To be completely honest, I didn’t think I was the “yoga type”. I went along my days, with what I thought was purpose, commitment and conviction. Until I met my friend Jessica in 2003, I didn’t think yoga would be a good use of my time or add value. As roommates, she talked about how yoga was a way of life as she had just completed her yoga certification. I listened but went about my days without change. The day came that she was going to teach yoga at a studio and she asked if I would help her with her classes. I obliged begrudgingly until we started. Every night for the next few months, I would “take” her class at home to test it out. The first few times were an effort but surprisingly, after that, came a new found appreciation. I was eager to do yoga at night – what was happening? It felt good and I couldn’t put my finger on it.
I continued to do yoga for a number of years and then I found my love for pole in 2008. I focused all my attention on this magical sport that I had made my own. As I achieved more and more in pole, I began to realize that my body was not performing at its optimal level. I began holding my breathe, stressing my body and muscles and my flexibility was at a standstill. I began to read about cross training for pole dancers and the benefits. It was then that it came full circle. Yoga worked every part of the body that I used in pole but in different ways.
The main benefits for anyone practicing yoga are learning how to breathe, increased flexibility and strength as well as balance and coordination. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve held my breathe doing a difficult pole move… everyone does it and sometimes I still do but practicing yoga helps me focus on my breathe. Holding your breathe instead of breathing through the entrance into a pole move hinders your ability to even do it. Many times you have heard your instructor remind you to breathe. You would think that is an easy fix to do on your own but it takes practice. Something done repetitively, is something that becomes second nature and yoga focuses on breathing each and every class.
On to flexibility; yoga has a way of moving you into poses that are beneficial not only for your flexibility but also your strength. A very simple example of this is Sun Salutations. It’s not a coincidence that we do a variation in my classes to warm up. I have a secret: I do five of them almost every morning when I wake up. It just starts my day off right! Yoga is a safe way to increase flexibility and the more flexibility you have in pole, the better your technique will be. I had an unfortunately injury in 2015 that has stunted my flexibility but yoga has helped me immensely. Even without these types of challenges, many people just chalked it up to not being flexible and that no amount of practice would help. I’m proof that working on it can and does help and yoga is one of the best ways to do it.
One of the biggest challenges in any sport is coordination. Coordination is a key skill in pole and any time you can practice slow, methodical movement, it helps greatly. Coordination is a skill that is learned through practice. It isn’t built into the DNA for some people and not others. The actual definition of coordination is ‘the ability to use different parts of the body smoothly and efficiently’. This skill cannot be more important than in pole. I notice it when I see a video of myself working on combinations. How many unnecessary movements am I doing? Can I reduce these points of contact to smooth out the transitions? Are my legs moving efficiently vis a vis my hands? Yoga is about thoughtful, efficient movement. It’s about flow and transitions. It is exactly what we strive to achieve in pole.
Balance is key, inside and out. We’ve all seen some yoga poses and thought to ourselves “I would tip over”. I still tip over but by practicing, I get better every time :). Even more important in my mind is the mental balance and connection you achieve in yoga. When life is chaotic, concentrating in class, slowing down your movement or even achieving greater goals is hard to do. When my head is not in it, I have a hard time performing. I love the relaxation, release and calm yoga gives me. I have yet to leave a yoga class not feeling rejuvenated and refreshed.
If you haven’t tried it before, or if you tried it a long time ago, try it again. I am a big believer in yoga, especially for us. It’s no coincidence that we offer it at Aradia as do many other pole studios in Canada and around the world. It compliments everything we do as pole dancers and it will help you get to the next level.