Believe Me When I Say…
Nobody wants to be the person that accidentally implies that someone else is fat.
(If you do, you miiiiight be an asshole.)
Now, we could have an entire discussion just about the concept of being fat, what constitutes it, how it becomes a means to shame others, etc. That’s not really what this post is about, or why I’m writing it, but it is an important conversation.
Let me back up a moment. During last night’s class, I tried to do the New Hot Trick (TM), called a Superstag or Gargoyle. And, I couldn’t. After numerous attempts in which I could not reach my top foot for the necessary lock, and trying to figure out the issue, it came down to me realizing that I simply could not flatten myself against my thigh enough to reach the foot.
Why? Because I carry extra weight.*
I have boobs. I have weight around my middle. Now, I’m not really plus-sized (I’m a Middler, between straight sizing and plus, at a 10/12), and I’m not really someone who carries all of my weight in my middle (not an apple, so to speak). I’m more hourglass with a bit of pear. So, I don’t think most people would look at me and think that this would be an issue in my forward fold, but it absolutely is.
In the move, I can get my chest to my leg, but the weight – the boobs, the tummy – block me from flattening. I have a good few inches of flesh in the way from squashing in enough to get to the foot.
When I tried explaining this to my instructor, she insisted it was something else, and I hit this wall of frustration. I’m still trying to unpack why, but I think I have it:
A) It’s very frustrating to not get a trick, especially one that seems like it could work for you.
B) It’s upsetting to recognize that your body is a contributing factor – and that it is something that you could, maybe, change…which makes it feel like it’s more your fault, like you’re more of a failure.
C) It’s distressing when people don’t believe you.
I think the reason why people automatically don’t believe me when I say that I have extra flesh that gets in the way is because we are (generally) conditioned to be nice. That is, nobody wants to be the person who implies that someone else is fat (or heavy, or carrying extra weight, or whatever). This is true to the point that people will outright avoid even acknowledging it, which in a weird way, almost feels worse than someone just saying, “Oh, you know, maybe that’s an issue.” Or maybe it doesn’t feel worse – I’ve never had anyone acknowledge it, and that might really suck, too!
It’s also sometimes hard to tell what is an excuse for an excuse’s sake, or what’s an excuse because it is truth (aka a reason), and that puts people in an awkward situation. So a lot of well-meaning denials occur.
It took me sitting on the floor, demonstrating that my chest and torso were fully against my leg, and that I couldn’t go any further, for my instructor to consider it for a bit. And, because she is an excellent instructor who works very hard to find variations and adjustments for people of all body types, she listened, asked questions, allowed me a space to feel heard and accepted, and we talked about possible variations to help me get it. I’m exceedingly grateful for her and the way she teaches – I know that many, many other instructors would not have done this, nor created a space the safely talk about it. I was moments away from crying in class, and probably would have gone out to my car and cried all the way home, had she not taken a moment to listen to me.
If you’re an instructor, and you have a student who has this issue, consider listening to them and working with them to find a solution/variation/alternative. Denying it does little, but listening? It can mean the world to your student.
*Now, to be fair to my instructor, she was right in a way: it’s not JUST that I have extra weight. I also am blessed with a long torso! Which is great sometimes, but when it comes to trying to reach my average arms down the length of my body to my feet in the way that is required for this move…it’s not so great. I joke about having T Rex arms, but it’s not really so much that I have short arms, as that I have a long torso and weird, limited flexibility. So, all of these things combined with my extra padding added up to me not getting this trick.
Tulip and Shoulder Mount Bomb
It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, in part because I’ve been busy with life. In the last two months, I moved out of the apartment I had lived in for 9 and a half years (and in with my boyfriend), donated the car I’d had for almost 10 years (which I drove cross country during my move to LA), and I had a birthday. It’s been a big time of change, which has been great! Things are still evolving, too, so my brain has been all over the place. I haven’t had the funds to go to my home studio, so I’ve been using my stash of groupons to float around to other classes and studios. As such, I’ve gotten a chance to check out three other studios (two of which I had been to before, but it was interesting to visit again), but the change in my routine was a bit disruptive at first. However, I stumbled upon a class that I ended up loving, and since it’s the studio where I had the largest groupon, it’s been great – I’ll have my fourth class next week, and I am super excited about what we might be doing in it. I hope to get some time to write reviews of the different studios, but in the meantime, here are a couple of things I’ve worked on recently:
I saw this trick on Instagram (it’s like the secret society of pole dancers – everyone posts photos of tricks and offers advice to other polers on how to do them), popping up on the feeds of some of the people we follow through Poleitical Clothing‘s account. It’s a bold trick in terms of how it looks, but it’s not hard – just takes a little creative manipulation to get into it. I’ll include my description of how I get into it, but first, here’s the photo of me in the trick:
So, this is how I get into the Tulip:
- Invert to an outside knee hang (also sometimes called a butterfly hook) and stand up over it – this is how we describe the climb up to the position from where you could go into a superman or a jasmine, or continue to climb to do another invert of some kind. To explain the movement: from the knee hook, you’ll sit up and put your bottom hand on the pole below your knee hook, to push for leverage (I usually put it about parallel to my bottom hip) and put your top hand above the knee hook, to pull up. So, your head should then be above your upper leg, and you can use the front of the lower thigh as a lock by placing it against the pole as a grip.
- Moving on…from the sit up over your knee hook, swing your bottom leg down and place the bottom of your foot on the pole, bottom leg straight and pointing to the floor while keeping your hands and upper knee hook in place. Once this is secure, you can remove the bottom arm to pose in a Cupid (also called a Star in some circles). If you have a super duper strong knee hook, you can remove the top hand, too, and just grip with the knee/stabilize with the bottom foot while keeping your core tight – it takes a lot of strength and balance, so only do it if you’re sure you can handle it, or if you have a spotter.
- So, from the Cupid, I move into what we were calling the Devil’s Point, but I think people are calling it a Genie, too – you’ll reach back down between the legs to grab the pole again (and, if you’ve kept your upper hand on the pole, you’re all set – if not, grab the pole again above the upper knee). Once your hands are secure, and keeping that upper knee locked around the pole, you’ll remove the bottom foot and swing it in front of the pole, securing the pole in your bottom knee pit. Your knees should now be mirror images of each other, both gripping the pole, bottom hand gripping between the knees, upper hand still above the upper knee.
- From the Devil’s Point, you then reach your bottom arm between the pole and your crotch and secure an elbow grip with that arm – your arm will loop around the pole so that your hand is headed toward your face. Once that is locked, and keeping your knee grips solid, remove your upper hand and repeat the same elbow hook for the upper arm.
- Both arms should now be loop around the pole, hands pointed toward your face on the outside/front of the pole. Crossing the arms at the wrists seems to provide extra support. Now, you are ready to extend your legs to complete the trick! Press the backs of your knees against the pole while arching your back – you have to arch and stick your butt out a bit in order to get the extension to work and look pretty! Otherwise, you’ll end up with bent spider legs, especially if you aren’t super bendy.
- Once you extend the legs, you’re in it! Get a picture! To get out, simply re-grip your knees, and you can choose how to come out of it. So far, I’ve mostly been grabbing the pole and swinging the top knee off the pole and kind of just coming out of it, but it’s not pretty, so maybe try to get back into a Cupid – that’s my goal!
This left a whopper of a bruise on the inside of my lower knee, in part because I never use that knee as a grip. Even in Lyra, my right knee is my strong knee, so I do all of my single knee hangs from that side. My left knee was so upset after this trick! The bruise and the swollen bump with the bruise were no fun, so I’m leaving the trick alone for a few days, to allow it to heal.
I think this trick would be great on spinning pole, and that’s on my list of things to try with it!
I brought this trick into my new class from the groupons, and my instructor worked it out quickly from the sample photo, showing me how to get my legs straight. Next thing I knew, my side of the classroom all began trying it, which was neat to see. 🙂 That’s one of the things I love about pole – the instant inspiration that can happen. In that same class, I also learned what we were calling a Shoulder Mount Bomb, which is a variation of the shoulder mount pose, but with no hands (whuuuuuuut?!). Here’s a video of me playing with it, in the class:
Now, this trick can be done from an actual shoulder mount up into it, or from a regular invert, like I did in the video. I found it to feel more secure from the invert, but that’s just me. From the invert, you push up into a caterpillar, and instead of using your hands to grip the pole as you slide down, you actually bring your chest to the pole and make contact on the front of your usual side for shoulder mounts. As you slide (your hands can still be on the pole, if you aren’t feeling secure – I kept mine on), you begin to crunch and tuck yourself into a ball while keeping your knees gripping the pole – I used my legs, too, because I wanted to control my slide better, since your entire frame slides, not just the torso. As you crunch into the ball, the pole will roll/slide up to the meaty portion on the top of your shoulder. Your grip in your knees should be tight and the pressure on your shoulder should be solid so that you can remove your hands from the pole. It sounds super scary – definitely do it with a spotter at first – but it’s surprisingly solid. If you feel comfortable, you can also extend one leg at the knee WHILE STILL KEEPING YOUR KNEES GRIPPING TOGETHER (you know, so you don’t fall), as I do in the video. Our instructor took both feet behind the pole and kept her knees gripped, but I felt better having one leg still on the pole. You can see it all in the video. 🙂
I’m really liking this new class, which is at The Choreography House. I like the instructor, Veronika (she teaches at studios all over LA) – she’s got an incredible warm up, which has me closer to my left side (good side) split than ever before, and she teaches practical combinations and tricks, breaks down instructions well, and is quick to pick up on new tricks, as well as quick to adapt a trick to work for someone who is having trouble. Once my groupon is up, I am hoping to continue in her class, if not at ChoHo, then hopefully at another studio.
I dropped into two consecutive classes at my home studio (The Pole Garage), and it was SO nice to see everyone. I miss my social circle over there, which is one of the hard parts of floating around. I’m naturally reserved/shy with new people/classes, although I usually am just open and excited to see what new thing I’ll be shown that class. Anyway, on Wednesday night’s classes at PG, I got a chance to try two things I’ve wanted to try for a while: the elbow grip ayesha and the cartwheel handspring! I’d tried the ayesha ages ago, once, and fell out of it, so I never tried it again, despite wanting to give it another shot. It’s weird, but I was never in a class where anyone taught it, and I’d always forget to ask. I finally approached one of the rock star students at PG to ask her how to do it, and she talked me through it and spotted me, plus I got a chance to try it with the instructor spotting me later on. I like it! It’s a leap of faith, to be sure, and I need to adjust something to make it less tweaky on my bottom wrist/shoulder, but it felt way more solid than my twisted grip has felt in a while. I had a backslide with that – I never feel that solid in it anymore, for some reason. Anyway, the same rock star student also showed me a cartwheel handspring mount, which I tried a few times – it’s definitely an issue of working out what is going on with my bottom hand, because it hurt my wrist more than a twisted grip handspring. But, I had the right momentum, and I think it’ll be something I could keep trying to work on!
What about all of you? Any fun new tricks you’ve been working on?