My original perceptions of pole dancing and pole dancers were unfair stereotypes. I never saw the practice as an art form — just a sexy, somewhat slutty way to make quick money and/or get attention from men. And while my perceptions changed a long time ago, those first reactions to it still irk me from time to time. Now, I recognize why many people might still think the way I once did, but it is well past time for that to change.
Just watch the “Why I Dance” video, in which women who practice pole dancing express who they are and why they do it. Not surprisingly, none of the common, negative assumptions about the art form are mentioned.
The video was created as a result of a Kickstarter campaign back in 2014. Their purpose was “to challenge the status quo of what a woman should be. We want to empower women to define their sexuality for themselves. We want to encourage women to love their bodies. We want to celebrate that we have the freedom to do with our bodies what we choose.” When you watch it, you will see what a fantastic job they’ve done portraying this message. I definitely cried happy tears.
The 16 women in the video represent a wide spectrum of age, body type, race, ability, sexual orientation and profession, but they all have one thing in common — they love to pole dance. They dance to an original rendition of “Down in the River to Pray” which you can purchase to help support the California Women’s Law Center, which fights for social justice for women and girls.
As the video goes along, they introduce aspects of themselves and why they love this form of expression with words written on poster board. Some do it because they’re working through trauma:
Others do it simply because it makes them happy.
Whatever the reason, their work in the video is breathtaking, and if you ever had preconceived notions about pole dancing, this video will wipe them all away:
But empowerment is just one benefit (albeit a big one) of taking up pole dancing. Not only can it make you feel beautiful, strong and sexy (for yourself, rather than anyone watching) on the inside, it can have the same effect on the outside too. Here are eight ways pole dancing can improve your physical life (along with your emotional and spiritual lives).
1. Major calorie burner
Pole dancing is an exercise that requires constant use of multiple muscle groups at any given time, so the resulting calorie loss in 30 minutes is akin to swimming or intense aerobics. In fact, according to Weightlossresources.com, you can burn up to 250 calories in one pole dancing class. Not only are you always moving, you’re often holding your entire weight off the ground, which needless to say, is highly strenuous.
2. Builds and tones muscles
All that lifting your entire body off the ground will naturally lead to stronger, leaner muscles. Tracy Traskos, instructor of NY Pole, told Shape magazine, “…most of the exercises we do, like climbing the pole, are a lot tougher than doing biceps curls.” The combination of strength training, flexibility and endurance = crazy, all-over muscle tone.
3. Your flexibility will improve significantly
In order to even get on the pole, you have to go through a series of rigorous stretches to warm up the body, and make it more limber. Not to mention, backbends and splits are often incorporated into moves once on the pole, which absolutely increases one’s flexibility (not to mention balance and coordination). According to NineMSN, regular class attendance can improve overall posture and core stability. So if you’re like me, and you fall over when reaching for the gummy bears in a high cabinet, take note.
4. Great for joints, bones and staving off arthritis
All you women out there, if you fear bone loss and joint friction, start looking for classes in your area now. Unlike running or other aerobic exercises that involve constant contact with the floor, pole dancing keeps your joints in the air (for the most part). You’re also strengthening your muscles in your hands by holding the pole, so carpal tunnel and arthritis can be greatly reduced there, according to Arthritis Today.
5. Crazy confidence boost
If you stick with it, you’ll eventually be able to do some pretty sweet gymnastic moves a la an Olympian. This will no doubt take your confidence levels through the roof, and perhaps encourage you to try other, seemingly intimidating activities you thought you could never do before. Christi Roman, owner of Studio Health and Fitness in Michigan, says “the pole dance and also new chair dance classes, for women only, are a great way for her clients to feel sexy and confident while building upper body and core strength.”
6. Better sex life
And if you’re more confident in all aspects of your life, chances are that includes the bedroom. You might be more willing to try some new moves, or just feel better about showing off your body. Either way, everyone will appreciate the change — trust me.
7. Stronger abs make for easier pregnancy and labor
Less pain during pregnancy and labor? Sign me up! Doctors and specialists often say a strong core is the key to an easier birth process, but it can also help with back pain while you’re pregnant. “If you go into pregnancy with strong abdominals, you’re going to prevent back problems, have an easier time pushing during labor, and recovery is going to be better,” says Julie Tupler, R.N., co-author of Lose Your Mummy Tummy. Since pole dancing is all about using your core to hold you up, it’s a great way to build up and tone all the muscles in your stomach.
8. You’ll sleep better
If you’re working out regularly, you will tax your body just enough, which will then release endorphins that help you relax and leave you to enjoy deep, nurturing sleep. If you enjoy your workout (as you’re bound to with something fun like pole dancing), chances are you’ll stick to it, which will help keep you on a regular sleep schedule, aka, you’ll pass out as soon as you hit your pillow. Sounds pretty nice, right?
Images: Why I Dance Film/Vimeo