Pole is my therapy. I say this as a therapist who is also in traditional therapy. Traditional talk therapy is powerful, and yet sometimes we still feel stuck. Emotions are stored in our body and need to be released through movement. There’s a reason little kids kick their legs and clench their fists when they are upset – they are experiencing intense feelings and don’t know what to do. Their body reacts first. As we get older we learn how to manage those emotions better. Yet many adults simply learn to keep those emotions in. Those emotions continue to slowly build until they explode like a volcano – during a breakdown or a fight or maybe the body shuts down entirely and we get sick.
Many of us are stuck in a trauma response – fight, flight, or freeze. Notice how you feel during a dance freestyle – do you overthink and can’t move at all (freeze)? Do you give up entirely (flight) or do you push too hard, forcing yourself into shapes and moves that your body doesn’t want (fight)? What better way to get unstuck than letting those stored emotions flow out through ballerina twirls and fan kicks, bending and extending, opening and flowing? And yes, sometimes shaking a little a$$! What better way to feel empowered than getting physically stronger and conquering scary moves? Defy gravity and let go!
As someone who struggles with anxiety and chronic pain, pole dancing has been transformative. When I dance, it is one of the few times my anxiety lets me be fully present – letting go and living in the moment, trusting myself. Oftentimes, when we go through a traumatic experience or even a difficult time – a loss, a breakup, a setback – we lose track of ourselves. We do not trust others but even worse, we lose trust in ourselves. Pole dancing is how I regained that trust, a way to return to my body and listen to its signals. What is my body trying to tell me? Sometimes it tells me to slow down and rest. Other times it tells me you can do this hard thing!
My body often reacts to strong emotions by going into fight mode, resulting in immediate tension and long term chronic pain. By dancing and continuing to breathe and push through the pain, I rewire my brain, sending signals to my body that I am okay and we can do this. Climbing the pole was my first pole dancing accomplishment. It was challenging and my body was on the defensive, trying to protect me. Eventually I pulled myself up and out of the pain, out of being stuck. The feeling of accomplishment when I reached the top was empowering, and the support from my teachers and classmates was unmatched. I experience that same feeling with each new move I learn. I can feel and see my body get stronger, as I observe new muscles emerge along with the bruises. I am uplifted by the support of the pole community – women (and some men!) who encourage me and celebrate my wins as they dance alongside me on their own journey.
As the pole spins faster and faster and life gets more and more stressful, I learn to keep going. Focus on what’s right in front of me – hand to hand, leg to pole. I learn to embrace the ride, enjoy the journey, stop rushing through to the next move, the next trick. Stop overthinking, get out of my head, out of my freeze state. I do what feels natural in a freestyle flow, no thinking, just feeling the music and myself. As I get stronger, I release my hands from the pole upside down in an invert, letting go as my legs stay connected. I trust that my body will make up for the imbalance. I am strong enough to hold on, to keep going.
I move fluidly, let the emotions flow through me like water, arms extended gracefully, feet pointed, head and neck held high and proud. I melt into the floor and rise from the pain. I am powerful. I am learning and growing. I have hope. I accept the setbacks, take a break, and try again. I’m unstoppable. I leap and climb, kick and bend, spinning round and round, tuning out the noise around me. I catch myself smiling as I dance. It’s just me and the pole in this moment, the here and now. My work is heavy, the world is heavy, but in this moment I am light, weightless. I exhale, free from the pain, the stress, and the fear. I float through the air, fully present and at peace.
~ The Temptress, LMSW
@ P2P Staten Island Member