Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Pole Body Part 2: Michellates

About a year ago I began taking Pilates in addition to pole dance classes as a part of my fitness routine.  I was initially just curious about how Pilates worked.  I had heard that it did amazing things for the body and I was particularly interested in the blend of stretching and strengthening that the workout supposedly provided. Pilates is a system of exercises developed by a German man named Joseph Pilates in the early 1900s.  Originally designed as a rehabilitative practice, the goal of Pilates is to achieve an equilibrium of strength and flexibility and better balance in the body when moving through life’s activities.  I began doing one-hour sessions once a week with Michelle Blum, certified Pilates instructor.  Michelle trains out of her home and she has a number of exciting machines that she likes to torture me with.   But in a good way!
            Michelle also has an insatiable curiosity about the body.  Because she is compassionate and detail oriented, she is able to provide a very personalized workout for her clients.  In fact, she thrives off of finding what would best serve each of her clients needs, whether it is overcoming chronic pain, healing from an injury or losing weight. Says Michelle, “While my comprehensive training in Classical Pilates is the foundation of my teaching, depending on a client’s needs I also pull from other pilates styles, my yoga certification, and background in sports and personal training.  I am very much about tailoring each workout to the client’s specific needs.  I’ve been told I have a very sweet and gentle way of kicking someone’s butt. “  Case in point: one of Michelle’s regular clients came to her after training for five years in Pilates with other teachers.  After three months with Michelle she dropped an additional dress size and lost two inches off of her waist.
Michelle also has a background in pole dancing.  When I told her that I wanted to use my Michellates workouts as a foundation for strengthening and conditioning my body to do specific pole tricks she leapt into action.  She assessed my strengths and weaknesses over the course of several sessions and then incorporated a number of core strengthening and leg strengthening exercises to create a very personalized workout.  She also sent me home with worksheets so I could train at home.  The beauty of Michellates is that it teaches you to experience your muscles in relation to one another.  As someone who has very little gymnastics background I struggle with understanding what muscles go into which pole dancing trick.  Michellates has helped me tremendously with this.  Says Michelle, “Pilates is very much an overall body workout and while we target specific muscle groups through certain exercises, the workout, on the whole, is a complete body workout.  What someone learns through doing Pilates is how the muscles relate to one another and work together.  In other words, how to use their muscles correctly and how to engage and strengthen parts of the body that aren't working at full aptitude in order to assist the parts of the body that are working at full aptitude.   

Some of the benefits of Pilates include:

-Elongating muscles without building bulk.

-Slimming problem areas, i.e., Hips, buttocks and thighs.

-Increasing flexibility while building strength.

-Improving posture, coordination and circulation.

-Increasing range of motion.

-Promoting relaxation and a sense of well-being.

Since starting Michellates almost a year ago people are constantly asking me if I have lost weight.  In fact, I’ve gained weight because I’ve gained muscle mass.  But my body looks leaner.  And I only see her once a week!  But perhaps the best part of Michellates is seeing how passionate Michelle is about her work: “I love being able to teach people how to properly work with their body while at the same time giving them a great workout. I love being a part of the discoveries people make about their body.  Clients will often arrive sharing a story of a discovery they made while doing an activity in their day to day life, how they were able to feel the difference and move more freely or with more ease. Seeing people awaken to the mind/body connection, witnessing their progress over time, helping them to alleviate some tension both physically and mentally and helping them to feel more energetic is a gift."

So if you are a pole dancer looking for an extra workout that will complement your pole dancing exercise, I strongly recommend looking into Michellates.  Especially if you find yourself struggling with tricks and/or worried about injuries.  As a New Year’s special, Michelle is offering an intro one on one session for 40.00 and a deal on packages to anyone who mentions this article. 

Happy New Year Everybody!

Facebook: Michelle Blum

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Great Goddess

From "Who Cooked the Last Supper?"
by Rosalind Miles

Around 2300 B.C., the chief priest of Sumeria composed a hymn in praise of God.  This celebration of the omnipotent deity, "The Exaltation of Innana", is a song of extraordinary power and passion, and it has come down in history as the world's first known poem.  But it has another claim to world attention - both the first God and this first known priest-poet were female.

For in the beginning, as humankind emerged from the darkness of prehistory, God was a woman.  And what a woman!  The Sumerian inhabitants of what is now Iraq worshipped her in hymns of fearless eroticism, giving thanks for her tangled locks, her "lap of honey", her rich vulva "like a boat of heaven" - as well as for the natural bounty that she "pours forth from her womb" so generously that every lettuce was to be honored as "the Lady's" pubic hair.  But the Supreme being was more than a provider of carnal delights. Equally relished and revered were her warlike rages - to her first priest-poet Enheduanna she was "a dragon, destroying by fire and flood" and "filling rivers with blood".

The power and centrality of the first woman-God is one of the best-kept secrets of history.  We think today of a number of goddesses, all with different names - Isis, Juno, Demeter - and have forgotten what, 5,000 years ago, every schoolgirl knew; no matter what name or guise she took, there was only one God and her name was woman.
So arose the belief that woman was divine, not human, gifted with the most sacred and significant power in the world; and so was born the worship of the Great Mother.  The birth of new life out of woman's body was intricately related to the birth of new crops out of the body of the earth, and from the very first, both were interlocked in the concept of a female divinity far more complex and powerful than conventional accounts suggest.

Wedded as we are to an all-loving, all-forgiving stereotype of motherhood, it is at first sight difficult to reconcile this terrifying image of the bad mother with the good.  But both "life" and "death" sides of the Goddess come together without strain in her primary aspect, which is in fact, not motherhood pure and simple, but hersexuality.  As her primary sexual activity she created life; but in sex she demanded man's essence, his self, even his death.  Here again the true nature of the Goddess and her activities have fallen victim to the mealy-mouthed prudery of later ages.  Where referred to at all, they are coyly labeled "fertility" rituals, beliefs or totems, as if the Great Goddess selflessly performed her sexual obligations solely in order to ensure that the earth would be fruitful.  It is time to set the historical record straight.  The fruitfulness of crops and animals was only ever a by-product of the Goddess's own personal sexual activity.  Her sex was hers, the enjoyment of it hers, and as all these early accounts of her emphasize, when she had sex, like any other sensible female, she had it for herself.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Soul Starved Woman

by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
From "Women Who Run With Wolves"

When the personal soul-life is burnt to ashes, a woman loses the vital treasure and begins to act dry-boned as Death.  In her unconscious, the desire for the red shoes, (a wild joy), not only continues, it swells and floods, and eventually staggers to its feet and takes over, ferocious and famished.  
  To be in a state of hambre del alma, a starved soul, is to be made relentlessly hungry.  Then a woman burns with a hunger for anything that will make her feel alive again.  A woman who has been captured knows no better, and will take something, anything, that seems similar to the original treasure, good or not.  A woman who is starved for her real soul-life may look "cleaned up and combed" on the outside , but on the inside she is filled with dozens of pleading hands and empty mouths.
  In this state, she will take any food regardless of its condition or its effect, for she is trying to make up for past losses.  Yet even though this is a terrible situation, the wild Self will try over and over again to save us.  It whispers, whimpers, calls, drags our fleshless carcasses around in our nightdreams until we become conscious of our condition and take steps to reclaim the treasure.
  We can better understand the woman who dives into excesses - the most common being drugs, alcohol and bad love - and who is driven by soul-hunger by noting the behavior of the starved and ravening animal.  Like the starved soul, the wolf has been portrayed as vicious, ravenous, preying upon the innocent and the unguarded, killing to kill, never knowing when enough is enough.  As you can see, the wolf has a very bad and unearned fairy-tale and real-life reputation.  In actuality, wolves are dedicated social creatures.  The entire pack is instinctively organized so healthy wolves kill only what is needed for survival.  Only when there is trauma to an individual wolf or to the pack does this normal pattern loosen or change.
  There are two instances in which a wolf kills excessively.  In both, the wolf is not well.  A wolf may kill indiscriminately when it is ill with rabies and distemper.  A wolf may kill excessively after a period of famine.  The idea that famine can alter the behavior of creatures is quite a significant metaphor for the soul-starved woman.  Nine times out of ten a woman with a spiritual/psychological problem that causes her to fall into traps and be badly hurt is a woman who has been critically soul-starved in the past.
  Among wolves, famine occurs when snows are high and game is impossible to reach.  Deer and caribou act as snowplows; wolves follow their paths through the high snow.  When the deer are stranded by high snowfalls, no plowing occurs; then the wolves are stranded too.  Famine ensues.  Foe wolves, the most dangerous time for famine is winter.  For woman, a famine may occur at any time, and can come from anywhere, including her own culture.
  For the wolf, famine usually ends in springtime when the snows begin to melt.  Following a famine, the pack may throw itself into a killing frenzy.  Its members won't eat most of the game they kill, and they won't cache it.  They leave it.  They kill much more than they could ever eat, much more than they could ever need.  A similar process occurs when a woman's been captured and starved.  Suddenly free to go, to do, to be, she is in danger of going on a rampage of excesses too...and feels justified about it.  There is something about famine that causes judgement to be blighted.
  So when the treasure of a woman's most soulful life has been burned to ashes, instead of being driven by anticipation, a woman is possessed by voraciousness.  So, for instance, if a woman wasn't permitted to sculpt, she may suddenly begin to sculpt day and night, lose sleep, deprive her innocent body of nutrition, impair her health, and who knows what else.  Maybe she cannot stay awake a moment longer; ah, reach for drugs...for who knows how long she will be free.
  Hambre del alma is also about starvation of the soul's attributes: creativity, sensory awareness, and other instinctual gifts.  If a woman is supposed to be a lady who sits with her knees kissing only each other, if she was raised to keel over in the presence of rough language, if she was never allowed anything to drink but pasteurized milk...then when she is freed, look out!  Suddenly she may not be able to get enough of those sloe-gin fizzes, she may sprawl like a drunken sailor, and her language will peel paint off the walls.  After famine, there is a fear one will again be captured someday.  So one gets while the getting is good.
  Overkill through excesses, or excessive behaviors, is acted out by women who are famished for a life that has meaning and makes sense for them.  When a woman has gone without her cycles or creative needs for long periods of time, she begins a rampage of -you name it- alcohol, drugs, anger, spirituality, oppression of others, promiscuity, study., creation, control, education, orderliness, body fitness, junk food, to name a few areas of common excess.  When women do this, they are compensating for the loss of regular cycles of self-expression, soul-expression, soul-satiation.
  The starving woman endures famine after famine.  She may plan her escape, yet believe the cost of fleeing is too high, that it will cost her too much libido, too much energy.  She may be ill prepared in other ways too, such as educationally, economically, spiritually.  Unfortunately, the loss of treasure and the deep memory of famine may cause us to rationalize that excesses are desirable.  And it is, of course, such a relief and a pleasure to finally be able to enjoy sensation...any sensation.
  A woman newly free from famine just wants to enjoy life for a change.  Her dulled perceptions about the emotional, rational, physical, spiritual, and financial boundaries required for survival endanger her instead.  That is the trouble with famine.  If something looks like it will fill the yearning, a woman will seize it, no questions asked.