Those who know me personally know that I am practically obsessed with pole dancing. For me, pole dancing is the perfect blend of flexibility, strength, and grace. When I dance, I am celebrating my body through movement.
Besides being a fantastic physical workout, I have learned many spiritual lessons from pole dancing that I have applied to other parts of my life.
Lesson 1. Find your comfort zone and then stretch it.
In pole, we have the concept of “safety moves.” For example, you shouldn’t advance to tricks at the top up the pole until you’ve mastered the pole sit - a reliable way to rest when you’re up in the air.
Many of us have a love-hate relationship with our comfort zone – after all, “You HAVE to get yourself out there.”
While it is true that “getting yourself out there” is key to your personal development, it can also be important to embrace and honor your comfort zone. After you stretched yourself, you can have peace of mind that you can return to safety.
What does a “safety” zone look like in other parts of life? It's about taking calculated risks and being smart about how to advance to the next level. Perhaps it’s having a nest egg big enough before you decide to quit your job and start working for yourself. For weight loss, perhaps it’s setting a minimum goal, so easy that you know you will meet it and it won’t trigger your brain’s deprivation mode (e.g. limit sweets to 1x a day instead of giving them up cold turkey). If you’re uncomfortable with working out at the gym, perhaps you could find some at-home work outs until you build up your confidence.
The truth is once you’ve mastered the next level, it will become your new “comfort zone.” For example, once regular exercise becomes a habit, if you skip a day, you may even find yourself feeling restless and uncomfortable!
Lesson 2. Love your body as it is today.
On some days, I feel incredibly strong and want to do inversions all day long. On other days, I just want to lie in the Savasana pose (corpse pose). Your body is changing everyday. Show it love with what it needs today.
What I love about the pole is that it encourages you to love your body no matter what shape or size you are. After all, no amount of hating yourself will get your butt up that pole - so you better work! Don’t put off that dream just because your body isn’t where you want it be now. Pretty soon, you gain strength and you’ll be amazed at what you can do. (There is also often a mysterious thing that happens when you fill your life with what energizes you and brings you joy. A lot of people find that they start to lose weight naturally).
Lesson 3. Rest and self-care are just as important as exercise.
This has been a BIG lesson for me in 2016 when overworking and over-exercising led to my emotional burnout and injury. For you type-A overachievers, who believe that they always need to be DOING something, listen up. Part of truly loving your body and yourself is to LISTEN. It’s equally important to schedule rest from exercise. It’s also equally important to schedule some fun and relaxation from work to avoid burnout.
Lesson 4. Find a great community.
The pole community is such an amazing group of women. Besides being physically strong, these women are incredibly intelligent and diverse. It’s part of the reason I come back to class every week. I am fortunate to call Pole Fitness Seattle my pole family back home.
As humans we are social creatures – part of what makes us both fulfilled and productive is having a group of like-minded individuals. So whatever your goal is, find a community to support you. Get a coach, a mentor, join a weight loss group. You may find that you’ll go further together than you ever did alone.
Lesson 5. Do what you love and forget those who judge and criticize.
Even though pole is becoming more popular, it still has a stigma. We cannot deny much of its influence and origins from the strip clubs. It was not until recently that I started to embrace the sexy side of pole. “I do pole but the acrobatic type,” I would say to those who asked. After speaking to other polers, I recognized I too was placing judgment on other women when speaking in this way. I believe that we as individuals are free to express our creativity and femininity in any way they choose. I now embrace pole for all its influences – Chinese pole, Indian pole, and Strip Club pole. Without these influences, pole dancing would not be sport and art form it is today.
Polers still have to deal with the judgment and criticism from others, who say the art is demeaning to women. To this, I say that I dance because I love to dance. No one is forcing me, nor do I feel I am lowering my standards in order to please anyone else. Frankly, all the benefits (physical, social, mental) that I get from pole outweigh any negative opinions other people have.
In any endeavor, you will have the people who support you and others who judge you. Frankly, they can judge your life by their own beliefs but at the end of the day, you get to own how you live it. Do what brings you joy. Life is too short not to!
Lesson 6. Comparisons are great to show you what’s possible. Compare yourself to yourself week by week so you can celebrate your progress.
It’s easy to beat yourself up by comparing your progress to others when doing pole. “I should be further along by now!” As mentioned above, this type of thinking led me to overexert and injure myself - leading to a 6-month hiatus due to injury!
It’s important to honor where you are on your own journey. There will always be people “better” than you in something and likewise “worse” than you in something at work, in losing weight, etc. It’s easy for this type of thinking to let you down. I invite you to think of comparisons in a different way. Competition is a way to show you what is possible and inspire you to bigger and greater things. After all, it was once believed that a 4-minute mile was impossible; however, once the first man broke this record, hundreds of others followed. Let your “competition” inspire you to reach higher – then compare yourself today to yourself last week to measure your progress.
After all, at the end of the day, what is it that you truly want? Is it really to be the best for the sake of being the best? Or is to obtain your end goal in a way that is sustainable and in alignment with yourself (weight loss, fulfillment, etc.)?
Lesson 7. Pole is a practice. Everything is a progression. Trust the process and learn to enjoy each step.
I have been poling for almost 2 years now. I remember when I first started that I would stand in awe of the girls doing tricks up in the air, thinking, “I could never do that!” Week after week, I would practice and get stronger until one day I had mastered each move. First it was the back hook spin, then a basic climb, an inversion, and now putting combinations together.
Everything in life is a progression from building a business to losing weight. Many of us fall into the trap of wanting gratification too soon. Yet if we can trust the process and do the work each week, one day, we will be able to look back and be amazed by how far we have come.
If you are a poler like me, what do you think about what I shared? Are there any spiritual lessons that you relate? Are there other spiritual lessons you have learned from pole that I did not include? Or if you're not a poler, do you have an activity that you love that has also taught you lessons beyond the activity? I would love to hear below.