“THE EROTIC IS SOMETHING WE’VE BEEN FORBIDDEN FOR SO LONG WE CAN ONLY DEFINE WHAT IT MEANS BY CRAWLING OUT FROM THE OPPRESSION THAT WE’VE HAD SURROUNDING ALL OF OUR SEXUALITY. IT’S REALLY IMPORTANT THAT WE RECOVER THAT POWER, AND I SOMETIMES THINK THAT IT IS ONLY THE BRAVEST WOMEN WHO WILL FIGHT HARD ENOUGH TO RECOVER THAT.”
Thursday, September 12, 2013
Friday, June 28, 2013
Pole is fitness. (I know, whaaaaat?) It takes discipline, stamina, practice, energy and strength. It makes you stronger. And you have to train to be proficient in it.
Now that we have that cleared up, let me introduce you to Jehan Izhar. Jehan is a physical performance coach and aerialist who recently completed her Masters in Kinesiology.
According to her in addition to strength pole takes mobility, flexibility and power. Jehan also teaches the Fly Gym Instructor program. Fly Gym is a system that uses supportive fabrics that are hung from the ceiling (or wall) to provide a fitness "experience" that combines aerial fitness training, aerial yoga and pilates. It is especially beneficial for students training in the aerial arts as it allows you to achieve 360 degree rotation while engaging your muscles the entire time. As Jehan points out, static muscle building exercises that work on one or two planes only are not preparing muscles properly for pole work. You train for the transitions not the tricks.
|Jehan in her Ninja Move|
I took the Fly Gym Instructor Training over the course of 2 Saturdays. What I liked about it was how much focus Jehan placed on assessing for needs. Because she is a physical performance coach, her eye is trained to look for where there is compensation in the body. She understands posture and alignment extremely well (she is a yogi and a cirque performer after all) and her Masters in Kinesiology means she is an expert at human movement. So when she teaches Fly Gym for Pole she emphasizes watching your student's body for areas of compensation. Certain exercises with Fly Gym can help to illuminate those weak spots and then help to strengthen them. This is not something I have seen in pole training before. Usually we just kind of try the tricks until we get them. And of course this can be dangerous.
|Learn Twisted Grip without the strain on your sweet wrists!|
Even more interesting is the fact that both Jehan and the other student in the class, who is a teacher in Australia, acknowledged that there were certain tricks they did not teach because they were simply too risky on certain size poles or because they were simply not good for your body. Keep in mind that pole is different from other aerial arts because there is almost always a push-pull dynamic going on in tricks, which means unlike lyra or silks, where the center point is your body and therefore body alignment is easier, in pole the center point is the pole itself. This means we are always a bit off-balance. As we know, pole takes a toll. This training reminded me that being fit and healthy also meant being balanced. If we are exercising one side of our body more than the other, or pushing and pulling as we do in pole, then it is best to balance that out in our workouts.
|You don't need a pole to Fly Gym! Take it to the playgrounds for practice!|
I am not a fitness expert by a long shot. And so maybe to someone who has a background in personal training, this all seems like a no-brainer. But I think I will say what I have to say anyway. I really appreciate how much this training emphasizes building up strength AND flexibility FOR pole. In other words, it really focuses on how to make you a stronger and smarter pole athlete. If pole is about fitness then a pole curriculum should reflect a healthy and balanced approach towards building a student's strength. And curriculum developers should be consulting people like Jehan to best determine how to teach pole in a way that reflects the true meaning of the word "fit".
In addition to training pole athletes, Fly Gym can be used on its own to work with populations who need strength training and some extra support while they do it. The creator, Aruna Andes, is currently working on bringing Fly Gym to disabled veterans at the VA.
|Aruna Andes, creator of Fly Gym|
As for me, I will be taking my Fly Gym to the monkey bars in the hopes that I can someday achieve my twisted grip without aggravating the tendonitis in both my wrists. And, I will be bringing my 70-year-old father with me, so he can practice balancing on a standing leg. Happy Flying!
For more information on Fly Gym go to www.flygym.com
To find out how to get in touch with Jehan go to www.jehanizhar.com
Monday, June 17, 2013
|Me in high school.|
The gentleman who led the bell ringers at my school was a quiet and serious man who was my father's age. He would escort us across the close and up the tower to the bells and ask us about our studies and other matters. He was always very respectful towards us. Anyway, on one of our weekly treks over to the bell tower we were chatting in a group, as we always did. I said something to the teacher - I truly cannot remember what. But his response is forever seared in my mind. "Well LOOK at you!" he barked angrily. "You have your belly half hanging out of your shirt and God knows what! What do you expect?!" I froze. My stomach felt like it had been kicked and my face turned bright red. He was shaming me. He was visibly angry at me for my appearance. I felt so small and so embarrassed and very, very bad.
By the way, not that it matters, but here is what I was wearing: jeans, Doc Martens, a white V-neck undershirt that had the bottom cut off so it fit me and a flannel shirt tied around my waist. I remember thinking, "My shirt is too short. I'm inappropriate." Never mind that my school had a dress code that prohibited midriff exposure and I surely would have gotten detention that day if I was in fact violating the dress code.
I left the club eventually. But not before we took a road trip with this same teacher to ring in different bell towers in New England. (I know, it's so WASP-y.) Because we had long trips in the van, it was suggested that we bring some reading material. So I did. I brought my sexiest, dirtiest romance novels. They are tame by today's standards, but at the time they were pretty bold. And much to the delight of all the girls, I offered to read them out loud. They agreed. And so, in my best voice, I would carefully turn to the dirtiest parts of the novels and read them loudly and clearly to the entire van, including our teacher.
He claimed he never heard a word. But I took great pleasure in watching his ears turn red while he
tried to tune out the filth that was pouring from of my mouth as the girls exploded in shrieks and laughter.
I'm not sure I knew quite what I was doing at the time, but in hindsight it seems like clear payback for making me feel like I needed to cover up, or be ashamed in any way of my appearance or my body or my sexuality. I do remember taking great pleasure in what I perceived to be a fair humiliation of my teacher.
What I wish I had internalized then, and what I hope every woman learns early on in her life, is that another person's shaming behavior towards your sexuality or your body is never a reflection on you. Rather, it's a reflection of their own discomfort with and prejudices about sexuality. I do not think this teacher is a bad man or that he did something evil and wrong. But I do think that this story, much like the one about the TSA agent, illustrates the insidious and damaging cultural beliefs we have about who has agency over the female body - particularly when it comes to a woman's ability to arouse.
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Saturday, February 16, 2013
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
A few months ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Kyleanne Hunter, one of the first female Cobra helicopter pilots in the U.S. Marine Corps and a strong, unapologetic and beautiful woman. We quickly recognized a kindred spirit between us, and I asked if I could interview her for my blog as well as re-post some of her blogs on The Pole Story. She graciously agreed. What struck me about Ky's writing was that despite clear external differences in occupation and career, there was a great deal of similarity in our struggle to define ourselves as women through non-traditional roles. Read on to find out more about the amazing Ky.
"I'd rather be looked over, than overlooked" - Mae West
I never really had a choice. I was always taller than the average girl, but was definitely not a boy. Physically, I kept up with the boys from 4-year-old soccer team; perhaps a portend to the future being captain of the boy's waterpolo team in high school, beating my male counterparts on the endurance course and PFTs in the Marine Corps, and racing in men's races on the bike. I'm 5'11", and, shall we say, have curves; still definitely not a boy. Even my name, Kyleanne, stands out as unique. I stand out in a crowd. Not exactly overlooked.
However, the past decade of my professional life has, on the surface, has pushed gender neutrality and conformity. "We're all Marines," we were told, starting at OCS. "Woman Marines" has become as cringe-worthy as a racial slur. Uniformity, order, and discipline were drilled into us along with the core values of honor, courage and commitment. My time in the USMC was the time of the Nation's longest war. A time when I went from optimistic post-college girl, full of spit, fire and donning designer shoes, to battle-ready Marine, trained to close with and destroy the enemy through fire and maneuver.
Through OCS, TBS, Flight School, Squadron Life, and deployments I lost "Kyleanne" and found Candidate -> Lieutenant -> Captain Hunter. A rank-name construct that is gender-race-creed neutral. Necessary for order and discipline and execution of commander's intent. This is what wins wars, secures our Nation, and makes crowds ohh and ahh at the precision and lock-step of ceremonial drill.
It also has secondary effects. It allows us to think of ourselves as a collective "Marines" rather than individuals. In war, this makes it easier for us to sacrifice ourselves and our friends for a greater good, and to kill the enemy. Detachment is necessary for success. Individualism must be overlooked. Personality stymied. We become interchangeable parts in the Marine-Air-Ground-Task-Force, known for our names, rank and Military Occupation Specialty; by extension, learning not to think of ourselves or our personal wants. "Weapon-Gear-Self" is the order of precedence of care. And generally by the time self is reached, I'm too tired to think about it.
When I entered the Marine Corps, I was fully aware of the "service" component of military service. I was, however, unaware of just how much it would change my perception of self. For several years, I put on olive drab green or desert brown, and, in the name of supporting the country I love, worked to ensure that Kyleanne would be overlooked for the betterment of the Corps. Success and acceptance went hand-in-hand; to thrive, which in turn meant the MAGTF thrived and wars could be won, I blended in. I became hard when I had to be hard, and reacted on instinct and training.
It wasn't until I came to the House of Representatives as the Marine Corps Liaison that the loneliness of being overlooked in the name of honor, courage, and commitment came to weigh fully on me. The energy I had poured into ensuring I fully became "Captain, USMC" my peers had poured into creating relationships, marriages, homes and families. The hours I spent piloting a Cobra helicopter over the desert, they spent building a life to ensure comfort, love, and security in their old age. Nights I spend sitting, shivering in a conex box wondering, in the few moments of solitude I got, "what the fuck am I doing here?" they spent in lovers' arms. My 20s and early 30s - years women typically give to someone to start a foundation of life together - I gave to everyone else. As I am beginning to shed the layers of green and brown and transition into civilian life, this brings to the surface intense feeling of loneliness, fear, and overwhelming anxiety that I have missed some higher life purpose.
I do not regret one minute I spent as part of great collective that is the USMC. People have often remarked that I am a "strong, independent woman." And I am. But, in order to be so, I need to be Kyleanne. Today I found out that I was accepted to every graduate program to which I applied. In a small way, it was a sense of validation that I am still wanted and relevant as an individual. That my time as part of the collective is just a step in become more of an individual.
Last year, I was in a position to start doing things for me. It started with racing my bike. The pain I felt was mine, and mine alone, and the victories were a result of long hours of very personal suffering and dedication. On the bike, I was needed and wanted for being me. I developed a personality that became known (and maybe even loved) in the regional elite pelaton. I developed a relationship with my coach that pulled me through bouts of depression and anxiety, and life-long friendships with teammates and competitors alike. For the first time in nearly a decade, a community wanted me as much for who I was as what I could do. I was being looked over, as it were, not over looked.
Transitioning into the civilian world, I'm still not fully sure who Kyleanne is, nor who she will become. I have spent so long worrying about not being "too-Ky" that I don't know how long it will take to full separate myself from being part of an institution and openly and completely embrace the individual. The irony of my years of burying myself in order to be overlooked, is that as I enter my new life, this will cause me to constantly looked-over. There are few female attack pilots out there, and fewer still with legislative liaison experience, and exactly zero others who also race bikes. So I'm moving on, knowing full well that I am in a position to once again stand out. And am embracing this as an opportunity to probe myself and others with curiosity. And challenge the world to go ahead and look me over. Just don't be surprised when I look back.
To read more of Ky's blogs, go to: www.welcometokyland.blogspot.com.
Thursday, December 27, 2012
My first brave guest writer chose to write about the intersection of her spirituality and her sexuality in pole class, and the ways in which this meeting furthered her healing process. Given the time of year, a story about the spiritual aspects of pole seemed the perfect way to kick-off a lovely new series of Pole Stories.
In meditation the goal is to master your mind. In class, while I’m dancing, I attain that mastery. I don't think to myself, "Ok, I'm going do a couple hip circles here and then I'm going to throw a spin." I let the music enter my body and let my body take over, allowing my mind to follow. It is a conversation between God and me.