5 Life Lessons I Learned From Pole Dancing

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*Guest Blog Submission from Mary Milligan of Milan Pole Dance Studio

Perhaps you’re thinking of joining a pole studio for the sake of getting leaner, learning a new skill, or just having some fun. Personally, I was curious, and I wanted to experiment with a dance that didn’t require a partner, and that would challenge my perception of myself.

And even though pole dancing is a challenge in its essence and it has given me exactly what I’ve been looking for, I also gained a refreshing insight into other aspects of my life, which allowed me to grow even more as a person.

These are just some of many lessons pole has taught me and the greatest one being that learning never truly ends, so I firmly believe that my journey has only begun. I hope that this will serve as an inspiration to you to set out on yours and share your lessons with us so that we can all learn from each other. Happy dancing!

1. Slow Your Mind Down – Be Present

For the full duration of my first class, I kept wishing to learn how to dance faster, as if speed was the epitome of perfection. And each time I rushed into a move, I ended up failing.
After a while, I recognized that same impatience as a pattern in my life – out of sheer passion, I tend to rush my mind in crucial situations so much that my thoughts end up in a haze, undefined and indistinct.

To be at the moment, and thoroughly enjoy the beauty of every challenge in life, I had to learn how to slow my mind down, so that I can grasp the depth of each situation.
Pole ended up being the simplest way to learn this incredible skill of taking my time to be in the now.

2. Calm Your Ego – Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

Although I’m not a competitive person, I am guilty of comparing myself to others, especially when I’m looking for an excuse for my negative self-criticism. For some strange reason, I’ve never noticed this habit of mine while I was at the gym or dancing tango, and trust me; it was there.

Just like with everything else in life, from learning how to walk, speak, cook or fly a plane, we all live at a different pace, so expecting to progress as fast as the person next to you means setting yourself up for failure.

Even though that might not always be the case (you could be that person who always learns a move before everyone else), this unhealthy, ego-driven habit is what takes all the pleasure out of any beautiful activity. Why not simply enjoy the process of learning for as long as it lasts, and celebrate each moment you master something new?

3. It’s Okay to Be Afraid

I always perceived fear as a weakness and a flaw. I believed that it blurred my vision and impaired my judgment, leading me to more mistakes.

Being afraid of falling during a pole dancing class was one of those invisible fears until my instructor came up to me while I was practicing a move and said: “You’re doing just fine. You would be doing even better if you allowed yourself to be scared. Then you could work through the fear, instead of fighting it so hard it takes your focus away from dancing.”
Apparently, my fear of being afraid was so paralyzing that I forgot I was there to dance, and not to be fearless. I know, that sounds almost ridiculous, but at that moment, I realized that being scared is a natural part of the process.

However, fear should never be an excuse to run away from a challenge, on the contrary, it should guide you and show you how you can overcome your current setback and grow. That’s the only true way you will ever let go of your fears, and make room for new ones to arise – that’s what makes life so interesting.

4. Celebrate Mistakes

One of my favorite concerns was the one of making mistakes, especially those that would turn me into a lasting gift for everyone to laugh at. I thought that the best classes were those when I made the fewest mistakes. I could not have been more mistaken.

Being educated in an environment that punishes us for errors is what brings most people to this state of mind. We develop a desire to achieve absolute perfection to satisfy some invisible criteria, in the pole studio, as much as we do in life.

It turns out, naturally, that mistakes are the best way to learn. They open up a whole new spectrum of possibilities, and you shouldn’t deny yourself the joy of experiencing the process of learning in that way.

If you’re like me and you tend to criticize yourself to death for making mistakes, start by making them on purpose and rewarding yourself with chocolate or whatever else you enjoy. Excel at making mistakes.

Once you break the ice, you have no idea how liberating it becomes to learn with no pressure to meet anyone’s expectations, especially your own. Let your only expectation be to be human and enjoy the ride.

5. Embrace Your Body

In fact, embrace your entire existence. Your body is yours to enjoy and share with the world only to the extent to which you want. And the same way you would like that world not to judge you or define you merely by how you look, start by setting an example.

Every nook and cranny of yours are worth all the love in the world, it is unique, and it is perfect just the way it is. If you still want to change your body, feel free to do so, but not so as to satisfy another invisible criterion or an unwritten rule.

My pole dancing classes have taught me that, above all else, if I do get to live only once, I should spend that time surrounding myself with love and joy as much as I can. Dancing is an expression of freedom, beauty, and imagination. Don’t use it just to impress someone – use it to revel in life and yourself.

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