By Lisa Adams Walter
Photos by Allison Andres
What do a still–thriving, ’90s-era band, high-end, circus performers a Native-American dance, and an unparalleled, 1950’s toy-turned-fad have in common? You guessed it: hoops!
Four years ago, a few, local women founded Napa Hoopers, a play group for hoop dance, exercise, body flow and circus–arts-enthusiasts, as well as an easy and joyful place for anyone who is interested in enjoyable, healthy, body movement. The group meets regularly, and hosts monthly hoop jams.
“Hoops have an accessibility that many forms of exercise lack. Hooping makes you feel like a kid – again! It’s hard to not laugh and smile while you’re hooping. Many hoopers, and even newcomers that participate in our monthly jams, have fond memories of hooping as a child, and it’s great to bring those back to the surface,” said Lilea Duran, Napa Hoopers Co-founder, hoop dance instructor, and performer.
Many of us remember hula hoops from our childhood; others may recall the intricate and purposeful hoop dances of some Native American tribes; more recently, the independent band, The String Cheese Incident threw hoops into their crowded, live-concert audiences
in the mid-90’s, sparking a more–recent, hooping trend. Eventually, hooping at large music festivals, such as Burning Man and Coachella, and also recently spotted at BottleRock ensued. “Hoops are inexpensive to make or to purchase; they’re portable, so you can hoop at home, at a friend’s house, or at a local park,” reports Duran. Hoops are obviously appropriate for the live music scene too.
When asked about the history of hoops, Duran said that the history of the hoop would really be a story of its own, “There is evidence that Egyptian children used to play games with hoops made out of dried grapevines; ancient Greeks used hoops for exercise and you can find many depictions of Ganymede holding a hoop. Hoop dancing is a form of storytelling with the Native Americans dating back to the 1400s. Many will be familiar with the story of Wham-O popularizing hula hoops in the US in the 1950s!”
Duran, who helps organize the free, monthly, Hoop Jams in Downtown Napa is completely dialed in about the benefits of hooping. “Lots of people hoop for health, myself included. It is a low-impact, fun way to exercise. It’s a great ab workout, but it is also a great, full-body workout. Hooping uses up to 30 different muscles.” The American Council on Exercise has even published a study about the benefits of effective hooping which found that hooping burns an average of seven calories per minute for a total of about 210 calories during a 30-minute, hooping workout.
“Hooping is great for spine flexibility and strength, works on balance and hand-eye coordination and, maybe my favorite benefit, hooping makes us feel happy! We get a wonderful burst of endorphins, while having fun and staying active,” Duran added.
In regard to the multiple benefits of hooping, others agree. Napa County included the Napa Hoopers Hoop
Jams as part of their obesity-prevention program and the Napa Hoopers have participated in multiple, community events, such as the Earth Day Celebration, the Napa 4th of July Parade and Public Health Week.
There are some famous and hip hoopers out there too, or “hoopsters,” as I like to call them. “There are lots of hoop stars in the world,” reports Duran, who cites Cirque du Soleil with staging hoop contortion acts, a hooper named Karis who has appeared with Christina Aguilera, hooping in several, well-known, music videos, with artists such as Pink and other public figures, such as First Lady Michelle Obama and actress and singer Zooey Deschanel who have simply fallen in love with hooping!
The most evident hoops development that Duran has seen is in regard to how modern hoops are produced, “Technology plays a big role in modern hooping. Some people dance with fire hoops, which have several
lighted wicks attached. Others use hoops filled with LEDs that create incredible visual patterns.”
Duran reports that you don’t have to commit to a huge investment of time to begin to feel the results of hooping; even seven to eight minutes a day can begin to make a change. Every monthly jam begins with a 15-minute, warm-up session, and plenty of experienced hoopers around to help anyone get started.
As a Hoop Instructor at Wine Country CrossFit, Duran believes that the best way to begin is to take a class, “An instructor can provide instant feedback and correction to help you find success. A class also helps you find a community through hooping. It’s easy to make friends when you’re both struggling with a move and the triumph is literally audible when students find breakthroughs together. There hasn’t been a single
hoop class I’ve taken part in where there weren’t
cheers and encouragement heard among participants.” Sounds easy, sounds fun! Get out there and hoop!
Visit and “Like” the Napa Hoopers Facebook page at facebook.com/Napa-Hoopers
where you can also click on the “Events” tab to find a list of upcoming hooper events.
For information about hooping classes visit: facebook.com/SunglowHoopDance/events
Napa Hoopers Monthly Hoop Jam
Third Wednesday of the Month: 6–7:30pm
Veterans Park Downtown Napa