Mindfulness & Pole Dancing

mindfulness&poledancingblog

Last year I talked on this blog about how and why most of our New Year resolutions don’t work. You can read it here, if you’re interested, but what it all came down to was this: resolutions suggest a change needs to be made and that you are somehow not good enough.

This year I want to offer you a different resolution to implement not only in your pole classes, but your everyday. To start the year off right and set yourself up for success, I want to talk about how including mindfulness practices into your pole work will help you get the most out of each session.

 


Mindfulness in its most technical form is defined as “a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.” More plainly, mindfulness is being fully aware of what is happening in the present moment.

But Emily, aren’t we always aware of what’s happening in the present moment? Well yes, but there is a little more to it than that.  

Mindfulness is typically known as a form of meditation but can be practiced literally anywhere at anytime. Among its theorized benefits are “self-control, objectivity, affect tolerance, better memory retention, enhanced flexibility, equanimity, improved concentration and mental clarity, emotional intelligence and the ability to relate to others and one's self with kindness, acceptance and compassion” according to the American Psychological Association.

As well, inn recent years, scientists have found associations between mindfulness and physical health, especially in terms of weight control, as people who are mindful during meals tending to be less likely to gain weight. A few studies also have suggested that people who deliberately immerse themselves in the feeling of moving and in their environment are more likely to exercise again.  

For me, I can see these things benefitting my pole training in several positive ways. Besides the obvious potential of better flexibility, thinking more kindly about myself means less insecurity about my bodys’ looks and abilities. It means fully appreciating the difficult things my body is achieving each time I go to class and increased focus means I am more likely to remember what I have been taught, future corrections, names of tricks and more.  Focussing on your body will help prevent injury or overworking, and will help keep you safer while completing tricks and in recovery. By being fully present, I can enjoy every moment of each class and feel more fulfilled with each workout.


How do I practice mindfulness during class?

 

1.    Breathe

Your breath is key in not only practicing mindfulness but your pole workouts in general. Steady and even breathing efficiently fuels your body with the oxygen it needs to complete the physical tasks required for pole and to keep your muscles moving. The repetitive inflow and outflow of your breath creates a rhythm that can help anchor you into the present moment and help you push through some of poles more difficult tricks.

 

2.    Feel your body

Before starting class, take inventory of how you’re feeling. Do you have pain or discomfort? How is your energy level? Have you eaten recently? By doing this, you’re connecting yourself to your body and you’re then able to make the right choices for yourself at that moment. By being fully aware of your body, you’ll better be able to prevent injury and strain and you’ll start to feel all the muscles hard at work and realize how strong you really are.

 

3.    Notice your environment

Studio Chic offers a relaxing and bright environment to enjoy your workout, so use this to your advantage! Enjoy the lights, warmth, colours and the people around you by taking note of what you see, feel and smell. By grounding yourself to your surroundings, it’s easier to remain in the moment.

 

4.    Slow down

I know you are super excited about pulling off this move (and I am too!) but sometimes its important to slow down during your class. Take a moment to breathe between each trick attempt. Remember that you set this time aside specifically for YOU, so give yourself permission to enjoy it. Use this moment to remember why you are here. Take your time with each movement, particularly strength training exercises. Focus on your form and your posture which will improve your pole technique over the long term.

 

5.    Correct your posture

Posture affects every move you make. Through correct posture you create the optimal spinal alignment for any physical activity. Posture is especially key in pole for all the back and shoulder work required. Remember, shoulders down and back! (You'll thank me later)



6.    Think kindly about yourself

Studio Chic is already a judgement-free zone, but the worst culprit of body shaming is always ourselves! Make the studio your safe space from your own head and leave the self criticisms at the door. Make it a goal to no longer shame your body for what it can’t do and doesn’t look like, and instead celebrate it. If you nail a trick, give yourself a pat on the back. If you fail at something, give yourself a pat on the back for trying and go again! Your body and mind are accomplishing some pretty amazing things and you should be proud. If you wouldn't say it to your friend, don't say it to yourself.

 

7.    Talk to your instructor

Struggling with a move in class? Having an off day?  Thinking too much about negative things? Talk to your instructor! Studio Chic instructors are a wealth of knowledge and motivation when it comes to getting the most out of your pole class. They are there for you, never judge and want to see you succeed but they are not mind-readers. Speak up!

 

8.    Set a goal or intention

Setting an intention or goal at the beginning of your workout will set you up for success by helping you focus on what you’re doing. By breaking down your large goals into smaller ones, you are more likely to accomplish them. For example, instead of saying “I want to be more flexible this year”, say “I am going to challenge myself during our stretch today.” Your goal can even be as simple as “finish this class”, it’s totally up to you!

 

9.    End on a good note

Remember all the good things about the workout you just did and take note of how good it feels when you’re done, either physically, emotionally or both! Give yourself time to cool down and take time to stretch the muscles you worked. If you can, take a moment to lie down at the end of the workout for one last deep breath; you earned it.

 

10.  Write in your pole journal

Write in your pole journal noting things you learned, challenges you faced, goals for next class or even just that you had a fun class! It is very satisfying to review your journal later and see all the progress you’ve made. Writing is also a mindfulness activity in itself. By writing down your experience from that day, you are remembering and valuing each moment and being present during the time you're writing.

 

In conclusion, on top of all your wonderful pole and personal goals, I challenge you to give yourself the gift of presence this year and be in the moment. Happy New Year #polefam!

 

Until next time,

 

Emily

GWN Pole Competition: My First Competition

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Exactly one week ago today I hit the stage at my very first pole dancing competition, the Vertical Love Great White North Pole Competition (GWN). Myself, along with 16 others from Studio Chic, performed and placed in a variety of categories from pole, to chair and groups. I think I speak for most of us when I say that the main inspiration for signing up for this competition came from SC Instructor Suzy and I think a quick thank you is in order for that! Thanks for pushing us all to sign up, it was a great learning experience and so much fun!

My motivation for signing up mainly comes from the fact that I love performing. Though I do not have a dance background, I love putting together my own pieces and executing my vision on stage. My main goal was to make it through my entire routine without forgetting any of my choreography. This is something I have always struggled with and I am happy to report that I accomplished that goal at GWN!


PREPARATION

Competition preparation started for me around four months ago when I began narrowing down my songs. I listened to my choices intently and created themes/storylines for all of them. Once I finally decided which one I loved the most, I started to think about which tricks I wanted to feature in my routine. When I started doing this I began to realize that I had not learned any new tricks in a long time and wanted to challenge myself further by adding a few new ones to my repertoire. I proceeded to book a few private lessons to clean up old tricks and learn a few more. By doing this, I was able to add a few tricks such as the Shooting Star, Thigh Hold, and Knee Hang, and put new combos together that I’d never done before such as Bow & Arrow to Butterfly. If you can spare the extra cash or catch a Studio Chic Sale, I would highly recommend signing up for a few private lessons every now and then. The special attention and corrections you get are so helpful in furthering you in your pole journey and giving you lots of things to work on during practices whether you are preparing for a performance or not.

Two months out from the big day, I sort of fell off the competition train and became highly un-motivated to continue training and finish my choreography. August’s SC Blog post covered that exact topic and discusses some of the tactics I used to get myself back on track. What really helped was a concerned phone call from a friend to get me to finish that choreography and I was off to the races. Due to my lack of motivation, I had lost a little strength and flexibility, as well as time, for the competition. I refocused on my main goal of completing and memorizing my choreography and spent the majority of my effort focussing on that. I work best using choreography sheets such as the ones I made for this competition. Lyrics, time markers, spin/static pole marks and trick notes all help keep my vision on track along with video recording my choreography over and over. I would recommend choreo sheets to anyone who is an organization snob like me. 

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LEADING UP TO THE COMPETITION

Tuesday before the competition I did my final run through so that I could rest in the days leading up to the competition and finish my preparation on a high note. I tried my best to eat well, stretch and go to bed early for the rest of the week. On competition day, I packed my bag with essentials like my costume, dry hands, headphones and a few extras like safety pins, a snack and double sided tape. My hubby and I hopped in the car to head to the early rehearsals at the venue Bay City Music Hall in Hamilton, ON. The organizer of the competition, Fran, allowed time for each performer to run their routine on stage before the show to get a feel for the poles and the size of the stage. To save my energy (and my best performance for last!) I opted to just mark my choreography out, instead of performing each trick. I would recommend this going forward to anyone who performs in the future as I really think it makes a difference. We spent the rest of the day applying makeup in our cars and killing time until stage time!

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COMPETITION

For the record, I competed in the Entry/Amateur category at GWN and there was a three points of contact minimum requirement for everyone in our category. I learned that there would be five judges critiquing our performances who came from a variety of different backgrounds ranging from ballet to pole. Scoring would be done based on the Benchmark System meaning the first person to perform in each category would be the “benchmark” and each performer thereafter would have points added or deducted based on the benchmark score.

Being the second category on stage, I chose to stay in the green room until my stage time. I tried to stay warm, stretch a little and not freak out. The time seemed to drag on forever! I listened to my song, “Human (Acoustic)” by Jon Bellion over and over, running the choreography in my head. I tried to stay hydrated, but not too hydrated (haha!) and before I knew it, it was my turn to hit the stage. Here's a picture of my beautiful costume on stage!

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WHAT I LEARNED & WHAT’S NEXT


I learned a lot from my performance. Firstly, my mom makes great costumes.  I came to her with a vision for a Monarch and she made it come to life. You do not have to pay hundreds for a costume with a little imagination and some time. I paid around $75 for everything to make my costume

As for my scoresheets, I learned that Theme + Musicality are my strong points, the biggest thing I need to work on is my Flexibility. Though I did not place, I am so proud of myself for remembering all of my choreography and delivering a performance that was truly me. I learned that keeping myself motivated is really important when preparing for a competition and that practicing by myself is not always the best solution. Most importantly, it may be a competition, but I am really only competing against myself. As for what’s next? I will definitely be performing again and I have a lot to improve on in my pole journey.


Over the weekend, our Studio took home a number of awards. Not surprisingly, every single winner from SC is an Instructor!

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MASTERS DIVISION
First Place - Christie
2nd Place - Kelly

PRO DIVISION
2nd Place - Suzy

GROUP DIVISION
1st Place - Sam

RAZZLE DAZZLE
1st Place - Suzy

ESSENTIALS DANCE
3rd Place - Heather

PEOPLE'S CHOICE 
Heather - Essentials
Sam - Group Division


I wanted to say congratulations to the entire pole family on a fantastic competition! To all those that performed, won, attended, and cheered us on from a far, I am so thankful to have a support system like Studio Chic. I think I can confidently say that our Studio Chic #polefamily won the Spirit Award over the weekend! A special shout out to our pole mamas, Andrea and Tracey, who brought a stemmed rose for every single performer. We all felt so much love <3 Congratulations to all!

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Day at the Beach (July 2016)

For this month's blog post, we wanted to share some great shots and photo highlights from our recent trip to the beach with our pole family! We had a fantastic day in Port Stanley, ON with the sun shining bright. We partnered with our friends at Sport in Port and spent the day poling, hooping, paddle boarding and having fun!

Enjoy a few of our favourite shots from the day!

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Instructor Spotlight - Kelly

We are so excited to share our first Instructor Spotlight with you all, featuring SC Instructor Kelly! Kelly teaches pole, chair fit and cardio hoop at Studio Chic and has been pole dancing for over eight years. Watch our video to learn more about the FABULOUS Kelly!

Pole Performance Workshop

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Join Melanie Irene, Canada's National Semi-Pro Champion in her exclusive workshop made just for dancers interested in taking their pole practice to the stage. Students will learn how to plan a performance from how to choose music to how to compose choreography and everything in between. For those interested in competing, she will cover how competitors are judged and scored. Melanie will also share some tips on how to prep mentally and physically backstage and in the days leading up to your big day.

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