lifestyle

Yoga and pole dancing: two opposing ends of the fitness spectrum?

I love yoga. I want it to be a part of my life forever. I want to live it and teach it and practise it as much as I can.

I love both the simplicity and difficulty of combining stillness and movement, of breathing and opening and containing and flowing. Building on kindness, acceptance, spirituality.

Balance is key to yoga and as such has become a key part of my way of life: to find balance whenever possible. Maybe it’s because I’ve never become stagnant, I’ve always been moving and changing and challenging my normal. For me, the right amount of good and bad is what makes life real and exciting. Yoga for me is not just sitting on a mat crossing my legs. It’s a challenge, everyday.

I love pole dance. I want to keep it as a part of my life forever. I want to live it and teach it and practise it as much as I can.

So where does pole dancing fit in to the yoga lifestyle? Surely it’s not at all about spirituality or calming the senses? Surely its about showing off and revealing flesh, aggressive strength and hard abs? Its controversial, sexy, hardcore even. Surely its the other end of the spectrum?

Yes, it can be all those things. However, pole dancing can also be a time to work on growing, expressing myself to music, building my strength and flexibility as well as learning about my boundaries and respecting my limits.
Pole dancing is a perfect complement to my yoga practise. And vice-versa. The yoga keeps me grounded, pole dance teaches me to fly. The yoga calms my nerves, pole dance gets my heart racing. Yoga helps me hold on, pole dance pushes me to let go.
Both require strength, flexibility, motivation, balance.
Yoga and pole dancing: an ideal balance and a perfect combination.

Now to find balance in the amount of chocolate I consume…

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Getting Stronger: Physically and Emotionally

Feel the music. Move your body. Unleash your passion. Release your inner God(dess)!

This is dance: feeling and movement.

But what about Pole Dance? I have found that many people are either shocked or put off by the word ‘pole’. So much so that they don’t hear (or choose to ignore) the word ‘dance’. That all important aspect of poling: DANCE!!!

I have an emotional connection to pole dancing. I know  it now.

“An emotional connection? To dancing around a stripper pole?!”

Well, yes, of course! Let me explain:

I have always loved dancing. As many of my friends and family may know, I always said my favourite songs had the word ‘dance’ in them. And my favourite films (Flashdance, anyone?! Woman working in a physical, traditionally male job, reading Vogue on her break, wearing oversized clothing with black lycra and leather, big ugly dog, I could go on and on…).

Apart from salsa in Spain, I never went to a physically demanding dance class. No ballet or jazz or tango or breakdancing or hip hop. I think I never fancied the discipline involved. I never saw myself as a disciplined person. I tried giving up sugar once. I literally dreamt about muffins and cupcakes for weeks. Then Easter came and I said “sod it!”. Nope, not very disciplined.

What I saw in pole dancing was the need for STRENGTH.

If you saw me you would never associate the word ‘strong’ with my tiny frame. As I so much enjoy challenging people’s perceptions and ideas of what sort of person I am, the idea of turning my little body into a strong little body was too tempting to pass up. What pole dancing gives me, maybe first and foremost, is strength. Physical strength.

But one thing I’ve learnt on my long, slow route to learning how to pole dance is the added emotional strength I get from being physically strong(er!). I’ve never been this strong in my life. And I can say that I’ve never been this strong emotionally, either.

When I was ill at the end of last year (coinciding nicely with when I was setting up my new pole space in the garage, strong grrrrrr sound), I was scared. The desire to be able to get back on the pole pushed me to go to the doctor quicker than I would have done BPD (Before Pole Dance). I had a number of blood tests, scans, the claustrophobic MRI and of course the results: a stroke. I was told no sport for a while. I still can’t hang upside down or do handstands, doctors orders.

Through these few months I had my man, my family, my friends and my pole. I also had my strength and patience (another subject, that one!!): an inner voice telling me to breathe in the faith, hope and positivity and to breathe out the fear, dread and frustration. If I could put my body through the pain and bruises of pole dancing just for fun, then I could get through any little medical test, easy. If I could train my body to lift my arse over my head and hang upside down from my ankles and knees, then my mind and soul could do the same!

Emotion is often associated with some kind of weakness. “She’s so emotional!” or “Toughen up!” come to mind. But dance is one part of life where EMOTION and STRENGTH are one. And what great things happen when these two things combine!

 

Other pole dance bloggers are writing about emotionality and dance: check out the blog hop here.

 

“Do you think I’m sexy?” A look at the sexy art form that is Pole Dance.

Do you think I’m sexy? Well, do you, punk?

Because my boyfriend does. And I do sometimes. Not all day everyday, but on some occasions, yes, I do. And that should be all that matters, shouldn’t it? It should be just me, my man and maybe a few randoms if I’m lucky. Because I’m not a movie star or a model or a Hollywood wife or a pop icon.

But I do do pole dancing.

For many, that makes me the equivalent of a stripper. And stripper is just around the corner from prostitute. And a prostitute sells sex (incidentally, just around the corner from my house).

But, hold on: I tend to look like a teenage girl, dressed as a teenage boy or maybe a mummy or a granny, never in 6 inch heels and never wearing lipstick, no cleavage to speak of or legs up to there, what’s going on??! Pole dancer, you say??!!

I read books, get excited about Shakespeare, drink tea with milk and eat porridge for breakfast. I don’t dance on tables at bars or get totally wasted, have a stable long term relationship and keep my house pretty tidy.

“You?! You do Pole Dancing?!” or “YOU dance scantily clad/naked around a pole?” and even: “Pole dancing? Lizzie? That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard!”

Granted, I live in the south of France, where sexism goes unnoticed in most cases and feminism is something the majority of women seem more embarrased about than proud of. But we exist. We do. Feminist or non-feminist, sexy or non-sexy, the pole dancers of today. It just seems sometimes that the only poeple who know us and recognise us are already a part of the pole dance community. Outsiders are either mistaken or very confused.

The confused generation at its most baffled: A pole dancer who isn’t stripping? who isn’t doing it for money? who doesn’t wear killer heels all day? WHAT is the world coming to?!!

For me, part of the fun of pole is just that: challenging the status quo and playing with people’s perceptions.  Isn’t that the foundation for the best art and creativity? Or just something to make artists want to pull their hair out?

I’m in no way saying I’m an artist, or even a whole, real, pole dancer yet. I’m a student, an apprentice, trying to fit in to a family of talented, strong, beautiful creatures who dance around, near or on a pole.

 

In a song by The Weeknd called The Zone (perrrrrrfect for pole dance, btw) the very sexy Drake says:

“Man, if pole dancing’s an art, you know how many fuckin’ artists I know?”

 

A lot!!!! And what a lucky girl I am!!!

 

The Ups and Downs of Pole Dancing

My grandmother sent me a newspaper article about pole dancing, folded up inside a letter, about 10 years ago while I was at university in Scotland. I remember I laughed a lot because at the age of 20 it was my 80 year old Nanny who was introducing me to an activity which required quite a bit of open-mindedness even for my generation, not to mention hers. Anyway, I just wasn’t into sport. At all. Salsa dancing with Latin men was my hobby back then. So I forgot about it.

How much I regret ignoring her suggestion!!! Recently I wonder where I would be now and how I would look and feel if I had started then, 10 years ago. Is it silly to think I wasted my 20s just because I didn’t do pole dancing?!! A sign of turning 30 maybe? (Or a sign of a pole addiction I think!) Getting older, feeling a little bit weaker, a bit grumpier, and I don’t even have kids yet!!!!

So I did a pole class once a month from March til September, which wasn’t enough as I had to relearn every move and rebuild some strength every time I went back. And when I say strength I mean the lowest amount possible to just get my feet off the ground and spin some. (more on spinning later…)

From September I was finally frustrated enough with my lack of progression to invest in a subscription at Pole Dance Marseille (where I live) and commit to between 2 and 3 classes a month. This was really the beginning of something I had never experienced before: an actual desire to go to a fitness class, to get stronger, to be able to do these things that other women were doing around me, hanging upside down, handstands, splits, body rolls, spinning, spinning and more spinning…

But my body didn’t agree with all this fun and fitness.

First, spinning made me, and still makes me, very dizzy and very sick. It really makes me feel awful for up to an hour or two after class. To help I munch on a bit of ginger before I pole, or I sip on ginger tea. Nowadays I train using static when at home and then I try some spins on spinny pole at the end of a session to ‘get my body used to it’ but it’s taking a while..

Second, flexibility. I don’t have any flexibility at all. None. It has taken a very long time and a lot of home stretching sessions just to be able to touch my toes! And sometimes I can’t even get my legs open more than 90 degrees which is embarrasing when trying to do a move like the ‘hello boys’, which for me is more like ‘just a peek boys’ or ‘nope, not today boys’. 

The REAL BIGGY: After having an operation to get my wisdom teeth removed in November (unfortunately the same month I set up my own pole dance space in the garage) I got very ill. I had everything, usually after a pole dancing class or session. I had headaches, baaaad headaches, nausea and vomitting, then aural migraines, three in the space of four days over Christmas. The highs I felt after getting the Cross Knee Release, Inverted V and Crucifix were followed by low low lows. Turns out, I had an ischemic stroke. NO SPORT for the month of January. Drugs and rest. Still no idea what caused it. A very difficult time, especially as I am a 30 year old non-smoker who has a very healthy lifestyle. I was very annoyed, to put it nicely. In February I was told I could go back to doing some sport but no hanging upside down in inversions or headstands or yoga poses.

So where am I after a year of pole dancing??!

Pole Dancing has been my therapy. Nailing a new move is my way of shouting “Fuck you, Stroke!”. Getting stronger is no longer just to look better naked. It is 100% for me. Pole dancing makes me feel incredible, even when I’m tumbling and falling and tripping over the base of the pole. I get up and go out with more muscle, more core strength, less fear.

It gives me attitude. 

It rocks. It fucking rocks. And I get to rock it however I want, when I want, wearing what I want, listening to what I want. 

Thank you, Nanny, for the suggestion to try out pole dancing and I’m sorry it took me ten years to get to it.