing. Be specific – do your classes offer fitness, meditative, creative benefits? Have a free try-it-out class for members. It’s entirely within reach to believe that hooping can be integrated into studios as well as Pilates has, for example. And it won’t hurt for you to dig deep and articulate your own passion for hooping within the scope of what your host-venue and its clientele value most. Breathing, balance, centering, creative expression, core strength, stability, and flexibility are all a part of the vocabulary that presents hooping as an accessible and relevant addition to a health-conscious lifestyle. Depending upon your venue and audience, “moves or “movement” might be a more effective word than “tricks”.
Clue-in your students to the rules of the space. Newcomers to a yoga studio or other space may not know they should remove their shoes at the entry, where the bathrooms are, or what kind of water bottles are permitted. Make sure you take a few seconds to orient new clientele to their surroundings.
Show your appreciation. Have you gifted your studio/space-owner with a hoop? Do you volunteer for studio clean-up day? Have you turned in that photo and class description the studio asked for? Do you promote your venue host as more-than the place where you hold your hooping classes? You’re not just renting space. You and your hooping class have something to offer the larger community, and these are ways you can show it.
Integration is ultimately what I mean to emphasize with these pointers. Hooping is no longer a lone-wolf in the health-and-fitness landscape. It has a deserved and meaningful role to play in a growing movement about movement. We owe it to ourselves, our classes, our passion, our businesses, our hoops, and our art to understand and claim the role that hooping offers to a larger culture. The hoop changes lives. But hooping persists in the cultural imagination as a 50′s-era kid’s pre-occupation and has yet to fully articulate its relevance on a larger stage. Hoopers that have found a space, a venue, and an audience in established studios may well determine how it all plays out for hooping in the grander scheme of things. As 2012 approaches, I challenge the hooping community to begin to think of hooping as an important part of what is happening culturally, and not as something separate and different from it. So … how about it? What is hooping’s place in our culture’s search for health and being? And how can we position ourselves as a part of it?
Lara Eastburn has been dancing in meadows and singing with the moon while spinning in circles for eons at Superhooper.org. Beyond commenting here, you can also discuss this and other topics related to the Hooposophy for living in Hooping.org’s Hooposophy Group and Gorum. Lara is also the planting and gardening force behind discovering our hooping community roots at The Hooping Family Tree Project.