Sometimes the best way to overcome shyness is to take a big step out of your comfort zone. Why not go a bit further? Welcome to the wonderful world of pole dancing…
I’m not the shy little girl I used to be. I don’t hide behind my mum’s skirt at birthday parties any more. I don’t blush from head to toe whenever a boy speaks to me. I can even speak to a room of 100 people and not come out in a cold sweat. But in certain situations my timid 5-year-old self prevails. Recently I took her pole dancing…
Walking into the studio, I was anxiously anticipating a roomful of taut, tanned, sex sirens. A few of them were — but the majority were just ordinary looking girls. Girls of all ages, shapes and sizes were jumping and twirling, spinning and turning all over the place, creating the most jaw-droppingly awesome positions with their bodies.
I consider myself to be pretty fit. I do Pilates, work on my abs and run marathons. But pole dancing requires fitness on a whole other level. I quickly realised my upper body strength is abysmal. What have my arms been doing all my life? Hanging listlessly by my sides while my legs do all the work, apparently. Following my instructor’s effortless shimmy up the pole, in the manner of some exotic, hot pant-wearing monkey, my attempt failed miserably. Did this put me off? Hell, no — I like a challenge! Any further persuasion that pole dancers are true athletes was unnecessary.
(At this point, I should probably address the whole hot pant thing. You don’t have to wear them. Any type of shorts will do. But it’s really important that your skin comes into direct contact with the pole — see The Pain below — because otherwise you could end up slipping and sliding all over the place, risking serious injury. Believe me, everyone is too busy trying to gain the upper hand over the pole to be casting their eyes over your lumpy thighs or pasty skin. Another of my top pole dancing tips: don’t shave your legs before pole class. Stubble helps you grip!)
So my eyes were opening to the realities of pole dancing. So far, so good. Then came the pain. Oh my. The last time my arms displayed bruises like this was after 12 hours on a drip giving birth to my son. Every time I hooked my leg around the pole, it felt like the skin was being ripped from the back of my knee.
But you know what? Just like childbirth, there’s something kind of rewarding about pole pain. And after a few classes, I was only slightly aware of it and even found it strangely comforting. Like any physical challenge, the palpable effects on the body contribute to a real sense of achievement.
In terms of emotional and mental effects, I can’t recommend pole dancing enough. I skipped out of the studio on my bruised little legs, already looking forward to my next class. I knew it would take a long time and a huge amount of dedication, effort and patience to master the more difficult moves. But I genuinely felt as if I had made proper progress after only an hour.
Pole dancing enthusiast Sarah agrees: “Pole dancing has done so much for my self-esteem. My body is leaner and stronger, and I’m more flexible, but it’s what my body can do that’s important to me, rather than what it looks like. Knowing that it’s capable of great things is the biggest confidence booster.”
For me, the beauty of teasing that shy little girl out of her comfort zone is that you just never know when you’re going to find something that makes you feel incredible.
Find a pole dancing class in your area
- London: Elena Gibson’s Pole Dancing School; from £5 for a 30-minute drop in class
- Manchester: Body Barre; £50 for 3-week beginners’ bronze course
- Cardiff: Pole Twisters; 1-2-1 tuition £30 per hour, 60-minutes taster lesson £10
- Glasgow: Twirl N Tone Pole Dance Academy; pay as you go class £10 for 90 minutes
- Newcastle: Pole Angel; £5 for first lesson, £8 per lesson thereafter