The hoop has a habit of transforming us. Whether it opens your mind to a new experience, shrinks your waist or gives you courage to move your body in a way you never have before, you’re bound to be changed by the circle – no matter what your age or when you start. Yvonne Downing of Hooping It Out, a 52-year-old New Jersey native and grandmother of three, found herself picking up a hoop for the first time in decades. Since then she’s found herself leaning on her hoop in difficult times, and using it as a tool for her weight loss journey. She also discovered the hoop connects her to her grandchildren as a way to spend time together, and Downing has even made a complete career change because of her hoop. She’s one grandmother who is keeping busy spreading the joy of hooping to her family and community at large.
It all began when Downing stumbled across a video that blew her away on Youtube in 2012. She says, “I was watching videos and found Ji Min Hwang’s channel. I’d always loved the hula hoop, but had never seen hoop dance, and I was instantly hooked. She was throwing the hoop all over the place; over her head, down to her knees, on her elbows, and in that moment I became a hooper.” Downing ordered her first hoop online and was soon obsessed with hooping and learning tricks. Having lost 80 pounds from changing to a healthier lifestyle, she soon discovered she had lost 20 more from hooping alone. She’s also using her love for hooping to maintain her 100 pound weight loss as well. “It’s my cardio,” she explained, adding, “I try to hoop at least an hour a day 5 days a week.”
Having worked as a nurse for fourteen years, Yvonne was also given the role of care taker for her mother who suffered from Alzheimer’s. Things got tough when her mother passed away, but she noticed when she was hooping she could let go of some of her depression and sadness in that moment. Getting lost in the hoop became a way for her to heal, to find her happiness again. Having always loved the hula hoop as a child, today she’s finding joy with it all over again in a whole new way. She said of her youth, “I was the only girl of four children, and had a hard time getting my brothers to play with me when I was growing up. I had to find ways to entertain myself, so I played with a hula hoop. Watching these new videos I knew this was not your regular hula hooping. This was a whole new explosion of a hoop revolution!”
Downing has been began measuring her progress and creating her own hoop dance videos ever since. A year and a half into her hoop journey Downing decide to take a class to learn how to teach children how to hoop. She currently coaches her six-year-old granddaughter Tatiyana on her hooping. It’s a way for them to spend time together and teach her at a young age the importance of an active lifestyle. The hula hoop helps to keep Downing’s ‘young at heart’ spirit alive.
She says, “It isn’t always easy to keep up with the energy that young children have, especially the older we get. Hula hooping is the perfect way to entertain your children by doing something healthy and active with them. All too often we don’t know how to talk to children. We forget what it is like to be that young. If there is something you can do with the children in your life, you are engaging them in play time that is good for their mind and their bodies.”
Downing currently lives in a town without many other hoopers to connect with, Millville, New Jersey. She hopes to change this by spreading the news about this hoop revolution. She loves hooping so much she decided to change careers and make hooping her business too with Hooping It Out. “I’m more of a dancer than a trickster,” Downing commented on her own personal style. “This summer I have a whole town to introduce to hooping! There is a sisterhood among hoopers. People are always willing to help you anyway they can.”
What advice does Yvonne have for those who might be thinking about hooping for the first time? She said, “My advice for new hoopers is to take your time and enjoy yourself when you hoop. Don’t stress about the tricks. They will come. Just enjoy your journey day by day.”
Christina Berube started Hippy Go Lucky Hoops to document her hula hooping tour across the country – from Maine to California and back! She also writes for Go Girl Magazine, blogs and is a hoop dance instructor at her local YMCA in Maine. Watch for her vending hoops and teaching at local music festivals!