I’ll posit that middle age seems like a perfect time to get into hooping, to go hardcore with it. Just as the submarine of my body is sending frequent signals to the surface that I am indeed mortal and will absolutely be facing the same squinting, drooping, aching, and existential agonizing that everyone else who makes it to this stage in life does, hooping seems like the perfect antidote. There’s something about being middle-aged that makes jumping into a very physical and joyous endeavor make even more sense: commit to moving every day, fluidly, alone and with others. As a massage therapist, this inherently makes sense; anything we do that is not sitting for hours, and is helping us stay or become limber is a thumbs-up.
It’s probably more than coincidence that at the same time that I am becoming officially more dependent on reading glasses, dealing with the rollercoaster of perimenopause, and getting my first crown on a tooth is also when I am delving wholeheartedly into hooping. Move often, move in new ways, learn to go with a flow, get looser than I was in even my 20s and 30s. What’s not to like?
Then there’s being a total beginner at something again as an adult. As kids, when we start something new, we don’t expect to be good or comfortable with it from the start; we just do it and see what happens. If we like it (and sometimes even when we don’t), we keep doing it until we get better. Why do so many of us expect any different as adults? To start hooping, it’s a given it will be a challenge. And you’re going to drop the hoop. A lot. It might go flying off in different directions as you learn new moves. You might bonk yourself in the head with it. So? I had dabbled in hooping a little bit over the last few years, inspired by once seeing Crystal Allbright hoop at Desert Sports in Terlingua, but there was something about seeing a bunch of people hiking with hoops in Big Bend National Park, to hoop on the South Rim of the Chisos Mountains that really did it for me.
One of the rock stars in it, as I think of her, is my friend Rose Bassham Bane, who also taught me to knit. Earlier this year, when I showed up at Rose’s house to knit with her, she was out front hooping. “Don’t stop,” I said. Watching her shoulder hoop was mesmerizing. Watching anyone hoop that well is enchanting, actually. I asked her if she would consider teaching hooping classes. In her typically understated way she declined, suggesting instead that we just get together and hoop and invite anyone else who might be interested. Our first hooping group began a few weeks later.
Hooping makes me giddy. And you can do it year-round too. All you need to hoop is...a hoop. You can do it just about anywhere: indoors (just push that furniture out of the way), outdoors. The possibilities are endless. Warning: once you start hooping, you will look at the world through your new hooping glasses, and places you never really noticed before might take on a new lustre of hoopworthiness: Oh, look at that lawn. Wouldn’t that be a nice spot to hoop?! The same goes for music: you start listening to old standbys and new tunes with a hooping ear: Wouldn’t this be fun to hoop to?! Thanks to hooping I’ve started listening to whole new crops of music; Middle Eastern is my current favorite hooping soundtrack.
In my current setup in Alpine, I have the time and space and weather to hoop year-round, which has only made me appreciate living here even more. Hooping in Alpine's Kokernot Park has made many of us appreciate this little gem of public space: those BIG, OLD beautiful shade trees, that soft grass, vermillion flycatchers flitting about in summer. Every couple of weeks or so, I’ve been inviting friends and acquaintances to join me to hoop in the park. And every time, about eight to a dozen others show up, some to try hooping for the first time. We have a wide age range represented, too. I didn’t even realize some of us had been hooping for three hours straight one Sunday evening.
Admittedly, this hooping thing is now a bona fide obsession. And like any obsessive person, I spend a lot of time thinking about my object d’amour--sometimes more time than I do actually engaging in the activity itself. When I should be working (writing or editing or bookkeeping or researching or designing) I find I am instead taking frequent breaks from said work to hoop. Or sillier still, I am watching videos on the Internet of others hooping. At times it’s more like work is my break from reading articles by hoopers. I can tell it’s good for my core/abdominals, and legs, and arms, and that it’s probably helping me become more flexible too, but that is not really its first and foremost appeal. I’m hooping, I think, because it’s really fun. It just feels good. That I can’t really explain the attraction makes it even more intriguing.
Note: This essay originally appeared in the June 2013 issue of The Big Bend Gazette, and on Hooping.org the same month.