Dance in Your Own Rhythm

About seven years ago I found myself in a situation many Americans find themselves in today, taking care of my mother who has Alzheimer’s. Just the thought of it threw me into instant depression. What a responsibility, even though I was a nurse. I was left to make all the decisions alone, but what if I made the wrong choice for her? Then, it would all be on me.

What doctor should I take her to? What would she like? Is this a treatment that’s right for her, and would she agree with me? After years of caregiving, I found myself burned out and stressed. I forgot to take care of the most important person in this equation: ME! I had gained a lot of weight, I was eating poorly, and I wasn’t moving my body at all.

I went to a doctor who offered me anti-depressant medication and told me to just relax. I just looked at him; he had no idea what I was dealing with. I just said, “Sure, doctor, I will get right on that relaxing stuff.” So I went home and turned on my computer. I was looking on a site when I saw a woman with a hula hoop. She was dancing to music and smiling and doing all these tricks. This was not the hula hooping I remembered as a child! She was really enjoying herself, and it looked like so much fun.

I did a search for an adult hula hoop and ordered one immediately. Within a week, it arrived. I would turn on the music and hoop and hoop for hours, and soon I was learning how to do tricks with the hoop. I was hooked , then I noticed I was losing weight. I was happier.

I threw out that anti-depressant medication, for I had found my joy. After a year of hooping, I started my own business as a hoop instructor, called Hooping It Out, along with my granddaughter (she was eight years old and has been hooping since the age of three). It’s an artistic movement and meditation practice that empowers women while encouraging the development and confidence and acceptance of their body. It engages them in self-care and body play, as well as self-expression and getting into the flow of their own rhythm.

Together, we would do performances. I had found a group of hula hoopers online who quickly became my support systems. Today, we do meet-ups and hoop at music festivals and just have a good time. I use my hoop to help other nurses and health-care professionals to relieve compassion fatigue and mental burnout. I recently met an awesome nurse, Caroline Sanchez, who is the founder of The Hula Hoop Girl as well as founder of Flow Art For Nurses (FANA), which I just became a member of. I also got my certification  to teach kids to hoop, through Sarah Jordan’s course Teach Kids to Hoop.

My mother passed in 2013. But through caring for her, I found my passion. I am dancing to my own rhythm and want to share it with the world.

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About the Author | Yvonne Downing

Yvonne Downing is a licensed practical nurse, a dental assistant, an X-ray technician, a hoop dancer, and self-care advocate. She is the creator of Hooping It Out, where she teaches hoop dance as a powerful form of self-care through body play in her community of Millville, New Jersey. She compassionately leads women through the artistic movement meditation practice of hoop dance, guiding them to feel empowered to develop more self-confidence and acceptance of their body while exploring the joys of self-expression. Yvonne’s hoop dance has been described as energetic, inspiring, heartfelt, and simply put, beautiful. Check out her Facebook page at

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