BEHIND THE POLE: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY

Posted on 16 February 2016

Originally published in the Summer 2015 Issue of Bombshell Pole Magazine.

A lot of people don't understand why I pole or how I even got into it. I don't think I've really shared that with most people so... here's my story!

I took a drop-in class two years ago at a studio that is now closed, and I enjoyed it so much I decided to sign up for regular classes. I think I was immediately fascinated with how sore I was after just an hour of learning basic moves; it proved to be quite the killer workout. At the time, I was about 5 months out of a 3.5 year relationship that ended badly and I was looking for something to do to occupy my time and keep me from wallowing in my feelings. This was the perfect thing to help me find myself again-- I felt strong, I felt empowered, and I felt like a kid on playground. So, I kept at it even though I knew several people would think of it as extremely taboo, especially for the conservative-minded city I live in.

When my studio closed, I was pretty bummed out because I felt like I had lost what became my second home. I didn't want to stop my progress, so I purchased an X-pole for my house and decided to just teach myself. I'm sure my apartment leasing staff raised a few eyebrows when inspections rolled around and they saw that tall piece of metal in there… Since I was without classes in my own city, I started driving up to the closest “pole city” near me (which happened to be Atlanta) whenever I was able to attend workshops so I could keep learning from the best. I've met so many girls just driving up there and taking classes, and it always amazes me how talented and passionate they are (Atlanta girls are a force to be reckoned with!). After over a year of being self-taught, some studios finally opened up in my town and I felt better than a kid on Christmas morning. I had a home again! And to add the cherry on top, two pro-level competitors have ended up becoming my new instructors. My friends and I have improved so much thanks to them.

The cool thing about getting so involved with pole is that it's gotten me into several other art forms. Being a pole dancer helped me become disciplined enough to stick with a workout regimen and become interested in trying out other things. I've really deepened my yoga and flexibility practice and I've dabbled with aerial silks enough to pretend that I know what I'm doing. After my last competition, I'm really itching to learn Lyra (hoop), and I would absolutely love to try out trapeze. Basically, I just want to run away and join the circus! (Okay, so not really... but, a girl can dream!)

Pole is also partially what got me into the Paleo diet. I wanted to find a different way to fuel my body appropriately since I was getting serious about being an athlete. Since several big name polers cross train with Cross Fit, and the paleo diet is huge in the Cross Fit world, I decided to look into it and try it out. Two years later, it really has done wonders for my muscle tone and recovery and has been a great supplement to my training.

On a more personal note, pole has really helped to fill that void that I can sometimes feel as a single woman. No matter how happy I am with myself and the person I've become, I think it's perfectly acceptable to admit that I still feel an empty space... a space that's only going to get filled by the love of a faithful, loving partner. Spinning around and getting lost in my movement helps take my thoughts to a different place, one where I forget about these things and just focus on the present moment. It's quite fulfilling.

Interestingly enough, pole has also helped me develop professionally. Right now, I work as an ambassador and social media coordinator for some of my favorite pole brands, Mighty Grip and Artista Active Wear, and I volunteered as the newsletter editor for the International Pole Sports Federation, which is spearheading efforts to have pole become part of the Olympic Games. Working for these organizations has allowed me to meet so many people that I've looked up to since I started this, and I believe at some point it will open up several other doors for me. They've been incredibly supportive and I'm so grateful I have the chance to help advance this art/sport by being a part of what they do.

I say all of this to really say this: pole has changed my life, and I’m grateful for those that have witnessed my growth. If you took the time to wish me good luck before a competition, thank you. If you have been supportive of me since the beginning of this journey, thank you. If you've ever told people about what I do with enthusiasm, and defend me when people react negatively, thank you. I wouldn't be where I am right now if it wasn't for you guys. I seriously mean that.

It's been so overwhelming (in a good way) to have received so much support this past year, from new and old faces alike. This is the main reason I have stuck with this-- love. This community is so passionate about advancing our art and sport, and we aim to uplift and empower everyone we meet. Sounds kinda Lifetime movie-ish, right? But if you've ever been around a group of women that do this, you know what I'm talking about. I think people are finally starting to realize that there is absolutely nothing wrong with what I do. If anything, I think me being more open and proud about it has encouraged several people around me to check it out for themselves, and that's pretty neat. I never thought I would be influential in that way. If people still have a negative perception of it, that's unfortunately their problem. It's 2016- the world is clearly changing and we are all becoming more accepting of things that we have been conditioned to believe that are wrong. But, like every other taboo topic or activity, not everyone will be open to what I do or receive it without prejudice. And, I can't change that. It's like that one saying: "You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there's still going to be someone who doesn't like peaches."

At least I know most of you enjoy a good Georgia peach. :)

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Kaylee Cruz, also known by her real name Kayra, is an Artista Active Wear Brand Ambassador, and she also helps us manage our online media. Currently residing in Columbus, Georgia, she is a Pole Instructor at The Up Factory, a Junior Athlete and Social Media Manager for Mighty Grip, a writer for Bombshell Pole Magazine, an amateur pole competitor, and an avid volunteer at various pole events.

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