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Mind and Body: Reasons Aerial Arts Can Benefit Pole Dancing

By on August 27, 2016

It’s easy to get stuck at a certain level of difficulty with pole, also known as the notorious plateau, where a student discovers she is standing alone in the icy wind of non-progress. It can be frustrating to hang in suspension, and often plateaus are mental blocks. Perhaps the body needs to get stronger, or sometimes we need to learn a new movement pattern. A fantastic way to move off a plateau is by adding aerial arts into your repertoire. Crossing the bridge to another sport, particularly a sister sport, can create extra mind body connection, enhanced strength and refresh a student on learning.


New movement creates additional neural pathways in the brain, enhancing plasticity. Any kind of strength training induces synaptogenesis. This means the motor neurons become animated and the communication between the muscles and the nervous system is improved. As a person learns new motor skills, studies have shown that the brain cultivates more grey matter, which is responsible for motor skills. Basically, there is more neural connection to not only hone one’s skills in one sport, but also to potentially work into another sport with less effort than someone who does not have bonus grey matter.

Learning new movement also increases memory and enriches mood by harmonizing the neurotransmitters serotonin, cortisol, dopamine and endorphins. Going into deep detail with what a new sport does to the brain could fill volumes, but let’s look at the common sense. Aerial arts have similar movement patterns to pole, but require new grips, new positions and new muscle firing patterns. Aerial silks has many of the same shapes as pole, but getting into those shapes, wrapping and dealing with a moving apparatus made of fabric can be plenty of new stimuli for the brain.


Exploring aerial arts also develops muscles in innovative ways. Muscle memory is linked to motor learning, as a type of procedural memory. When attempting a specific motor task, the body is asked by the brain to move in a certain pattern and with repetition and practice the task becomes second nature, or has been stored in our memory bank. As we repeat a movement and learn it, the movement becomes less rudimentary and the muscles learn the correct firing patterns to create smooth and efficient movement. Learning to fire muscles in altered patterns, strengthens muscles in new ways. And strengthening the muscles in changed ways also shocks the body into producing more muscle fiber, this process is known as muscular hypertrophy, and this is how muscles develop.

This extra strength may come into play when transitioning back to trying that hard pole move that was previously unattainable. For example taking aerial yoga, where the movement may be focused on lifts, core or flow movement, can aid in getting to the next level with pole class. The benefits of obtaining stronger abs, better engagement in the shoulders or just improving the timing in linked movements will all show up in pole.


New instructors provide fresh descriptions and teaching methods that may resonate with different learning styles. An instructor explaining a move or helping a student find a new body position in the trapeze may actually be helping that student in pole class. Hearing different directions, learning new body positions and receiving unique feedback may assist the body and mind connection on a deeper level. Every instructor has a set of cues, explanations and techniques that are used to promote student learning. The more instructors you learn from the more diverse your learning background is. It doesn’t mean your favorite instructor isn’t still your favorite, it means you are a diverse student.

When the brain and the body are given the opportunity to learn something new, worlds can change. Aerial arts can provide a fresh view and assist a pole student in moving off a pole plateau.


Feature Image: Danielle Christine, photo by Alloy Images
Rebecca Stokes
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Rebecca Stokes

Rebecca is a certified personal trainer, aerial studio owner and has developed training certifications in the aerial arts industry.She is a journalist and is working on her Masters in clinical mental health therapy.
Rebecca Stokes
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