I start climbing upward, the pole wedged between my knee and my foot. Once I’m as high as I can go without kicking the ceiling, I swivel my hips to the front, flip upside down so that my butt is over my head, and grip the pole with my right knee. I push my arms outward, extend my legs, and drop, tumbling downwards in a dramatic fashion until I catch the pole with my opposite knee.
For a moment, I swear I was flying.
I’ve been pole dancing consistently for almost two years at this point, which in the grand scheme of things, isn’t an incredibly long time, but it’s weird to think about what I used to do before I frequented Incredipole multiple times a week. I started going during a period when I was very sad, very insecure, and wanted to explore an active hobby that made me feel good—after all, endorphins make you happy, as the great Elle Woods once said.
The problem? I didn’t really know how to work out in a healthy way. Former years dabbling with appetite suppressants, counting calories, then attempting to burn off said calories while feverishly pedaling on an elliptical put me in a place where I didn’t know what a happy medium felt like. When I started taking pole, I hadn’t engaged in that sort of destructive behavior in years, but the anxiety associated with going to the gym was very real for me.
But, I always admired the art of pole dancing, whether viewed through the lens of a pole athlete on social media or one of my repeat viewings of Showgirls. After I casually took a few intro classes at a different studio years before, I figured, why not pick it up? I’d certainly pale in comparison to the incredible dancers on my Instagram feed, but at the very least, I could attempt my best Nomi Malone impression.
My first class was conditioning, designed to teach students how to invert—a fancy way to say flip upside down on the pole. I couldn’t get my feet off the ground. The other students were far more advanced, yet supportive of my skill level. I left sore and bruised, dreaming to one day get to the level the other students seemed to live at, and so I went back the very next day.
Learning from different instructors and their own personal styles eventually helped me develop my own style, which is admittedly a work in progress, but then again, isn’t everything?
Never in my life have I met such a strong, supportive group of humans, and in addition to my newfound strength and fluidity, I have met some of my closest friends through pole classes. They physically support me in class, holding me in place to make sure my torso is stacked as I try that move I always have trouble nailing. They support me emotionally after class when the world can seem like too much. We catch one another when we fall, both in and out of the studio, and they’ve helped me to find the light within me I thought had burned out a long time ago.
So needless to say, the more classes I picked up, the more I started to see improvements. Small at first, I gradually noticed I was having less trouble accomplishing harder movements. My spins were getting smoother, climbing to the top was suddenly easier, and with the help of my lower ab muscles, could finally hoist my butt over my head to invert. Learning from different instructors and their own personal styles eventually helped me develop my own style, which is admittedly a work in progress, but then again, isn’t everything?
A couple of years in, there are moments when my instructors demonstrate a trick I didn’t even know was possible for the human body to do, and the excitement I feel when I can finally do it on my own is too real. Now, I’m much kinder to myself, I’m more in touch with my body, and I’m finally comfortable with my body because of pole.
I no longer care how flat my stomach is or isn’t because I’m more concerned with engaging my abs enough so that I can master the latest insane stunt in class. I’ve learned to be more attentive to my breathing when dancing, my body waves ebbing and flowing as I inhale and exhale. The calluses on my hands are a testament to my tenacity, while the bruises dotting my non-dominant appendages are a testament to my endurance. And most importantly, I’m much stronger than I’ve ever been before. All of which are fine by me.
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