I was a yogi well before I came to pole dancing. Starting in 2005 in a backyard studio in Sydney’s outerwest, my partner and I found it an easy way to exercise regularly and incorporate a little bit of mindfulness into our day.
As we moved around Sydney, I found other studios to join, settling for a long time with Jivamukti Yoga in Newtown. Different to Hatha and Bikram, Jivamukti is a very dynamic practice. We explored handstands, headstands, and bound poses, and the studio ran regular immersion weeks. Like a retreat, we would do about 4-6 hours of physical yoga a day and investigate the yoga sutras as we learned about the history and theories of the practice.
It was around this time that I first fell in love with my body and what it could do. I wasn’t the strongest or the most flexible, but I found a grace in the vinyasa and a groundedness in in the body work and breath practices.
This year, I was able to reconnect with one of my favourite yoga teachers as he started teaching close by. Richard is a dancer as well as yogi and it made sense to return to his classes as a way to compliment my dancing.
A typical yoga class with Richard looks something like this –
- gentle stretching to limber the joints and bring movement in the body
- a series of sun salutations based on the traditional Surya Namaskar
- a focus on a particular series of postures – one legged balances, hand balancing,inversions, seated twists, even the splits!
- back strengthening and flex – including bow and wheel poses
- shoulderstand and headstand sequences
These classes incorporate all three elements of a great workout – cardio (when performed with breath practice), strength, and stretching, and gives you space to assimilate it all as you rest in Shavasana (corpse pose) at the end. All of these can support your pole dancing, making you stronger, more flexible, and more balanced.
A stronger core? Check!
Back strengthening and flexibility? Check!
Shoulder openers? Check!
Hip openers? Check!
Awareness of how your body moves through space? Check!
It’s great to have a teacher who adds their own touch to the traditional yoga sequences too. Many pole dancers started pole as they found other forms of exercise too regimented and boring. Try to find a yoga teacher who will throw some surprises in there.
The benefits also go beyond just strength and flex training. A great class leaves me feeling like I had a great massage all over. The increase in circulation and movement across my upper back and shoulders is amazing therapy after a week of pole dancing. The focus on alignment also irons out the kinks caused by the one sided bias of pole dancing too.
Take a look at the yoga classes on offer in your area, or check out some of the free videos online. One of the great aspects of yoga philosophy is that many teachers believe it should be accessible to anyone, meaning there are a great range of free, or very cheap, options available.
Further Reading – Everything You Need to Know About Yoga and Pilates