Caitlin Cantor LCSW, CST, CGT

Modern Sex

5 Ways Pole Dancing Can Improve Your Life

1. Celebrate your body as you are right now.

Posted Sep 28, 2016

Source: oneinchpunch/Shutterstock

When I first heard about pole dancing fitness classes, I was instantly intrigued. The naughtiness appealed to me, as so many naughty things do. I also loved the idea of dance-fitness classes because I love to dance but I have no dreams of ever becoming a professional dancer. A low-pressure, fun, dance-fitness environment sounded like a perfect fit!

Despite my interest, it was a while before I tried a class. I worried that I was too out of shape, too uncoordinated, too old or too weak to try something like pole dancing. I made up stories that people who did it had insane arm strength, backgrounds in dance, and were in great shape, none of which was true for me. It’s easy to make up stories when we’re thinking of trying something new, convincing ourselves not to go for it.

All of the stories I made up stemmed from fear and not from facts. I had not tried a class, not spoken to anyone who had, nor had I read anything about pole classes. Despite my fears and my very convincing stories, the urge to try pole dancing classes continued to get stronger.

I began to read about pole dancing. I read that people can begin pole classes regardless of size and level of fitness.  I read that you don’t need prior experience to try it. I decided to make these my new stories, thereby supporting myself in doing what I really wanted to do.

Soon enough, I showed up for my first beginner’s class at Pole Haus, a pole dancing studio around the corner from my office. At first, I felt nervous and unsure of what to expect. Sixty minutes and a LOT of sweat later, I was hooked!

It turned out that none of the negative stories I was telling myself were true. The beginner’s classes are meant for people with no prior experience. They’re a chance to build strength, not a place to go when you’ve already got it. People of all shapes, sizes and fitness levels attend. All genders are welcome at Pole Haus, though I know there are some studios that only allow women. At Pole Haus, there are both participants and instructors of all genders. Pole dancing, in general, is not just for women, and it’s a treat to have everyone participating together!

Pole dancing has become an incredibly important part of my life and general well-being. It provides a supportive space to move my body, to feel my body, and to celebrate my body, just as I am.

Movement is the opposite of being stuck. When we’re sad, depressed, anxious, and feeling stuck, our bodies manifest those emotions. Our bodies become tense, tight, and our breath becomes shallow. Movement becomes much more difficult, or can even stop. Pole classes provide a supportive space to move all parts of your body.

The more we move our bodies, the more we can move out of our stuckness; our depression; our anxiety. Movement is actually a tool or resource we can use to get un-stuck; to create space for energy and emotions to flow. We can move from a place of tension and tightness, to embodying feelings of joy, strength, and hope. 

For these reasons and more, pole dancing is empowering!

The following is a list of ways pole dancing can improve your life:

1. Celebrate your body as it is right now. Pole dancing classes provide a space to move your body and to enjoy how it feels to move, regardless of what you look like, or think you look like. When we feel good in our bodies, it’s easier to look at ourselves and like what we see. In pole classes, you get to look in the mirror while moving your hips and doing your dips, staring your imperfections in the face, and to think, wow, I look hot!

Some fitness activities focus on goals, and feeling better about ourselves if and when we reach them. This can lead us to focus on what we don’t like about our bodies, and keeps us from feeling good about ourselves today. Pole dancing classes are a chance to enjoy your body as you are right now.

2. Quiet your inner-critic. While dancing, you’re too busy moving, feeling, and focusing on choreography to pick yourself apart inch by inch. This makes being self-critical actually difficult. How many activities can we say that about?! It’s a fun way to practice being mindful, embodied, and present, and to give your harsh inner-critic a break! The more you practice being present and mindful when it’s easy (or at least easier because your mind is focused differently than usual), the more accessible mindfulness skills are when you need them the most.

3. Connect with your sensual self. Pole dancing classes give us a chance to get in touch with our sensual selves. This part of us can easily get pushed aside in our daily, fast paced, high pressure lives. Sometimes we forget we exist below our necks. We are all sensual beings. We all experience pleasure physically, deeply, and with all of our senses. When we intentionally take time to move our bodies, as we do in pole dancing classes, we make space for our sensuality to resurface; we connect with it, and can enjoy the way it feels to move, breathe, and to touch ourselves. When we don’t make space to connect with our sensuality and embrace it, we’re living our lives without acknowledging a huge portion of our experiences: our pleasurable physical experience. Without that, we miss out on a beautiful part of our humanity.

4. Live your own life. If you’re being held back because you don’t believe you’re in some way good enough to pole dance, you’re letting societal messages dictate how you live your life. As I shared in the beginning of this blog post, I did that for a while before getting beyond it. Choosing to try something that interests you, despite the stories you’ve been told about why you shouldn’t or can’t, is a way to truly live your life for yourself.  There are many role models who have been told they couldn’t do something, but decided they could anyway. You can be your own role model, and do something that you want to do, despite all the reasons you’ve been told you can’t (and all the reasons you’re telling yourself too!). 

5. Find community. When you begin pole dancing classes, you will probably take beginners classes, so you’ll be among fellow beginners. You’re all struggling the same way. You’re all worrying about the same things. You’re all facing similar stories that you’re telling yourselves or have been told. And, you’re all still showing up. Already, you have a lot in common. By going to pole dancing classes, you can meet new people, talk about techniques, talk about how people in your lives react to your interest in pole dancing, etc. When you find a place that you like to go, where the same people keep going, you get to know each other. It’s an opportunity for connection and to find community among fellow pole enthusiasts.

It’s important to note that pole dancing is just one vehicle that can help you connect more deeply with your authentic self, celebrate your body, connect with your sensuality and feel more alive. Pole dancing gives me what I need to do this, but it took me a long time to find my way there. For you, it may be a different form of dance, or perhaps it is yoga. I’ve tried other activities and enjoyed them, but ultimately it is pole dancing that does it for me.

If after reading this, you still don’t think pole dancing is for you, that’s ok! Finding what your vehicle is might be a process, just as it was for me. It is important to know that embracing yourself, in your entirety, as you are so far and right now, is vital to your well-being and quality of life. I highly recommend going on a journey to find what can become your practice, to regularly connect with your body and all parts of yourself, and to let those parts of you shine and empower you.