Have you ever heard of athletes using visualization and imagery techniques to achieve elite
levels in sport? If not, “Visualization in sport is a training technique that forms a part of the larger science of sports psychology. Visualization is also known as mental imagery and rehearsal.
Visualization is used primarily as a training tool, one that improves the quality of athletic
movement, increases the power of concentration, and serves to reduce the pressures of competition on the athlete while building athletic confidence. Visualization occurs when athletes are able to create an image or a series of images relevant to their sport, without any external prompts or stimulation; the images are mentally generated by the athlete alone.” –Encyclopedia.com
Jaqueline Santos, Owner/Instructor of Peacock Pole Art and competitive pole dance athlete,
often encourages the use of imagery to her students. She has found it to be a key component to
her training for successful performances. High impact tricks required for a competitive level pole
routine can be too exhausting on the body and can lead to injury when doing multiple run-
throughs of these routines every day leading up to competition.
Jaqueline’s tips for using imagery for learning pole tricks and practicing for performances:
- Record your unsuccessful attempts, as well as the successful ones. Compare the two (not in a
self-deprecating way, obviously) and notice when you do something that jeopardizes the trick.
Did you have your leg too high? Were your arms backward? Did you spin the wrong direction?
Then watch the better video and see what it was that you changed that made it more
successful. This is always good homework for pole training and recommended to observe these
videos before practice – then incorporate the correct body mechanics when you make more
attempts and continue to work toward your desired outcome. When you finally nail it, the light
bulb will go off and it will be so rewarding to fully understand each body mechanic to make the
move as best as can be.
- Watch a video of either yourself or someone else executing the desired move, then imagine
doing the move yourself with beautiful lines and posture. Also, imagine yourself doing the move
from an inward perspective – what is actually going on while you are doing it. For example in an
inward perspective, if you were doing a brass monkey, you would visualize what you would be
seeing while you are in a shoulder mount position (so you’d probably be looking at the ceiling,
passed your hands), inverting up, seeing yourself fold your hips and grasping the pole with your
leg, and cognitively imagining where you will be aiming to grab so you get the fleshy part of your
leg, and not your foot, on the pole. You may even bring to awareness the breath and little body
mechanics that help make your movements more successful.
- For routines, listen to the song you have chosen and visualize every single detail of how the
routine is to be presented. Details include the direction and timing of the tricks and their
dismount for an optimal view of the shape, focusing intently on the features of floor work and
choreography like the direction your leg twirls in a sequence, imagining where you are on the
stage by the time a sequence is complete, the facial expressions, and even your breathing
Sometimes when getting into this almost meditative state of imagery, you will notice your
breathing mimics what you are imagining, your heart rate may slightly increase, and you may
even feel a sensation in your muscles.
When Jaqueline does her routines via imagery, if her timing is slightly off, many times she will
start the song all over and try to get it just right. It should be mentioned that as a poler with 13
years of experience, she knows how long it takes to do the entirety of the moves and can
shorten it or lengthen if need be for a routine. When you first start doing performance routines
this is something you will learn with experience.
Of course it goes without saying, there is a lot to learn about pole dancing, and the only way
imagery would be a useful tool is if you actually practice pole dancing and do tricks appropriate
for your current pole level. No matter how much you visualize and dream about doing a
Rainbow Marchenko or Spatchcock as a beginner, these extreme level tricks take flexibility,
strength, and pole technique training. Once your body is physically prepared to start a trick,
imagery can benefit your attempts greatly.
Pole dancing is not easy, it takes grit, a good attitude, consistency, and…Mind-Body
Connection! Pole combos are a puzzle and take just as much mind exercise as physical
practice. By adding imagery techniques into your pole training you will be surprised at how you
can really teach your mind and body all of these amazing feats of strength and grace and can
be mentally prepared to take on high energy pole performances.
Inspired action is an action driven by a sense of purpose or motivation. If you want to be more fit
and healthy, you would follow the inspired action to start working out, researching healthy
recipes, and incorporating that knowledge into practice. You wouldn’t just sit around and expect
it to happen.
Jaqueline R. Santos