Get the scoop on hoops

By Mara Aussendorf & Amy Lebowitz

When Taylor Tinkham ’12 was little, she dabbled in every playground game—Skip-Its, anyone?—except one. “I never Hula hooped. Ever,” Tinkham said. Last April, though, Tinkham was diagnosed with severe back problems. As a starter for Mac’s volleyball team, she needed to find a low-impact way to strengthen her body if she wanted to keep playing. The solution: Hula hooping. After picking up a hoop at a family gathering and trying it out, “I found that I could do it, and it’s fun,” she said. “And a really good core workout.” Aside from the cardio and strengthening workout, Hula hooping—or just hooping, as seasoned participants call it—also benefits digestive health. “It sounds disgusting, but it’s a really great massage for your internal organs,” Tinkham said. Tinkham started hooping at night behind her house “so that no one could see me,” she said. After a lot of frustration and failed attempts to keep the hoop moving, she eventually got the hang of it. While Tinkham thought that hooping would just be a health routine, it became a major part of her life. Tinkham decided to teach a hooping class at Mac after seeing the benefits for her body and discovering a community of Hula hoopers. The class is a combination of meditative and fitness hooping. “I want [the class] to be really safe and healthy,” said Tinkham. It will begin with a cardio workout, include instruction of at least three or four tricks per class, and end with a “hoop jam time” in which participants are encouraged to ask questions and experiment by themselves. “I think it’s really important to explore your space with a hoop on your own,” Tinkham said. “I’m going to be teaching a lot of techniques, but I really want people to do a lot of exploring.” While she does not plan on making a career out of hooping, she does hope to continue teaching (and hooping) after graduation. “I want to teach [hooping] forever!” she said. Tinkham’s hooping classes are held Thursdays from 12:05 p.m. to 12:50 p.m. in the field house. The class, which is currently full, will run for six weeks but may be revived for an additional six weeks after spring break. For those interested in getting involved with hooping off-campus, however, there are many opportunities in the Twin Cities. “It’s a huge community of people. It’s this whole underground culture,” Tinkham said. Hoopers even have a social network, called, which Tinkham described as “Facebook for hoopers.” “Hooplas” are held every Wednesday at the Walker Community Methodist church in the winter months and at Lake Calhoun in the summer. In addition, every other Thursday there are “Spin Jams” at the Four Seasons Dance Studio, which begin with a meditative drum circle and culminate in a black light party with a live band or DJ. These events are open to the public and newcomers are welcome. “I look forward to [Spin Jams] so much,” Tinkham said. Tinkham cited dubsteb, bluegrass and funk as her favorite hooping music. “You can hoop to your attitude, so you can change the mood to whatever you’re feeling,” she said. Tinkham is excited to spread her love for hooping around Macalester and beyond. From her personal practice to her new venture into teaching, Tinkham said, “It’s become my life.”