Last year I talked on this blog about how and why most of our New Year resolutions don’t work. You can read it here, if you’re interested, but what it all came down to was this: resolutions suggest a change needs to be made and that you are somehow not good enough.
This year I want to offer you a different resolution to implement not only in your pole classes, but your everyday. To start the year off right and set yourself up for success, I want to talk about how including mindfulness practices into your pole work will help you get the most out of each session.
Mindfulness in its most technical form is defined as “a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.” More plainly, mindfulness is being fully aware of what is happening in the present moment.
But Emily, aren’t we always aware of what’s happening in the present moment? Well yes, but there is a little more to it than that.
Mindfulness is typically known as a form of meditation but can be practiced literally anywhere at anytime. Among its theorized benefits are “self-control, objectivity, affect tolerance, better memory retention, enhanced flexibility, equanimity, improved concentration and mental clarity, emotional intelligence and the ability to relate to others and one's self with kindness, acceptance and compassion” according to the American Psychological Association.
As well, inn recent years, scientists have found associations between mindfulness and physical health, especially in terms of weight control, as people who are mindful during meals tending to be less likely to gain weight. A few studies also have suggested that people who deliberately immerse themselves in the feeling of moving and in their environment are more likely to exercise again.
For me, I can see these things benefitting my pole training in several positive ways. Besides the obvious potential of better flexibility, thinking more kindly about myself means less insecurity about my bodys’ looks and abilities. It means fully appreciating the difficult things my body is achieving each time I go to class and increased focus means I am more likely to remember what I have been taught, future corrections, names of tricks and more. Focussing on your body will help prevent injury or overworking, and will help keep you safer while completing tricks and in recovery. By being fully present, I can enjoy every moment of each class and feel more fulfilled with each workout.
How do I practice mindfulness during class?
Your breath is key in not only practicing mindfulness but your pole workouts in general. Steady and even breathing efficiently fuels your body with the oxygen it needs to complete the physical tasks required for pole and to keep your muscles moving. The repetitive inflow and outflow of your breath creates a rhythm that can help anchor you into the present moment and help you push through some of poles more difficult tricks.
2. Feel your body
Before starting class, take inventory of how you’re feeling. Do you have pain or discomfort? How is your energy level? Have you eaten recently? By doing this, you’re connecting yourself to your body and you’re then able to make the right choices for yourself at that moment. By being fully aware of your body, you’ll better be able to prevent injury and strain and you’ll start to feel all the muscles hard at work and realize how strong you really are.
3. Notice your environment
Studio Chic offers a relaxing and bright environment to enjoy your workout, so use this to your advantage! Enjoy the lights, warmth, colours and the people around you by taking note of what you see, feel and smell. By grounding yourself to your surroundings, it’s easier to remain in the moment.
4. Slow down
I know you are super excited about pulling off this move (and I am too!) but sometimes its important to slow down during your class. Take a moment to breathe between each trick attempt. Remember that you set this time aside specifically for YOU, so give yourself permission to enjoy it. Use this moment to remember why you are here. Take your time with each movement, particularly strength training exercises. Focus on your form and your posture which will improve your pole technique over the long term.
5. Correct your posture
Posture affects every move you make. Through correct posture you create the optimal spinal alignment for any physical activity. Posture is especially key in pole for all the back and shoulder work required. Remember, shoulders down and back! (You'll thank me later)
6. Think kindly about yourself
Studio Chic is already a judgement-free zone, but the worst culprit of body shaming is always ourselves! Make the studio your safe space from your own head and leave the self criticisms at the door. Make it a goal to no longer shame your body for what it can’t do and doesn’t look like, and instead celebrate it. If you nail a trick, give yourself a pat on the back. If you fail at something, give yourself a pat on the back for trying and go again! Your body and mind are accomplishing some pretty amazing things and you should be proud. If you wouldn't say it to your friend, don't say it to yourself.
7. Talk to your instructor
Struggling with a move in class? Having an off day? Thinking too much about negative things? Talk to your instructor! Studio Chic instructors are a wealth of knowledge and motivation when it comes to getting the most out of your pole class. They are there for you, never judge and want to see you succeed but they are not mind-readers. Speak up!
8. Set a goal or intention
Setting an intention or goal at the beginning of your workout will set you up for success by helping you focus on what you’re doing. By breaking down your large goals into smaller ones, you are more likely to accomplish them. For example, instead of saying “I want to be more flexible this year”, say “I am going to challenge myself during our stretch today.” Your goal can even be as simple as “finish this class”, it’s totally up to you!
9. End on a good note
Remember all the good things about the workout you just did and take note of how good it feels when you’re done, either physically, emotionally or both! Give yourself time to cool down and take time to stretch the muscles you worked. If you can, take a moment to lie down at the end of the workout for one last deep breath; you earned it.
10. Write in your pole journal
Write in your pole journal noting things you learned, challenges you faced, goals for next class or even just that you had a fun class! It is very satisfying to review your journal later and see all the progress you’ve made. Writing is also a mindfulness activity in itself. By writing down your experience from that day, you are remembering and valuing each moment and being present during the time you're writing.
In conclusion, on top of all your wonderful pole and personal goals, I challenge you to give yourself the gift of presence this year and be in the moment. Happy New Year #polefam!
Until next time,