my bodyHaving always been involved in some form of physical activity, be it now pole, yoga, or athletics and hockey back when I was younger, I have gained a fairly thorough but basic knowledge of anatomy.

I know that the hamstrings are the large muscles at the back of my thigh. I know that I have calves, quads, three types of glutes, hip flexors, psoas, etc. etc.


In more recent times I have learned about fascia, the tissue that is almost like a second skin surrounding the muscles, tendons, and joints. Fascia can be released through massage and foam rolling, which is an amazing way to begin stretching or soothe muscles after a performance!

I know that protein helps you build muscles, and severe DOMS can keep you away from another workout for days!

But it wasn’t until I tore both hamstrings (a misadventure from 2013), and started doing my own research into flexibility and how the muscles, tendons, and joints function collectively, that I began to understand how my body works. And, perhaps more importantly, how my body needs to work together.

Take this exercise from StudioVeena (one of my favourite forums for all things pole related!).

Veena explains:

“This exercise may not look like much but it’s important and helpful, in understanding the scapula and how to properly engage during training for pole or aerial work. If you are new to this exercise the movement may be very small, the more you practice the better control you’ll have. Avoid raising the shoulders up the ears, keep them down and trapezius relaxed.”

After you Google where your scapula and trapezius are, please take heed of another avoidance warning.

Avoid flaring the ribs, articulating the motion from the shoulders and not from the chest and back.

It took me about 5 re-tapes to finally get a consistent shot of me doing the exercise properly. I was transfixed! Why did my version not look like Veena’s? And after unpacking the motion, turns out it was rib flare. Caused by what? By not activating through my abdominal muscles.

This was a revelation to me that my shoulders were connected to my abs! It makes sense now, of course I need to stabilise my torso as I articulate my shoulders back and forth. I need to keep balanced! But my body also seems to have the bad habit of flaring my ribs and arching through the lower back, keeping me balanced, but compensating for each other’s bias.

And this is the crux! I could articulate my shoulders further backwards if I allow the movement to continue through my chest and abdominals. This movement when viewed from the side would create a curve, starting at the top of my back, coming forward over my sternum, continuing across flared ribs, and exiting my body as it arches through the lower back.

But a more stable movement, and one that will actually support shoulder strength and mobility, is one that isolates the movement to the area of the shoulders and upper back. For now, it may look less impressive. But for the longevity of my body (particularly my lower back!) it’s a step in the right direction.