Tuesday, August 12, 2014

How much flexibility do you need for King of Dancer's Pose?

When I got into King of Dancer's pose for the first time I was confused--I had no idea I was anywhere near getting there and was just preparing. I was convinced you needed to have some incredible degree of flexibility absolutely everywhere. And possibly also be a ninja. It always seems those that can do it are human pretzels, after all. Luckily, you need just a few main points of flexibility:

Leg flexibility

You don't need full splits. Really. I haven't done any sort of a stretching routine since before my nine-month-old was born... so my right front splits are missing and if I twist way out of a squared position like I did in the video I am still a handles width away. Obviously, the more the better! The further your legs can split and the  higher you can get your back leg, the less your shoulders need to stretch down and back plus the less your back has to arch. I have about the bare minimum leg flexibility necessary because I can "cheat" with my very flexi shoulders and back.

Back flexibility

Try this: stand next to a wall, pole, or other support and stand on one leg. Hold your leg so the thigh is parallel to the floor and your foot is pointed to the ceiling. Push your chest out and up and your toes to the ceiling (or to the stars, that's what I like to think of). Does your back resist the position? How much? You need to be able to hold this position, more or less. (More if you want to breathe I it, less to just snap a picture and celebrate. And yes, both are huge accomplishment!) A good indicator that you have enough flexibility for it is being able to do a nice backend like wheel pose (usually called a bridge but wheel pose is really like cow pose upside-down). If you're still working on it, keep faith that you will get there gradually.

Shoulder and arm flexibility

From what I hear, this is the major stumbling block for most. You absolutely do not want to force your shoulders into this. I can grasp my hands behind my back easily and without a warm up so I recommend that if you are working towards shoulder flexibility you should warm up with arm rolls, arm and shoulder stretches, and only then go for it. If you have better leg flexibility than I do you will not need as much shoulder flexibility. You do absolutely need to be able to do an external rotation of the shoulder (that's the twisting motion I make with my shoulder). Biceps also need to be flexible--your biceps need to allow your hand to move down your back and then stretch away from your back.

This pose may seem daunting, but do not underestimate the value of repetition for this one. Trying it out gives you a better indicator of which areas need the most work on your body and gets your brain trained for making the right motions. Remember that a lot is going on in this one, with different muscle groups working together so you can get it even with slightly less flexible areas. Keep at it and you'll get there!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Weekend Muse: Surya Bonaly

There could hardly be anyone more perfect to break my blogging hibernation with than the backflip-ing, warrior goddess Surya Bonaly.

(c) Xtraice Ecological Ice, CC Attribution 2.0

Once upon a time I had no idea Surya Bonaly existed and was clicking aimlessly around Pinterest (Oh, how I love me some Pinterest!) and I saw some comment about how amazing she is. What I found through some rabid searching was that Surya Bonaly shattered Olympic rules.

As it happens, Surya was a power figure skater, the kind that lands ultra athletic jumps and makes you want to cross train in skates. Expect she BACKFLIPED. On figure skates. She couldn't "legally" backflip on Olympic ice, though, because the rules require landing on one foot. But who really cares about rules in the face of super powers? Surya learned to backflip one ice and land on one foot. Yeah, and live.

The day she was on that hallowed ice Surya was having a bad time with the judges and her program so she pulled out her badass move. Commentary noted that it was all for the performance and the crowd... and that she finished with her back to the judges. They ruled the move illegal in the end, although landing it on one foot should have technically made it count. She was disqualified with dignity and the knowledge that she put one a performance true to her character.

At the end of the day, it has to matter more to perform for ourselves, competition or no. Coming off a drawn out pole, blogging, and stretching rut this message rings particularly true. I am hard pressed to find time away from my second baby (my daughter was nothing like this!) and coming back slowly is excruciating--as a dancer there is always that "audience factor." Do I measure up to my own standards is I were to watch myself dance? My friends'? The knee-jerk reaction is to say "No" and stay in that place but it's bigger than that. Dance is a living story. We need to keep telling it and we need to be true to our dancer's story.


Did you notice the new name? "Weekend Muse" is so much more descriptive than "Weekend Crush," don't you think?


Friday, April 4, 2014

Weekend Crush: Sadie, Coloradan Belly Dancer

Sadie's been on my Weekend-Crushes-to-be list for too long. She has some kind of voodoo magic that wants you want to watch her forever. You may even be fooled into thinking you can just get up from your belly dance induced trance and start dancing like a pro... okay, maybe that's just me, but is it ever hard! Her belly dance is inspired by her athletic background and it shows. I just want to have half her ability to isolate muscles!

Did you catch all that craziness around 2:00?? The most I've been able to achieve is isolating my upper and lower abs separately, and doing some sort of a belly roll. And these are doable with more defined abs, but I am partial to belly rolls with belly to them. If you are ever down about not having pole star abs, just remember you have belly dancer abs. You're Welcome. :)

Other than the ab, hip, and chest isolations to dream for I love that Sadie is this everyday Coloradan, originally from Wisconsin, who has turned her passion for the sensual, mysterious, and exotic belly dance into a reality. I have always wanted to see someone with a strong belly dance background do a pole and belly dance fusion (C'mon Sadie!). Mayhap we can pester Aerial Gypsy from Femtastic Dance to do one? If you've seen one, please do share in the comments! I suppose it would take a lot of strength to pole in a skirt, or maybe a shorter skirt? And no jingly coins.

I leave you to contemplate Sadie's America's Got Talent submission with her best friend, Kaya. (Ugh, Piers, you dolt. I still hate dislike him for being horrible to Steven.) Dance friends make everything about a million times better:

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

How to Stretch Underwear

No really! I've been saving this for April Fools Day--but if only you knew how many people have ended up at Flexines looking for ways to stretch their underwear (must be because of my post on how to pick underwear for stretching). Thank you for visiting, Googlers, you searched and it so happens I do have a few tips for you! 

How to stretch underwear

Option one: Wear it and skip the heat

Okay, this is sort of a pain, I know, but the best way to get underwear to stretch out to fit your form is to wear it repeatedly. There are a few other alternatives to try, but let's explore this a bit first. Ideally you should wear it and wash it COLD. We've all heard that heat shrinks clothes but if you usually stick everything in the dryer you'd be surprised how much of a difference it makes to skip the heat. (Aside: If you've ever watched Myth Busters you may remember that experiment to see if jeans in a hot tub could shrink enough to cut off a deadly amount of circulation--and they can't but they shrink down tremendously.) If you need them dry quick, set your dryer to a low setting so the clothes comes out damp and air dry the rest of the way.

Or try: Pillow stretching

If they are too uncomfortable or you need to avoid wedgie pulling, pillows are your friend. Be concious of where you need a little more room--the last thing you need is drapey panties. Ish. I recommend a pillow or balled up towel--hangers and the like will give you a really horrible silhouette. (I have yet to see someone who is shaped like a hanger.) One of our teen boys hangs everything from socks to ties on hangers, or at least he did growing up, and I got a kick out of the funny contortion abilities of his underwear.

Check the tag

Keep in mind that cotton and high-cotton blends will resist stretching so you can be a bit more extreme in your attempts. Those cotton boy briefs lost the silly hanger shape after a wearing; blends with nylon, lycra, or elastane (think Victoria's Secret goodies) will not fare quite as well--be gentle. As a general rule I hate to stick anything non-cotton in the dryer because they air dry very well out of the washer and tend to take a beating from the dryer (the stretchy become the crunchy).

For Flexines readers, I hope you got a good April Fools chuckle. And for Googlers, don't forget to subscribe for inspiration on stretching your body, too!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Weekend Crush: Lora Hill, Fights Bullying with Dance

"You know when Lora came to me a couple years ago with the idea, the first words that came out of her mouth were, it could be chaotic, it could be...' And I said 'Great!'"

Awesome. This is principal Kelly Halvorsen's response to a project to change high school kids' lives through dance. Lora had this crazy idea to get kids dancing on Friday mornings and it had some really interesting results.

"When it comes to music, we all stand together" --Lora Hill

Every Friday morning she sets up speakers and turns on the music. What's really cool is that all sorts of students join right in--even teachers dance. It is amazing to see everyone moving together; there are no words, just unity. You can watch video of it at the Ed Moments website. Ed moments is supported by Education Minnesota, a union of 70,000 Minnesotan educators and staff. Remember who else is Minnesotan? Uh huh, yours truly. I am so proud that our teachers are spreading this. I'm convinced that Minnesota has the best teachers (we certainly have awesome public schools) and it was my teachers that made me believe in myself in spite of growing up with an abusive mother.

“I know what can happen to the bullied,” she says. “Suicide. But I also know what can happen to bullies. Prison. “I’m committed to both.”

It's all about confidence. If you can give a student confidence you give them the power to be who they want to be. That kind of strength can stop both students from needing to victimize and students from allowing themselves to be bullied. This reminds me of the strength our pole dance community draws from engaging our bodies for expression and fitness. We come together because we are working on common fitness goals and we learn to embrace differences. That's powerful. I love what Lora Hill is doing and I hope she inspires people to find creative solutions rather than repeating the same hollow messages of what not to do. After all, unity and strength comes from action.

Photo: Lockers by Phil Roeder. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Happy Dances Around the World | International Day of Happiness!

It's the first day of spring!

"Where?!" my better half asks--and I have no clue because it sure isn't Minnesota! In any case it's also the International Day of Happiness as declared by the U.N.:

...recognizing the relevance of happiness and well-being as universal goals and aspirations in the lives of human beings around the world and the importance of their recognition in public policy objectives.
Basically it's important for people to be happy. (I can guarantee you that if I had dragged out a sentence like that for any one of my professors there would be "happy" red ink all over it.) Obvio. Break out the happy dancing.

Starting with Bordeaux, France:

Click to 1:00 at the very least. Scrubs! Dancing in scrubs!

This next one is from KickAsh's YouTube channel, aka Ashley Williams. I love that she's so herself and her dancing is organic. My favorite is when she does the dancing-in-the-street bit around 1:28. I'm not sure what it is about dancing right where traffic should go, but I love it. I secretly dance in the middle of the street on my early morning runs. So if I suddenly stop posting one day, it'll probably have been death by happy dance.

If you click over to the video on YouTube someone comments that the video made him/her happy and Ashley replies that made it worth making. Awwww! I am a sucker for this sort of mush.

As I was compiling these I found a whole bunch of videos from just about anywhere you can think of. Check out this one from Tahiti--ugghh, Tahiti! Now I just want to leave Minnesota and never return. There is dancing in the street, belly dancing, and the obligatory ballerina. Kudos to French Polynesia's YouTube channel, it's working! *Packs bags.*

One more--Boston College. Even the mascot got in on this! I have to wonder about the library scenes though--did they have a lookout? Because I know I would have racked up some fines or at least a death stare at mine. Books and dancing. I'm happy!

What I love most is that so many of the videos to Happy are different people, some of which are amazing dancers and some dance all over the place, like me. That makes my heart glad--people just putting their soul into it and letting go. Because they're happy.

Friday, March 14, 2014

3 Tips for Powering Your Flexy Pictures | RAVPower Review

Lately I've been working on having more pictures in my posts and making them the best I can. I quickly figured out how important it is to be able to take pictures on the fly--you never know when a good opportunity for photographing flexy will come up! I thought of my three best tips to keep powered up on the go to share with you in this review:

RAVPower Review and Camera Power Tips

Keep it together.

I can't begin to tell you how creative my cursing gets when I blissfully find a few minutes to snap a shot... only to discover my battery is dead. #!&? The best solution is to have everything you need in a zip pouch or similar, just make sure your camera is protected from crushing and scratches. I like to have a spare battery, a microfiber cloth, a USB connector cord, and this little charger in there. RAVPower gave me this purse-sized charger free to try and after testing it I am happy to recommend it. It fits nicely in my little photography kit and has already saved me from getting "that look" for draining hubby's cell phone on pictures and instagraming said pictures.

Don't kill your battery. 

You would think knowing the basics of a voltaic cell from Chem class would have prepared me for this but, nope, I had to learn the hard way. I killed the batteries in our home phones almost single-handedly by letting them run down in obscure places (behind the head board, under the couch). Again, "that look" from my dear love. Oops. He explained it like this to me: in a car lead plates are a major part of the battery, and after leaving a car un-operated for an extended period of time you will find that the plates corrode, killing the battery. So now I know, and I'll be using my RAVPower charger to help me keep the battery in use. And I'll have no excuse not to search for my missing batteries--it doubles as a fun little flashlight with a few neat settings (including strobe). Handy.

Have a backup!

My spare battery is my favorite extra to carry. I bought my camera, a Nikon Coolpix S9300, used and have had power issues with it. A quick aside--if you shop used please hope for the best but expect the worst, you will save money and it can be a wonderful buy but get it cheap to offset buying accessories and possibly replacing parts. Anyways my battery has a silly short life and a spare is so easy to pop right back in and keep snapping.

Do you have any tips to share?

Monday, March 10, 2014

Happy Wishes: Mood Music

Technically Mood Music is posted every other Monday, but today I wanted to share this anyways.

A little ray of happiness:

This song makes me want to go running through the neighborhood with a boom box on my shoulder. I hope you listen to this over and over. Soak it up. Instead of some wrecking ball sex mess, this is what I want to see all over the internet and on the air waves.

A huge hug to my beloved Flexines. I hope you are dancing-in-the-street happy today!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Weekend Crush: Jenny Liu PHD MD and Pole Dancer Minx

I keep saying that pole dancers are an intelligent bunch and here is more proof: Minx. Minx is the stage name of competitive pole dancer Jenny Liu--who is also a double doctor. Jenny started pole dancing because her PHD and MD schooling meant she'd be spending her youth studying--something I can relate to as Pre-Med myself. Cancer research, top of her graduate class, double doctor... and sexy Minx.

It's all about the challenge

"I think for me my success with pole is quite an intellectual process"

I first found her story on Australia's ABC website. I was absolutely blown away by how she connects intellectualism in pole dance and in scholarly studies. Dance is an intellectual process and being sexy is an expression of the mind. Minx is so transparent with who she is and I love it. She's a whole person, and society could stand to learn quite a bit from her. Plus she made "heaps of friends." Austrialianisms are so fun! (my favorite new pole blogger is a back-bendingly amazing Aussie herself).

I also love that she mentions the value of the pole dance community. Jenny felt distanced from her fellow MD scholars when they went on to finish their MD program right away while she added PHD coursework. A lot of the people I go to school with have likewise finished their programs while I build a family life and balance Pre-Med; you do feel isolated studying medicine. It does take part of your life. Pole dance has been amazing for me because it is a challenge and it is an intellectual process but it gives you a release and a chance to connect emotionally. I love that pole connects us. It's beautiful and amazing.

Has your pole journey been an intellectual process?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Whisper In My Ear: Mood Music

Last week was busy (and I was a blogging slacker) so let's pick up with a gift for your ears--some softly sexy music. Floorwork music. Sliding slowly into the splits music. "Run your fingers through my hair" music:

Hold it! Let's go straight . . . to number one

Yeah... she jumped at the pole. Ah Kate Moss, you are no pole dancer. Although I really, really don't mind the sexy dancing. Not at all! I love the song and there just happened to be a pole related video.

Whenever I watch this I always wonder what kind of pole that is. It looks like a chrome pole and doesn't seem to wobble... is it an X Stage? Platinum Stages? It has to be a good pole to hold. I have no idea. Comment if you know.

George Michael, Careless Whisper: So i'm never gonna dance again/ The way I danced with you

Sade, Smooth Operator: Melts all your memories and change into gold

I will never say I love the 80's enough. These are two of my most beloved 80's songs, they are the kind of music that you can just sit and daydream to and keep hitting replay. Good thing, too, because I hardly ever know the lyrics!

Available on iTunes:
Careless Whisper
Smooth Operator
Straight To...Number One (Dreamcatcher's Mix)

So what music whispers in your ear?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Weekend Crush: Sasha Cohen, Queen of Spirals

Today I need this pick-me-up: heavenly flexibility and the best example of emoting. Sasha Cohen is my inspiration by serendipity. I was checking off IB requirements--the hated CAS (Creativity Action Service) hours--around the time my mother's work gave her tickets to see the Campbell's International. Art and nerdiness were my game, not this. Not the physical expression of intellect and emotion. You can say whatever you like about her Olympic falls but no one has her amazing expressiveness or spirals that can make you cry. Can make me cry. This olympic season was bittersweet--yes, there was some technically remarkable performances and Julia Lipnitskaia was a flexible dream to watch but no one had that magic. And I doubt anyone will.

This Valentine's Day my throat hurts and my head is pounding; on top of that, my Valentine is out-of-state at his mother's wedding. And I crumpled my wrist typing and then sleeping on it. If you watch Grey's Anatomy, I am having the dark and twisties. When my days go wrong I catch myself going into my bad memories. If I can be honest about what I love, I can be honest about what hurts and I have quite the selection of torments to visit. Around the time I was checking off CAS hours and reflecting on Sasha's allure I knew in my heart my mother was covering up Brian molesting our youngest sister.

I also was sure I would never become anyone worthwhile; I believed so blindly in everything my mother said. I was a monster. I was like her ex. I was wasting time thinking about college. When Sasha Cohen skated in Turino she was my idol. She was power, grace, and beauty. She was tragic; brilliant but, as Scott Hamilton commented, "a perennial runner up." So much like a high school student that would get A's and suddenly all F's. The oldest sibling that failed her baby sister.

Those spirals are not impossibilities--they are dreams

I found love. I realized how intelligent I am and I stopped apologizing for being proud. And when I discovered the amazing sport of pole dance, I decided to become my own version of Sasha Cohen. My blog is about splits and back bends but also about finding inner power, grace, and beauty. Maybe I will never be among the ranks of competitive pole dancers but I will be a first generation college graduate and break the cycle of domestic violence in my family through motherhood. I will also figure out where my splits went and learn to dance expressively. Oh! Extended Allegra and that dance pose--needle--scale will also be mine. Somehow. Someday.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Stretch Anywhere: The Toe Pointing Edition

Stretch Anywhere: The Toe Pointing Edition

Since I have those toe pointing issues I definitely had to include toe stretches to do anywhere (and everywhere!). Lately I have been doing these stretches every time I have a spare moment, taking rest days of course. I have gone from having foot cramps every time to only getting foot cramps every so often. As always, make sure to warm up a little.

Where to do these:
  • At the office or during lecture, with some discretion
  • Waiting in line, virtually any waiting room
  • The toilet: (don't ask, if you take care of children you spend a lot of time waiting in the bathroom)
  • Watching TV: For the horrible moments you are watching live TV on commercials (I know I know, what an awful thought ;)
  • Sunbathing--bonus: already warm feet
  • At the red light: as a passenger or if you're waiting to cross the street
  • On a window: I don't have much of a toe point and wanted a nice shot for the February #PDBloggers Photo-A-Week Challenge. As usual, I didn't get to it until the sun was setting so I had to sit right at the window to catch some natural light. I cheated and pushed into the window for a faux foot point, haha!

Stretching your feet anywhere:

  • Push your arch down: This one is best done on a chair, unless you have a strong core and good balance. Place the heel of your hand midway between your ankle and toes; push into your arch.
  • Grab your arch: You can alternatively grab your whole foot and shove it down. This works best for me. Either of these can be done with some stealth under a desk and do not attract much gawking in waiting rooms, compared to the shoulder stretches. (If you've got a willing participate handy you can also have them stretch your foot. You may want to save this for home.)
  • Push into the floor (windows work, too). Sit or stand with one leg bent slightly at the knee (think ballerina-ish). The first time you try this you might catch yourself crunching your toes. Avoid that! With a few tries you will get the hang of curving your arch with less pressure on your toes. If you have heels/shoes that slip on and off you can do this outside by putting your toes in the middle of your shoe and pushing your arch down in it. Ta-da! Now you can really do this anywhere!
Where will you start stretching your feet now?
Don't forget to check back on Wednesdays for more Stretch Anywhere posts during #FlexyFebruary!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Mood Music: Olympic Figure Skating Inspired

Figure skating is my major pole dance inspiration so in honor of the Sochi Olympics I'm passing on my favorites from the men's short programs. It so happened those had my favorite pieces, and while the performances are not out on YouTube [yet] here are the songs: 

Elegie in E Flat Minor Rachmaninov

I adore the pants off Rachmaninov. (That sounds dirty--oh well, let it stand.) 
Add Canada and the wonderfully strong Patrick Chan and you get perfection minus one fall. (The guys were killing me with the falls, c'mon Canada and USA!) I hardly care because when it comes to musicality Chan was lovely and it makes me want to use this song all the time. I can stretch to it, pole to it, and on the right kind of day I might even run to it. You know, the running-and-pretending-to-be-a-ballerina days. Don't tell me it's that just me that has those?

Tango De Roxanne, Edvin Marton

As much as it hurt to watch Yevgeny Plushenko skate, so haughtily--and worse, flawlessly--while my favorite, Evan Lysacek, only spectated... I still found inspiration. Evan, heal up! Especially since, in a nutshell: Jeremy Abbott. I loved the arrogance; there is a lot to say for that level of pride. And Tango de Roxanne was a brilliant piece for it. Put on your dancer pride and strut. Put on your wax-and-feather wings and fly.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Weekend Crush: Sam Salter

Flexy February requires a special sort of Weekend Crush, and boy am I going to deliver, if I do say so myself. Want to see gravity defying splits? Sam Salter. Just, Sam Salter. I was trying not to fall in love with contemporary dance but it's too late, I'm head over heels and if you're not already you will be too:

Okay, did you see that coming? It starts out pretty sweet and sappy, right, then around 1:12 I was like "I love you toooo!" for just a second. You know you thought that too. (Sweetheart if you're reading this, now will you stretch with me?) At I 2:08 I wondered... Anyways will you look at that extension? I am torn between wanting him to also figure skate or pole dance. I bet he could give Steven Retchless a run for his money.

Also, that spin at 3:40? My heart stopped.

As for Sam himself, he's currently on a national tour of West Side Story. From, er, closely checking out his Twitter account he attended Laine Theatre Arts School in the UK. It goes without saying, his technique is amazing; I might not know much about dance as a technical art but it sure looks flawless! I mean, the spin. Mmm. So much for trying not to fall in love with so much dance!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

No More Tobacco at CVS (and Some Thoughts)

Part of my running route includes stepping all over a slew of cigarette butts... so when I saw a tweet that CVS is not going to sell cigarettes and tobacco products it caught my attention right away. I am a huge fan of pink lungs (seriously, they should be one of my Weekend Crushes) and got my better half to quit smoking years ago.

Some mixed feelings

I hate having to inhale someone else's fumes just because they chose to smoke, but... When colleges banned tobacco on campus completely I was ecstatic that passing time wouldn't mean choking time. My husband's business law instructor brought up that while campuses can ban smoking, vehicles are technically private property so this is an exception (one that people understandably, though annoyingly, take advantage of). Smokers that do not own a vehicle are at a distinct disadvantage--which his instructor explained could be looked at as a form of discrimination.

So as much as I love smoke-free everything I hate bans, and if you expand this decision to all other major retailers it works a lot like a ban. Don't talk to me about banning GMOs or banning pot; people should make their own decisions, stupid as they may be. (For the record I eat delicious GMO food and I get my fair share of food shaming from friends. I'm easy to convert--just show me the studies, not the articles about "studies".) Am I happy CVS stopped selling tobacco? Oh yeah, but it would be so much sweeter if smokers caused it by buying less, not by being a health statistic.

CNN quotes the AMA:
"We commend CVS for putting public health ahead of their bottom line and recognizing the need for pharmacies to focus on supporting health and wellness instead of contributing to disease and death caused by tobacco use," the American Medical Association said.
Sounds so selfless. CNN states that CVS stands to lose $2 billion in sales to tobacco shoppers. As they should, CVS does have their interests in mind. From CVS's press release:
"As the delivery of health care evolves with an emphasis on better health outcomes, reducing chronic disease and controlling costs, CVS Caremark is playing an expanded role in providing care through our pharmacists and nurse practitioners. The significant action we're taking today by removing tobacco products from our retail shelves further distinguishes us in how we are serving our patients, clients and health care providers and better positions us for continued growth in the evolving health care marketplace."
CVS wants to be big in the health care industry. I am fond of this idea, for a couple of reasons. One, no one should work for nothing, that's just plain bad business and undervalues work. Also, this could be really great for people like me who are trying to be more healthy and would like to more easily afford little health visits like pink eye checks. It's in CVS's interest to have efficient, quality health services so they can compete; this is what we really need for healthcare (oh I could go on!).

So you can bet I will be happily running by CVS. And I will surely stop in and support these changes.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Shoulder Flexibility: Stretch Anywhere

This is one of my favorite stretches to do in otherwise wasted time. Before I run through how to stretch your shoulders let just point out that you can do this at any level of flexibility. As always, get good and warmed up (body rolls are excellent for this, I find that long runs are perfect).

Shoulder Stretches to do Everywhere

Where to use this stretch:

  • Waiting for the doctor. Seinfeld jokes that you go to the waiting room, and then get called to wait in a smaller waiting room--this is perfect! No one to stare.
  • In line--if you hate being watched no one will notice if you're at the end of the line. Who knew there were perks for being last? I like to do this at fairs where everyone is too busy to care.
  • Long trips. Not driving? This will keep you busy, just leave a little seat belt room.
  • Watching TV. Just scoot to the edge of the couch.


Shoulder Stretch Assisted Pull
  • Get a long strip of fabric. (I used one of those ribbons that come on belted-look shirts) and tie knots in it. You may want to double knot these as they shrink as they pull tight. I have also seen people recommend belts or rulers but fabric is much easier to grip and pull your hands along.
  • Warm up. Do at least 5-10 minutes of exercise in the back and shoulder area. 
  • Pull! Hold the fabric with the smallest gap possible while still being comfortable. Pull gently and slowly; don't be above easing back slowly if you feel too much strain. 

  • Reach behind your back, inching your fingers close. Try to hook your fingers, easing off slowly and relaxing then slowly pulling them closer. 
  • Once you can grasp close your hands slowly to increase the stretch.
  • If you can't grasp but come close it can be helpful to bend your elbow behind your back (like the top arm) and push your elbow gently so that your hand moves down the center of your back.

And there you are! I hope this gives you somewhere to start and inspiration to keep getting more flexible. Also, can I brag? When did my back hulk up, right? lol. Make sure to check back here every Wednesday for my #FlexyFebruary series: Stretch Anywhere. For backbend inspiration check out KiKi's Pole Blog this month, too.

Wishing you a #FlexyFebruary,

Monday, February 3, 2014

It's #FlexyFebruary!

You guys know I love KiKi of KiKisPoleBlog.com--one reason is that she always gets us focused on steady progress. Last year she started #FlexyFebruary and she's invited me to get all Flexines in on posting progress photos! You do not have to spend hours warming up and stretching to join in (but do be sure to do at least 5-10 minutes of warm up for safety reasons!). Just get posting--you may be surprised by your results. Share on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, & Pinterest.

Check back for "Stretches To Do Everywhere"

In honor of #FlexyFebruary I am going to be posting a different stretch every Wednesday that can be done virtually anywhere, plus tips. My goal is to show you all how to get started if you are less-than-flexy or give you inspiration if you are already well on your flexy journey. KiKi's #BackBendSunday challenge is still going so you can really hashtag away!

And if you're feeling extra gung ho? Aerial Amy is also running Fearless February for tackling old fears and WeFly has Stand Up going for handstand improvement. Something for everyone.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Weekend Crush: Michelle Stanek, A True Angel

This week the pole world was shocked, appalled, and yes, more than a bit upset over the overt plagiarism of one of our most loved pole stars. What makes this story special is not that it happened, because art forms are so often subject to not-so-flattering imitation. It isn't even that it made waves, because as we know the pole world is extremely close knit, maybe even to a fault. An issue that could have rightfully lead to legal action and enmity turned out to be an example of true kindness and respect.

Lisa Fedele of Italy performed Michelle Stanek's routine, down to the same music, for Canale Italia. You can see the similarities in choreography for yourself, you will want to watch at least the first 30 seconds if you haven't seen it before:

Now compare that to Lisa's version. Déjà vu, right? Lisa was right to challenge herself with attempting Michelle Stanek's choreography as there is a clear difference in technical execution. She has an amazing talent for the contemporary pole dance style on top of being an amazing sexy pole dancer.

Michelle's response:
Hi EVERYONE! In response to the video I posted earlier today of a pole dancer using my USPDF choreography: Thank you for all the crazy support! Word travels fast on the internet and the girl in this video and I have been talking. I cannot speak for her too much, but she is a very sweet girl who feels completely overwhelmed and horrible. She asked how she could solve the issue. I let her know I am not mad but I would have appreciated an email requesting permission to use my choreography beforehand as well as be given a credit (both of which I have given to others in the past and would have given to her). She says she DID tell the show producers it was a piece by me but has now reached out to them again to give proper credit. I would never have thrown the book at her or anyone, I am too compassionate of a person. I am glad we were able to handle it this way. Now I'm off to Australia! — traveling to Perth, Western Australiafrom JFK Int'l Airport Terminal-4, NYC-USA.

How sweet is that? She could have been well in her right to get a lawyer on this and instead reached out to Lisa. And it looks like Lisa Fedele, along with the rest of us, is an even bigger fan of Michelle's for it:

"Riuscire anche solo a ripetere 30 secondi di QUELLA coreografia, beh, per me é stato come toccare il cielo con un dito, dopo neanche due anni di pole dance. Forse non sarò LEI, per me sarebbe un sogno diventare brava come Michelle Stanek! Lei é stata così tanto di ispirazione per me, e ho visto quel pezzo talmente tante volte che per me é stato inevitabile provarci. Forse ingenuamente e nel modo sbagliato. Anche perché più in là di quei 20/30 secondi sarebbe stato impossibile andare visto il SUO altissimo livello tecnico, che spero un giorno di raggiungere. Lei é stata molto gentile e carina con me, abbiamo risolto la cosa in "amicizia"... com'é giusto che sia, appena possibile, ci saranno i suoi crediti sotto il video. Parlare con lei é stata la realizzazione di un piccolo sogno. Non si sa come, ma riesco sempre a mettermi nei pasticci. Ora ho constato sulla mia pelle la portata virale di internet e youtube. Questo episodio sarà per me fonte di ispirazione per trovare realmente la mia strada nel mondo della pole dance." "Succeed only 30 seconds to repeat that the choreography, well, for me it was like touching the sky with a finger, even after two years of pole dance. Maybe I won't be her, to me would be a dream become good as Michelle Stanek! She was so much inspiration to me, and I saw that piece so many times that it was inevitable for me to try. Perhaps naively, and in the wrong way. Also because beyond those 20-30 seconds it would have been impossible to go given its high technical level, which I hope one day to achieve. She was very kind and cute with me, we have solved the thing in "friendship" ... as it should be, as soon as possible, there will be its claims under the video. Talk to her was a small dream. You don't know how, but I can always get in trouble. Now I note on my skin the viral reach of the internet and youtube. This episode will be a source of inspiration for me to really find my way in the world of pole dance. "

Translated within an inch of it's life by Bing: "She [Michelle] was very kind and cute [sweet?] with me, we have solved the thing in 'friendship'..." I love that. We can be a very close community and protect our own while reaching out to others. Well done, Michelle, we could all do to take a page out of your book!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Stop Trying for Flexibility Progress

Just. Stop. Possibly the worst focus you can have while trying to increase your flexibility is the progress itself. Flexibility is s-l-o-w. While in two weeks of regular physical activity you should increase your intensity by about 15%, in two weeks of flexibility training you will be doing essentially the same stretches. Your progress will seem so minute that it is easy to give up. So forget progress.

When I stopped trying

This is one of my favorite flexibility tricks, all the sweeter because I just got it back after giving birth in November. I think if I had focused on recovering all that I lost in terms of pole, I would probably be drafting a Craigslist listing right now instead of a blog post. I did not stop stretching but I also did not over stress my mind or body; I stopped trying for progress and started trying for routine. The day I first achieved this pose it was more like suddenly feeling a cold, disembodied limb touch my head and hands--I was not expecting it. I was working towards it, but not working towards progress.

Learning to enjoy the process

Stretching sucks. It takes forever, it can be weird to do in front of others, and it hurts. Okay, so I don't completely mean that--I love stretching but I think it is more that I love the process. I make plans to stretch and my fellow Flexines keep me accountable but I also play music that gets me inspired and wear cute outfits so I feel the part. I definitely share my milestones and I brag (as you should, be proud and celebrate yourself, how many other people can do what you can?). For my photography guru friends... I apologize for my fuzzy video screencapture and all-too-slowly evolving image editing, er, skills. This too is a learning process I am trying to enjoy more and criticize less; we'll see how that goes. I believe it is critical to love the progress but do not lose sight of the fact that imperfection is part of the journey. You will have messy, uncomfortable poses before you have clean lines.

Love that, too.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Weekend Crush: Marion & Anastasia, Pole Sisters

To understand the pole community you have to understand the love. And there is so much love but my absolute favorite is pole sisterhood. (Awesome pole guys out there: you are loved too!) So when I saw this video I had to watch it about five times to even begin to soak in all the amazing.

My brain shuts down for a moment around 1:38. Side-by-side Extended Allegras. Side-by-ssss... Um, duh, wow.

This video has special meaning for me for so many reasons. It reminds me of the amazing group of ladies (and gents) I have grown to consider friends and pole family on StudioVeena and PDBloggers. There is Marion Crampe who--words cannot describe. She's amazing. Anastasia is my very first pole crush and the reason I started pole. (KiKi this reminds me to pester you into nailing Extended Allegra even more. See her beautiful Allegra here.)

One day I will hopefully never have to meet these ladies and fangirl the hell out. Bah, I can't resist, you know I will meet them and scare them away, haha. And the day I get the Extended Allegra I am going to hunt down my pole friends and do a remake of this. Hey, I love to dream.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Weekend Crush: Megan Branch

Gorgeous, talented, emotive... I adore Megan Branch. She has that floating-on-air dancing that I would love to have one day, that I will hopefully have the abs and control for. It's contemporary dance and then again it's also very personal, very her:

She has a beautiful story, too. In her audition for So You Think You Can Dance she described her love for her mother and the work they both put into her dance. Her mom worked extra night shifts to get her through dancing after Megan's parents divorced. Growing up it always made me sad how few people really appreciate the sacrifices their parents make; Megan is one of the few. All she needs to be the picture of perfection is to translate contemporary dance into pole dance.

This particular dance, I am Lost, got me through my Bible as Literature course. I was sick, trying to keep my daughter in clean clothes and my two-month-old cared for with this last class to finish up for my transfer degree. Four days before my extended deadline I had four essays to write and a semester project to finish; it was rough. Every time I lost focus and wanted to go for a run or just plain watch T.V. I took a moment to watch this. Watching Megan lose herself in her dance helped me find enough of myself to keep working at it. Dance is magical that way.

Above getting in on SYTYCD, Megan is so much inspiration in one. There are those amazing abs, for starters. She has crazy stability in the most bizarre poses, something I love because it expresses such a range of emotion. Her flexibility is absolutely lovely. I want to do that crazy toe thing at 0:44 but my high heel issues will mean quite a bit of work first. Still, you never know what I might do next.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Mood Music: Mondays are for Fighters

Just one more rep. Just one more minute. For us pole dancers, music helps us get one more attempt at a trick or one more climb before we call it a day. I will honestly tell you that I cannot workout without music and dancing is just ridiculous without it. I typically have at least a few songs for every mood--even various types of music just for stretching.

Hello Mood Music Mondays!

My goal is to share a few songs every other Monday, sometimes more often, that fit into a specific mood. The kind of songs that personally help me run an extra twenty minutes or attempt *gasp* spin mode. To give you an idea a couple of my themes so far are "black lace on sweat" and "so fed up."

This week is about being a FIGHTER


You already know I love Christina Aguilera and this song is a huge part of that love. What better way to get back at your pole for being so slippery than: "Thanks for making me a fighter." If you aren't familiar with Fighter by Christina Aguilera, go fix that now and preview at iTunes within the widget above.


I have not gotten over this once since I first loved it in 2007. That was a rough year for me and this helped me survive by running... if only I had known about pole too. If you hate running this is an awesome song to get over it. Stronger by Kanye West is one of my favorites for bursts of energy--case in point, that beginning!


I poled, well, did my beginner's version of poling, to this song for KiKi's Pole Dancing Scholarship some time ago. Even though I didn't win it was nice to take a risk and put myself out there in a supportive community. Very fittingly, the song is Proud by Heather Small, a remixed version for QAF. I always want to climb when I hear the lyric "What have you done today to make you feel proud," something about it reminds me of rising.

All songs can be previewed and purchased from the widget above.

What songs make you feel like a fighter? Don't forget to check back on Mondays for more Mood Music!

Photo: Adapted from "Music" by Craig Cloutier, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Steve Jobs Should Inspire Your Pole Dance

What can a college drop out teach you about success--or about pole dance, for that matter? I wonder if you knew Steve Jobs dropped out of college and lived on his friends' dorm room floors. That he aimlessly took classes, "dropped in" on classes, based on whether or not he found them interesting. He did, in fact. And there is a powerful message in that for us as dancers as we go into a new year.