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 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.