Can't pick up my legs to swing on the pole

by Krystal

I'm having an issue in picking up my legs when I try to swing around a pole. Are there any tips you could give me in regards of my fear of picking myself up on the pole?

Susan from PDFF says...

Thanks for your question Krystal. This is actually not an uncommon issue at all. In fact, I can clearly remember feeling this way myself when I was first learning to spin.

So the good news is, it's definitely possible to get over this fear. To help you do so, it may be beneficial to take a closer look at what's going on here.

First, understand that it's entirely normal to NOT want to pick both feet up off the floor in order to spin around a dance pole. We humans have a built in fear of falling, and having both feet off the ground - especially while your body is in motion - is usually not a good thing!

The other thing that happens for a lot of people the moment they try to get airborne, is that they overthink things. Their mind is three steps ahead of their body trying to figure out what's going to happen next. This often results in their mind stopping their body from doing what it needs to do, because their mind has already decided they're going to hurt themselves if they continue.

Fortunately, in all my years of teaching, I've found a couple of techniques really helpful in overcoming both the natural fear of leaving the ground, and the overthinking issue. You may find that one works better for you than the other, or that both in combination do the trick.

Here's how I used to approach this in class...

To build confidence I suggest gradually getting yourself used to having your feet off the floor. Assuming you have enough strength to hold yourself on the pole, start by holding the pole with both hands as you face it, and simply lifting yourself off the floor an inch or two.

Don't worry about form or what you look like, and remember, you're not trying to spin at this point, only lift your feet a tiny bit off the floor. Once you realize that you can support yourself with your upper body, that fear of picking up your feet often starts to subside.

Next, lift yourself up with your upper body and try to "hug" your pole by holding it with both hands and wrapping both legs around it. Again, there is no special technique here, just lift and support yourself with your upper body while you try to get your legs onto the pole...somewhere!

So far, you've learned to trust that your upper body won't let you down, and that you can get your legs onto the pole once they leave the ground. Now it's time to turn off that overthinking switch so your mind doesn't get in the way of your spin. Here's how...

Most people, when first learning to spin, put too much effort into figuring out how to get their legs onto the pole so they can spin. Instead, I suggest you launch yourself into the spin first, which gives your feet no choice but to leave the ground and get onto that pole!

I call this the "don't think, just spin" approach. You've already proven to yourself that you'll be safe once you get you feet off the floor, so set that concern aside for the moment. Your goal is now to put yourself in a position where you're literally falling into your spin, so that your feet must follow your body onto the pole.

To do this, hold the pole up nice and high with your dominant hand. Let's say you're right handed, so you'll hold the pole with your right hand up nice and high above your head. Take your first step forward with your right foot and count to 3. So you'll walk forward right, left, right (1, 2, 3) to get a bit of momentum (and to give yourself something else to think about!).

Now, without stopping or slowing down, swing your left leg out wide and bring it around to the front of the pole. Remember, don't stop! The momentum of those 3 steps and then the left leg swing should make you feel like you're about to fall forward. And that's a good thing.

If you do this correctly (ie without thinking!) you'll find that your left hand will automatically grab the pole below your right, and as your body weight and the momentum of your leg swing pull you forward and around, your right leg will lift off the floor and tuck in behind the pole. Maybe not on the first try, but if you can allow momentum to work in your favour you won't have to stop and figure out the spin, the hand or leg placements, or how to get anything on the pole; it will all just fall into place.

In fact, that's what you should be doing if you follow this process...literally falling into place on the pole. There's no need to jump up or stop your forward momentum to pick your feet up. Just think of falling forward into the spin, and your survival instinct will take over by getting your feet on the pole, which is actually the safest place for them to be at that point.

And the really good news is that once you've done this the first time, it gets easier and easier (and more fun!). I hope these tips help Krystal. Be sure to come back and let us know how you're doing with your spins!

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