As the world came to a standstill during the pandemic, this hula hoop artist made way for a workout trend that has now found a thriving community called Hoop Flo. Co-founder, Eshna Kutty talks about her hooping journey, childhood trips, bucket-list destinations, and more. By Srushti Kulkarni
T+L India: How old were you when you got your first spin right?
Eshna Kutty: I was 16! That was the first time I ever picked up a hoop.
T+L India: What inspired you to follow hooping professionally?
Eshna Kutty: It was a series of events and experiences, spread across a few years. I always wanted to pursue something in psychology, which is what I graduated in. When I was pursuing my diploma in Dance/Movement Therapy that something with hooping just clicked. There was so much synergy between movement and mental well-being, and a lot to research and discover in the world of flow-arts and its relation to the mind-body connection as well. I had been teaching hooping since 2014 as a side gig, but it wasn’t until late 2019 that I wanted to give it my all.
T+L India: Could you tell us a bit about how you came up with Hoop Flo?
Eshna Kutty: I wanted to hoop beyond my capacity of teaching it, and as a solo artist one can only get so far. Then I stumbled upon a book named Shoe Dog, and with the help of a friend/mentor named Yohan, Hoop Flo was founded in the middle of the pandemic in 2020. It started off as a desire to introduce and create a culture for hooping, a one-stop-shop for all things flow. Today it’s so much more! We make customizable hula hoops for all shapes and sizes, and they are all collapsible (i.e. travel friendly!). ‘The Hoop Flo’ workshop offers the beginner audience fun and light way to stay fit as well as a chance to learn a new skill by welcoming them as a part of their hula-hooping community. With platforms like Paytm Insider, we manage to attract a larger section of the audience.
T+L India: We also heard that you took classes for Tihar jail inmates, was the experience any different?
Eshna Kutty: Based on my personal observation over the years, every adult when interacting with a hula hoop ends up subconsciously releasing a bit of their inner child. Toys and games can make any adult want to play again! But what was different with these inmates was the way they responded to the hoop. For them, it wasn’t just a release from a hard day at work, but a moment of dipping into freedom- the one thing they probably don’t have. Coming together with their fellow inmates, some of their laughs would turn to tears, and their self- consciousness turned to confidence. I meant to teach at Tihar only for a month as part of an initiative my college mates and I at LSR took. Although, I extended my period to six months because it felt gratifying to experience these moments with them.
T+L India: You are a self-taught hooper who travels around the country to conduct workshops. Do you enjoy exploring new places?
Eshna Kutty: Absolutely! As a teenager, I would call hooping not just my hobby but my vehicle. It felt like something that could literally take me places, let me see the world, and make new friends. At 18, I often took backpacking trips with a dozen hoops, and teach the locals (street kids and people who could pay, both) an excuse to explore a new city through a new lens! Guess it sowed the seeds for what went on to be called The Hoop Flo Tour. At 25, I was grateful to the 18-year-old me who knew she enjoyed doing this. Yes, even Hoop Flo celebrates travelling and exploration and our #wheremyhooptravels hashtag has let us witness our hoops travel to places we could never have imagined! We also provide online hoop courses that are self-paced for anybody to get started with the basics! But most importantly, we have a strong community of over a thousand hoopers globally and across most cities of India to share this art form with!
T+L India: How does travel influence you as a hooper?
Eshna Kutty: I could write a separate article just on this! But if I had to bring up four things I noticed during my tours, they would be:
- It makes me mindful of culture, experiences, and the way of life of a person in a certain place in time and helps me build an emotional connection, while also giving me some context of where my students have come from.
- It motivates me to not be ignorant about my teaching style and how some of the analogies I use to break down the moves won’t work everywhere, so I customize!
- It makes me adapt more easily!
- As an introvert, travelling is the only time I put myself out there with other humans, and something about that is liberating! I make new friends, indulge in their local cuisine, head out and question, and do the most mundane things like grocery shopping or running work errands. By the time I reach my workshop, I already feel like one of them which just takes me back to point no.1.
T+L India: Can you recall your earliest memories of travelling?
Eshna Kutty: My earliest memory that I can’t forget is of a trip to Chitrakoot with my parents; it was their work trip and they took me along. I got bit by three monkeys as I assumed they would be friendly like dogs who come and give a lick! I got heaps of ice cream later though I didn’t get any rabies injection. If only this could have been my spiderman moment but alas.
T+L India: Weekend getaways or week-long vacations? Why?
Eshna Kutty: I would say month-long vacations now that WFH is a thing. But if I had to pick one of the above, I would choose a weeklong vacation. Weekends are usually the time majority of the crowd travels cramping every single place there is. Even their itineraries come without a breather. Weeklong vacays let you space things out and really settle down!
T+L India: Your favourite destination in India and abroad?
Eshna Kutty: It’s currently Tamil Nadu because there’s surfing in Kovalam, scuba diving in Rameshwaram, the hills in Kodaikanal, Auroville for art, and so much more. Himachal will remain a constant favourite. I’d probably pick Norway during September for the Northern lights and Portugal for its ircus, music, art, architecture, language, weather and everything under the sun culture!
T+L India: Your favourite city for street food and your favourite restaurant?
Eshna Kutty: This is when the Delhi in me takes over! No matter what south Indian city I live in, I’ll want to return here for the paranthas, chole bhature, and bedmi aloo. My current obsession is Burma Burma for their khao suey!
T+L India: You are a hoop dancer, a teacher, a facilitator and a performer, is there anything else on your radar that you wish to accomplish?
Eshna Kutty: Learning the ropes of being an entrepreneur would be one, and doing more social work would be the other. But if I had to be bit of an enthusiast, I would love to be a singer or a musician a decade from now.
T+L India: Name your signature hula move?
Eshna Kutty: Haha, it’s called an Iso-Spin (from the family of Isolations- where it looks like your hoop is levitating in the air and you look like a magician). Otherwise, nothing feels more liberating than a good shoulder/chest hooping flow.
T+L India: What are some health benefits of hooping?
Eshna Kutty: Great core! To a degree that even though I barely ever do planks, if asked, I could hold it for at least 2 mins. But some of its other benefits are cardio exercise and burning fat. Hooping also consists of off-body moves called ‘tricks’ which force you to use all your senses and strengthen hand-eye coordination.
T+L India: Your favourite city to conduct workshops at?
Eshna Kutty: So difficult! We just finished a tour in cities like Kolkata, Delhi and Jaipur in my recent collaboration with Paytm insider. As every city has a personality of its own, I hold them close for their unique characteristics. I have a softer corner for Kochi and Chennai only because I have my roots there and it feels like home.
T+L India: A city or a place where you would love to hoop on the streets?
Eshna Kutty: Kolkata! It’s got such an old-world feel. People consume art in ways that I haven’t seen any other city do.
T+L India: What are the places on your must-visit list?
Eshna Kutty: The whole of North-East India and undoubtedly the Andamans.