As an effort to be kinder to my body, I’ve decided to put my energy in physical activities that make me feel happy, rather than punishing myself with exercises that make me feel miserable before, during and after, like running (ewwww). So far Yoga, Weightlifting and dancing make my body happiest, so I decided to seek more exercises that left me sore but uplifted. I’ve contemplated taking a pole dancing class numerous times in the past, but never seriously. I can’t quite remember what finally pushed me to do it, but last Thursday I got a discount on Groupon and off I went to Inner Divas Studios in Austin. Here are 5 things I learned on my first class.
1. It is a judgment free zone
My first impression of the class is how supportive everyone in the class is, a sentiment shared by all my fellow students. The class in a no judgment zone in which everyone is cheering you whenever you are hesitant to try a move and high fives are abundant whenever you nail a spin. I was thankful to be immersed in that type of environment for a class most likely to make a person feel self-conscious. Stephanie, one of my instructors, said she started pole dancing when she was almost 300 pounds and pole dancing was one of the exercises where she felt the least judged and she went from 2 classes a week to 3-4 classes per week because she loved it so much.
2. There is nothing sexy about pole dancing
When I told friends that I was trying pole dancing for the first time, the general assumption was that I was trying to get my sexy on. “Bust out the clear heels Dany! I see the freaky side of you is coming out”. Unleashing my freaky side isn’t the goal of this class. I really wanted to try pole dancing because since I started yoga, I’ve discovered the extraordinary things that the body can do if you are bold enough to try. My flexibility and strength are the highest they’ve ever been, as is my love for my body. Certainly a higher confidence in one’s sensuality would be an inevitable by-product of the classes, but trust me when I tell you that looking or feeling sexy will be the last thing on your mind when you begin. Firstly, you will feel awkward like a fish flapping about on shore, because everything is new and most likely unlike anything else you’ve ever tried before. Secondly, you are much too focused on trying to figure out a move to even worry about whether you look sexy while you’re doing it. You have to about the position of your arms on the poles, where to put one leg, how to gain momentum for a spin. Tell how sexy you feel when you are trying to suspend your body in mid-air for the chair spin. But I must say though, you will feel incredibly proud once you get something right. Maybe not sexy (yet), but proud indeed.
3. You will get beat up
After I got done with the class, I felt like I got a fight and someone used a bat to hit my legs and arms, and crushed my fingers. Very much like a mafia beat down for owing money to a drug lord. Ok that’s an exaggeration but I promise you, you will feel pain in places you didn’t know you had muscles, even before you leave the class; then expect to feel sore for at least 3 days after. Even my experience instructor Keely, got a callus that opened on her hand while she was showing us a move. Need I tell you how incredibly painful those are? I won’t even tell you about the bruises on your legs and your arms and…oh man does everything hurt!
4. You will get addicted, so enroll at your own risk.
While I do mention the cautionary tale of sore muscles, fingers in pain, bruised legs and egos, I promise you that you can’t wait to go back to the class. Immediately after I got home, I sat down in front of my laptop and used my bruised fingers to search for another deal on groupon so I could purchase a ten-class-deal and return to Inner Divas Studios and discover the powerful things one can do with the body. I am on my 3rd class now, still in pain, still bruised, but in awe of what my body can do.
5. You will appreciate your body in a way you may not have before
This awe for your body is something that develops on the very first class. I can’t tell you how madly you will fall in love with your body because of pole dancing. My instructor Keely would agree with me, as she had never been fond of her body because she was heavier in the beginning. She started pole dancing because she wanted a challenge, to feel more confident and get stronger. That is exactly what she got but what was unexpected for her is the deep appreciation she developed for her body that had nothing to do with your aesthetics. “I didn’t like my body” she said, “but the skills I learned in pole dancing made me see how much my body can do. I am stronger than I thought, I have long legs that make my moves easier and look great”. Keely Started pole dancing in 2012 and she’s already gained enough skills to participate in national competitions, two of which she’s won and placed 2nd for at least 3 of them. Stories, like Keely’s are abundant in our classes, where you get people with all kinds of shapes and ages. And trust me when I tell you that age and body type are no indication of the level of skill and strength the person has. Did I mention my instructor who used to be 300 pounds. I just love that. A class that shatters your ideas of fitness and body shape, challenge you physically and make you fall in love with yourself? Are you sold yet?
Aside from Yoga, pole dancing is one of the most fun and challenging things I’ve done with my body and I am more and more appreciative of all the things it can do. If you’ve ever thought about trying a pole dancing class, I encourage you wholeheartedly to go ahead and do it.
Isabelle Masado writes about body compassion on her blog "The Dear Body Project". She knows all too well that the personal is the political, is the community. As such, there is no discussing body compassion without talking about the assault on black bodies, trans women, and people with disabilities. Her mantra is, "How can I live in a way that makes room for you too"? She writes to examine, to heal, to redeem.