by Studio Owners, Tash and Misha
There are few of us who can think of a more exciting thing than learning death defying, beautiful tricks on the pole once we start to expand our movement repertoire. However, with harder tricks cometh more danger and more responsibility to understand the mechanics of more advanced movement as well as what our bodies actually do inside of that movement. In this entry, we’re going to discuss – you guessed it – safety during a fall. This is something as integral to understand in pole dance as understanding that warm-up is necessary before pole practice to prevent injury. Once we move to the “How to Invert” class stages, we enter an entirely new animal of understanding due to the fact that we are now relying on our legs and feet to hold us upside down, rather than our hands in a natural right-side-up position. Once we start training and attempting these moves, the possibility of injury due to lack of understanding is very real. Even the most seasoned pole dancers face the possibility of a fall, or slip, or loss of grip while executing a difficult or inverted move. So how do we prevent falls or damage control during a fall before or as it’s occurring? What separates those pro and advanced level dancers that have been training and executing those moves without issues for years on end? They know how to fall. Now, that’s not to say that they’ve never had issues in training these moves, but they understand and have the knowledge of how to prevent injury in the event of a fall or error in the flow of movement.
Any seasoned invert instructor will tell you that before you go up the pole inverted, you must learn to come down safely. So what does that mean exactly? Your body has a natural fight or flight response to the fear experienced just before a fall. Our body will throw our hands up if we are falling forward to break the fall, or if we fall backwards, we most often bend to land on our glutes to save our backs. These are usually subconscious responses to what the body sees coming before your brain can even process it. What we aim to do with pole dance is to have a conscious and premeditated response to avoid injury. Your instructor will typically start you laying on the floor to attempt a floor invert first (an alternative to this would be a standing and spotted invert). From the mounted position on the pole, your instructor would then advise you of two main points: 1. Tuck your chin to your chest to protect your neck, and 2. Never just let go. Hands and feet should remain holding the pole through the entirety of the fall until the shoulders have safely reached the ground and started to roll out of the rounded position that protects the head and neck. While this is just a basis for safe exiting in the event of an unintentional error, there are many other details to keep abreast of once you’ve reached the Intermediate+ pole level. Here are a few other tips and tricks to keep you safe:
1. Use a Spotter – Whenever attempting something new – especially moves you aren’t sure of the mechanics of yet, you should still use a spotter (aka – wait until your teacher is nearby to assist you!). Though it may feel like you’re strong enough to execute a move without them, they can provide a helping hand for small errors you may not notice, a brace to help you safely dismount the move should something go wrong, or they can just provide that extra reassurance that you are executing the move correctly.
2. Use a Crash Mat – There is NO shame in the crash mat game! Seriously – even the pros use mats when trying moves they aren’t familiar with yet. It will provide extra safety, stability, and, in the event you do fall, it will hurt your body much less to fall on a cushioned crash mat than a hard, wooden dance floor.
3. Stay Alert in Class – Make sure while your instructor is explaining and demoing a new move for the first time that you are paying attention! In almost every class I’ve ever taken, there is always at least one student who wants to try to perform the move before it’s even been taught. This is where you start to see issues in form and confusion in execution. In doing this, you miss important details and visual understanding when you are focused on yourself and not the instructor. So make sure your eyes and ears are open to all the information you need from your instructor. Once they’re done demoing and speaking, you’ll need to make sure you are using below, numbers 4 and 5.
4. Body Awareness – Once you have an understanding of what the move is via your instructor, make sure you provide the same awareness to your execution of the move. Break the move down into pieces on the floor – understand the paths of both the inside and outside arms and legs from start to finish, first alone, then together. Then go through the mechanics of the move in slow motion, and finally – when your muscles have an understanding of where they’re going – attempt to execute the move….and remember to send energy to all your muscles. This also refers to knowing when a move starts to feel unsafe, unsecured, or you feel a loss of form – know when to “bail out” and reset the move to prevent injuries and falls. There have been so many times where a student isn’t gripping correctly, because they forgot to engage their toes, or quads…etc., when performing an inverted move, this is super important- your whole body should be engaged, don’t forget about certain muscle groups because you are focusing on one area.
5. Perform Level Appropriate Moves In Their Designated Classes – This is a big one to keep in mind. While most of our instructors are plenty capable of spotting and inverting, it’s important that while you are in a class that is below the “How to Invert” level (i.e. Beginner Level), or in a class where your instructor has not explicitly told you to invert in a modification or move being taught, that you do not invert. If your instructor is helping another student perform a move you are all working on in class, they are expecting all of the students to be practicing that particular move. If you then try to perform an inverted move – with no spot and no crash mat – your instructor may be both unaware of a fall that’s about to happen, and unprepared to run over and spot you out of the move if you start to fall. So for your sake, and your instructors’ sake, reserve inverted moves for inverting classes, unless explicitly told otherwise.
There are many more tips to explore – but using these as a basis will help ensure your pole journey is happy, healthy, and injury free.
“But what if I fall?”
Now you know what to do! Follow these tips, and you’ll stay flying high safely above the ground and back down to it as well.