Feldenkrais® and the Middle-aged Pole dancer….

I celebrated my 58th birthday a few months ago. Since I am now living on the South Side of 50, and the big 6-0 is right around the corner, I decided it was time to start engaging in more age appropriate activities. So, I started pole dancing.

When I took my first Level 1 class, my arms were so sore I couldn’t lift them over my head for four days. After the second class, my arms felt stronger, and they only hurt for three days, so I knew I was making progress.

Indeed, I was making progress, and after only four classes, I was promoted to the next level. I was now officially a Level 2 pole dancer. Ha! How many middle-aged ladies can put that on their resumé? I was really excited to learn more advanced moves. At least, I was until I experienced my first Level 2 class.

Our first exercise was called forearm presses. That didn’t sound too bad, especially since my arms were getting so strong. But, then I saw the move, and I started having second thoughts. A forearm press was actually a head stand in front of the pole, with your legs landing against the pole.

I glanced around the room to see if I could find a back door so I could make a quick escape. For some reason, pole dancing didn’t seem like such a good idea any more. I couldn’t find an exit, but even if I could, running out of the room probably wasn’t a good idea, either. After all, it was pretty cold outside, and all I was wearing was a leotard and a pair of shorts.

Feeling stuck, I assumed the position and gave it a try. It hurt my head, strained my neck, and my feet were glued to the floor. No matter how hard I tried, I simply could not wrap my head (so to speak) around lifting my legs in the air. Finally, I held my breath and kicked my legs a few times. Each time I fell over and landed on my butt. It was quite undignified, and very embarrassing.

I decided to give it one last try, when something really strange happened. A memory from my Feldenkrais training made its way back home, and I heard a voice in my head say, “Sense your contact with the floor.” I slowed myself down, felt my head against the floor and the floor against my head. Okay, that felt different. The voice continued, “Sense your breathing.” My chest began to soften and my connection with the floor felt stronger, yet easier. Well now, that wasn’t so hard.

I thought about lifting my legs in the air to a full head stand, but the voice stopped me and said, “Sense your five lines.” Oh, good idea….I had forgotten about that. Suddenly my legs felt as light as air, and I effortlessly lifted them up to rest against the pole. Taking another moment to sense my contact with the floor as well as the pole, I felt my spine get longer, stronger, and my legs lengthen against the pole. But I wasn’t done. 

Slowly I lowered one leg down to land softly back on the floor. In the foreground of my attention there was only me, the floor and the pole. In the background of my attention were several loud thunks as other dancers hit the floor.

Allowing myself another minute to enjoy my new-found freedom of standing on my head, I slowly allowed my other leg float away from the pole to the floor. It felt so easy, so effortless, and so elegant. I couldn’t understand why it was so difficult just a few short minutes earlier.

When I lifted my head, for some reason the entire class was staring at me, including my teacher. She asked me how I did that. I merely smiled, shrugged my shoulders, and said, “I just figured it out.”

Just in case you are concerned about the voices in my head, please don’t worry. I’m pretty sure it’s just my nervous system talking to me, and reminding me that with Feldenkrais, anything is possible. Those voices are working with me, not against me, all for the power of good. A far cry from what they told me before my Feldenkrais training, and before my pole dancing days.

It’s good to be 58. It’s good to be a pole dancer. Most of all, it’s really good to be a Feldenkrais practitioner. Feldenkrais….restoring each person to their human dignity. Even for middle-aged pole dancers. It’s a beautiful thing!