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H   O   L   D        T   H   E        L   I   N   E   ! 
(AKA, alignment in inverted work)

image courtesy of morguefile
This is part two in a series of three on alignment and its importance to safe, stable pole work. 

Alignment. There’s that word again!

When I start to work with students on those inverted poses where part or all of the body is away from the pole (shooting star, butterfly, aysha, straightedge, etc), these are the most common frustrations I hear:

1) I feel like all of my weight is in my bottom hand/wrist/arm
2) I don’t feel stable

These two are closely related, and they both tie back to proper alignment of the body and joints. I wrote about the geometry of pole a while back (you can read that post HERE!), but now I’m going to approach some of the same poses from a slightly different vantage point. This time we won’t be looking at triangles so much as we will be looking for specific straight lines.

If you do any move where your bottom hand pushes your torso away from the pole, you need to make sure your body is properly aligned or all of your weight will push right onto that bottom hand, and you’ll be forced to use your bottom hand to counter the downward force, when it should be doing nothing but pushing you away from the pole.

For example, check out the shooting star image below. Note that there is a straight line from my hooked knee to my top shoulder, and that there is another straight line from my top shoulder THROUGH my other shoulder, THROUGH my elbow, THROUGH my wrist, to the pole. This is the most stable version of this pose. If my inside hand (my push hand) were further up on the pole, my shoulders would be out of alignment. If my inside hand were further down on the pole … same deal. And in either of those scenarios I would feel tremendous pressure on my push hand to help hold my body weight, when in truth its only job is to push that weight away, not to hold it. Make sense?

Don’t think the straight line is important? Imagine trying to do a butterfly with a bent push arm, or without appropriate hip/shoulder/hand alignment (which, incidentally, is very similar to the alignment for aysha). This is also why you should always push out, then up, in a caterpillar climb. Pushing straight up is an exercise in brute strength that just doesn’t make sense. Get your joints and body aligned so your weight distribution doesn’t work against you!

So now let’s talk straight edge. Don’t I look happy to be upside down at the park? I really was! We had a great time taking over the playground equipment. But that’s not why I chose to use this picture. I chose it because it shows how my body is aligned in a hollow body position like I would use for a handstand. My core is doing the work of holding me upright so my arms can do their jobs: pull me toward the pole (my elbow), and push me away from the pole (my bottom hand). When executed properly (which means … surprise! Aligned properly), the straight edge shouldn’t put any more pressure on your bottom hand than any other push/pull inverted move, even though your hips are stacked over your shoulders rather than out in a trianglular formation.

Now, does that mean I have to tuck my pelvis and hold that straight up and down position? What about fang legs? Can’t I get fancy with this? What about other grips?

Good news! You can totally align your body in other grips. And if you rock out with the fang legs you just need to make sure you compensate for the change in position by aligning your body to distribute the weight as equally as possible … or make sure your body is conditioned and strong enough to handle weight distribution that is out of alignment.

This isn’t nearly everything there is to say on the subject of alignment in inverted poses … but hopefully it provides some food for thought. If you have been struggling with any of these moves, or similar ones, think about what your body is doing. First and foremost, ask yourself if you are conditioned for the move at hand, then ask yourself if your technique contributes to correct or incorrect alignment. Think about where your weight is in relation to what you’re asking your body to do.

That’s it for part two! Part three will focus on a move that’s a nemesis for so many pole dancers: the wrist seat/AKA hello boys. Getting to neutral can make saying “hello” so much safer and more stable!

Until then, happy poling!

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