What really gets me hot is hearing words that should just be banned, torched and otherwise eliminated from our pole vocabulary because they restrict our abilities, confuse us or downright discourage us—despite being abused ALL THE TIME in the studio and online. The three words below are my most hated pole-related words along with some suggestions of words to use instead whether you are a teacher or a student and are appropriate for wherever you are in your pole journey.
Banned Word: can’t
Pole can provide a great confidence boost to our daily lives but it can also bring the feeling of crushing defeat. Achieving and then losing our splits, having a muscle-fatigue day when nothing seems to “work” or bringing baggage from our day-jobs into the studio can all have a tremendous negative affect on our ability to be positive and keep having fun. The word “can’t” starts to creep into our conversations on our most frustrated days and we find ourselves throwing tantrums either in our heads or out loud, comparing ourselves to other polers and limiting our ability to learn. Our words greatly affect how we see ourselves and if we say them out loud enough – how other people treat us too. If we “can’t” long enough, then we really won’t.
Instead Use: Add “yet” to the end of every “can’t.” Even on those days when getting out of bed seems like the bravest thing you did all day and climbing to the top of the pole seems impossible, allow yourself the possibility of greatness. You might not feel it now—and actually achieving your goal move may take more time than you’d like—BUT removing limits in your words is the first step to removing the physical and emotional limits in your life.
Banned Word: engage
I came to pole just before I turned 30 after a lifetime of not being an athlete and I have always been challenged when teachers start using technical terminology for exercises, muscle groups and dance lingo (a rond du- what now?). I have terrible body awareness and am one of those students that really has no idea what my other leg is doing, so don’t even ask. My teachers kept telling me to “engage” my muscles and all I keep seeing is Captain Jean Luc Picard on the bridge of the USS Enterprise, sending the ship into warp speed. What the heck does this have to do with my abs!?
Finally, I had one teacher explain that “engage” means to actively tense every muscle in the arm, leg, whatever so that it is as hard/tight as possible. Oooohhh. Well, I can do that!
Instead Use: Give very specific verbs to your students such as tighten or tense. If a synonymous verb isn’t working, try tricking your students (in a good way) by explaining what else to do with their body that will have the effect of “engaging” the target muscle group such as “point your toes” which will tense every muscle in the leg or “pretend you have to poop” to engage your abs or “do the I have to pee pee in line at the club dance” to get them to squeeze their legs together (like for a layback). Be memorable, fun and relatable—don’t simply say the same words over and over if they are confusing your students. Your goal is to engage their attention and their muscles. (haha, see what I did there?)
And my favorite banned word: just
Just is a tiny word, merely four letters long but it packs a big punch! In “just” one, minuscule syllable it simultaneously makes you feel completely inadequate, your attempts become utterly futile and it dashes any hopes that you will one day “get” that move. “Just twist your chest out,” “Just drop that hand,” “Don’t be afraid—it’s just a 10 foot drop.” Whether used by instructors, our fellow students or by us, just is a very troublesome word. If we could officially ban only one word from this list, just would be my top choice.
Instead Use: There isn’t another word for just. It should be flat out banned. The things that are easy for my body to do are not the same things that are easy for your body to do. My “just” move, might take you months of strength or flexibility training to achieve. Your ability to sad-girl drop like a rocket and land in a perfect hair flip inches off the ground is my 10 minute squeak-laden, chagrined descent into Hades. Be kind to yourself and your fellow polers and delete this word from your vocabulary.
Acknowledge your own personal greatness by breaking down barriers in your speech, be specific when explaining a new concept and above all, celebrate the rich diversity in our community by banning that evil little word “just” and appreciating that our bodies are different, beautiful and capable in their own ways.