Following on from my article about falling safely, I have been thinking a lot recently about dancing safely.
For nearly a year now I have subscribed to The Dance Training Project run by Monika, who works mainly with traditionally trained dancers for rehabilitation and conditioning. Although not specific to pole, I have found her comments about injury prevention, body work, and cross training, so helpful in my own practice. It is called pole “dancing” after all!
Recently, Monika released an article titled Dance Like a Human, commenting on what dance training really does to our bodies, fundamental movement patterns, and injury prevention.
“What happens when you work solely on pointing your toes, extending your back, and stretching your adductors so you can kick yourself in the head, but you never make time for the complimentary pattern?”
In yoga, it is considered best practice to compliment back bends with forward bends, inversions with child’s pose. A shoulder stand sequence includes a series of counter poses – shoulder stand, plough pose, fish – ideally all held for equal amounts of time.
In pole, this is not always the case. You might only have an hour or two to practice at home, so you attempt trick after trick and then rather spend time cooling down and stretching you quickly scrub the Dry Hands off your hands, get dressed and walk out the door.
We are told to train both sides, but how many of us attempt it once, get half way through the trick and bail because of virgin skin pole burn?
Evidence of this is all over. Crazy purple pole kisses from tricks attempted over and over. Shoulder injuries, hip injuries, and students arriving to the studio with their strapping tape coordinated with the colour of their polewear.
So what would “counter poses” look like for pole dancers? Beyond a stretch and cool down, what can we do to make sure our bodies stay in balance and injury free?
Coming from a yoga background I would suggest, if your training involved lots of back bends – ballerinas, cocoons, crescent moons and brass bridges, counter these poses with some forward bends off the pole – seated forward bends, wall assisted forward bends, and some spinal twists. Don’t forget to breathe deeply into the upper, middle and lower back in these poses and remember to lengthen and extend.
In my experience, over training can also cause many issues. Attempting these moves day after day can wreak havoc on your body, and rather than help you achieve your goals may set you back even further. If your pole goals include jade splits, upright splits, and Russian splits remember to let your hamstrings and hip flexors have a few rest days per week. And ensure you are working on strengthening your glutes, hip flexors and surrounding muscles to create ongoing stability.
A final few words from Monika,
“To an untrained eye, I can make most movements look good. Most dancers can, too because that’s their job. “
“they [dancers] can mask their lack of fundamental movement quality with their impressive skills.”
You might be able to touch your foot to your head, but a cleaner and safer shape can come about with better technique.
Sarah Scott has just opened a Facebook group called Off the Pole, where she is aiming to share conditioning exercises to support a pole dancer body. For home polers and studio dancers, this is going to be such an asset to your dance training.
I am really looking forward to learning from Sarah Scott and making pole conditioning much more of a priority this year.
I’d love to know who you look up to and learn from to support a balanced pole practice. Comment here or tag me your training posts and let’s all dance stronger!