One of my fitness goals for 2017 was finally being able to do a forearm stand. I wasn’t being too ambitious. Being able to do a forearm stand while supporting my head was something I’d never been able to do even when I was at my fittest in high school dancing 8+ hours every week. This told me that whatever I’d done in the past had not truly helped me with my forearm stand, which is only partially upper body strength, but, from what I’ve experienced, is mostly abdominal strength and balance. Abdominal strength has never been one of my strong points, and if you caught my other post, Abdominal Strength: Thoughts From a Girl Who Has Always Been Killed By Crunches, then you know that abs and I have never been close.

So several months ago I bought a 45mm X-pole in brass with the option to set it to static or spin (convertible) and, it has been one of my better, expensive decisions. I chose the brass because of my sweaty palms. It’s supposed to provide more grip than the chrome, which, I do feel that it makes good on that promise. I also prefer the golden-ish color to the chrome, but that is strictly about aesthetics. I use it mostly on static because when I was taking pole classes back in Memphis, I learned on a static pole. I have practiced some on the spinning pole mode, but, it is not as familiar to me. I also started writing this post months ago so let me target that earlier excitement I had back then! …

So… I know I haven’t been updating nearly as often as I should be (I get tired and have been running around a lot). I’m sorryyyy, BUT, you might be excited to know that I’ve seemed to have accomplished one of my goals for the (last) year: the nailing of the forearm stand. I’ll tell you how I got there, and it was NOT from doing a lot of planks, crunches, mountain climbers, vinyasas, or really doing any yoga at all. In fact, I have been pretty negligent about doing yoga these past few weeks since I got the pole, yet somehow, when I was practicing new pole tricks last night, I got the thought in my head that I hadn’t worked on my forearm stands and handstands since I got the pole.

a spread eagle during pole dancing in the midst of the living room

So, like one who has become frustrated with slow pole progress, I took off my high heels and pulled out my yoga mat. Doubling it up, I placed it in front of the pole (which, in my mind forces me to have more balance and to concentrate more, but…I’m no expert so…), dropped down on my hands and knees, bent over, put my large, pumpkin head on the floor, made a couple of adjustments to my forearms to make myself more comfortable, walked my legs up, tilted my head a little further back, and EUREKA!!

Pole-dancing makes for excellent yoga cross-training. Sometimes the answer to your yoga-struggles is to try a different sort of exercise.

Honestly, I still cannot believe it. I am legitimately surprised. I’ve been working on this damn forearm stand all fucking year while also avoiding planks and really half-assing my yoga stretches. I’m not going to bash yoga, because I enjoy it, but like most things I enjoy, I cycle through them every few months and don’t consistently practice most of my hobbies, except maybe pole, since it’s always set up right in the living room.

Cross-training with pole helped me find alignment, secretly built my core strength, and magically gave me greater balance. I phrase it that way because I had NO idea I would bend over and just float into a forearm stand and it was one of the most unbelievable moments I’d had all year. I dead ass did not believe it had happened and went to bed thinking, “Did I just do that?” In order to confirm that I indeed did that, I tried it again when I woke up the next morning… and did it again.

That was a few months ago now, but, I still feel very accomplished about doing the forearm stand which I have now been practicing with moving legs. That provides an additional challenge as you have to adjust to maintain your balance. Now, let me drop a few tips for anyone who is also trying to get this supported forearm stand.

Double up your yoga mat.

Not what you were expecting, right? Well, I’d say the average person does not have a padded skull so that extra cushion helps to keep your head from pressing against the hard floor as you are strengthening your forearm stand. This also allows your head to to be a little bit lower than your forearms and supporting hands which lengthens your neck and spine for a longer, more secure position. It’s also a lot more damn comfortable than having your smooshed against the floor. Yoga mats have always been far too thin for me so I try to double it up whenever I roll like a ball or do most anything where my spine or knees have to support my weight. This also feels a lot more comfortable on my forearms (I felt it was important to point that out).

Practice on the spinning pole at a high speed.

I always feel my invisible abs so much more after I do some slightly reckless pole dancing on the spin pole. What I mean by this is, use the same force you’d use to do a spin on a static pole when you use the spinning pole. I am not telling you to regularly dance this way, but I do believe that approaching the spinning pole with a static pole mindset is what helped target my core so intensely that I could learn to do forearm stands. I do mostly fireman spins with this heavy momentum. You will be spinning at a very fast speed. You might get dizzy. I always do, but it’s still hella fun. You can speed yourself up and slow yourself down by moving your body closer or further away from the pole. I put on some good music and just improvise for half an hour or so, including floor work. Also, since I do have the pole set up in my home, I will also randomly practice different tricks throughout the day so I do think I end up practicing a lot more often than I actually keep up with. Not that I was ever tracking the amount of time I spent pole dancing anyway.

Balance against the pole…or something.

I’m really going to advocate that you stick with the pole for this. Because it is narrow, it provides all 3 dimensions (if you want to call it that) for correcting your posture and finding your balance. I also find it preferable to free fall onto my back rather than crashing into a wall, but…I’m probably alone in that. So, when you kick up into your forarm stand, you can arch your back and place only your feet on the pole to give you something to hold you steady. I am not going to lie to you, it takes some balance and control to not miss the pole and flip over so I wouldn’t use a lot of force to kick up. You can also press up into the forearm stand, if you have the control to do so, but when I first discovered that I could do a forearm stand, I didn’t have that kind of control, strength, or balance.

Now, with your legs against the pole and your head supported, you can wiggle your head a little until you find a position that doesn’t give you that “crunch” sensation in your neck. Just because your back is arched, that does not mean that your neck should be too. Your forearms should only be wide enough to allow your head to be between them without seeming like you’re squeezing your head. Keep your forearms parallel. You should now be primed to lift first one leg, then the other, straight into the air, slowly. Focus on being “long”. Legs are reaching up and the top part of your skull is reaching down, through the yoga mat, and into the depths of hell. Your forearms are pressed against the yoga mat. You feel the weight in them. It’s kind of like trying to balance a seesaw. Not too much weight on either side, and your head is the fulcrum.

I recommend practicing just this a few times randomly during the day so as to reduce frustration and gradually get more in tune with your body’s balance. You are probably less likely to get fatigued by spreading out these little balancing sessions. I do this because every time I successfully complete a forearm stand, it gives me a little burst of confidence and most people could use that sort of positive energy throughout the day.

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