One of the most rewarding parts of training a new apparatus or skill is the feeling of confidence you gain as you achieve your goals. You can push your body and mind to new limits with support and love from our classmates and instructors every step of the way. We spoke with Body & Pole student Caitlin Bailey about her personal growth through classes with us, and specifically in flex class with Allison Schieler. Check out Caitlin’s Instagram @nge_jung to follow her journey! You can sign up for Allison’s class and more by clicking on “Schedule” above!

Learning to live with fear has been a huge part of the past decade of my life, as I’ve done my best to navigate an anxiety disorder. Resistant to trying meds, & consistently scolded for my stubbornness by loved ones, my method for much of my 20s was to dive into scary situations headfirst, no matter how I felt. After years training as a classical musician, I was tired of sitting alone in rooms with my negative thoughts. I thought that if I could be in fearful situations and get through it, I’d be better at dealing with my low-level, daily anxiety. So after grad school, I became a bike messenger, certainly one of the best ways to confront fear on a daily basis! I was hit by cars a few times and learned to use my meditation practice in wild situations (like riding in an ambulance in a neck brace.) Being a bike messenger led me to bike racing, which, for me, was even scarier and more out of my comfort zone. Sometimes it was great; finishing a race gave me a sense of elation that I’d never felt before, even if I was last (which I usually was.) There were also times where I couldn’t even start a race because I had a panic attack and was dry-heaving and unable to breathe. Sometimes I raced through a panic attack and crossed the finish line crying. Injuries were sources of pain and more significantly, more fear to push through. I felt like a badass for challenging myself, but I also felt burned out after only a few seasons of racing, and started to dread getting on my bike. Training rides and workouts felt like heavy obligations. I knew that this method wasn’t sustainable and I needed to find a different approach.

It wasn’t until I started training at Body and Pole in June of 2016 that I found a different and healthier relationship to fear and to my mind and body in general. I’m so grateful for all the teachers at the studio because with them, I’ve finally learned to walk that line between confidence and fear. In class, we never jump into things we aren’t ready for. I love the long warmups, the emphasis on patience, and the attention given to injury prevention, something which I found lacking in the cycling world. Progress in the dance studio is always controlled and slow. I notice that my expectations and fears about my abilities come up just like they always have, but they aren’t so persuasive to me anymore because there’s comfort in the “container” that the teachers create in class. My fear still talks but its arguments seem silly and non-important because I know I can trust my teachers and their methods.

Flex training with Allison Schieler in particular has been a huge challenge and a huge source of growth. She’s an incredible teacher & performer, & my mind is constantly blown that I get to take flex training with a professional contortionist. I’ve always been a naturally unflexible person, so in addition to the baggage of old cycling injuries, I often bring with me a set of negative ideas about what my body can’t do. With her adjustments, Allison always takes me right to my physical limit and makes me stay there, in a way that I’m unable to do on my own. It is so uncomfortable, sometimes I almost panic, and I often even dread going to class! But once I get there, I’m so grateful for her strong but safe encouragement and adjustments, and am amazed that I didn’t want to go beforehand. It’s a great gift to work with a teacher who doesn’t have the preconceived notions about your abilities that you hold for yourself! I’ve never injured myself in her classes, so at this point, I know that the uncomfortable feelings are just that.

I feel like 90% of my life has been figuring out how to navigate fear and being uncomfortable, and now I have a way to do it that feels like a fun adventure, where everyday I learn and discover new things that I didn’t even know were possible. My fear no longer feels like a foe that I have to wake up and battle on a daily basis, but a friend, a companion, a force that I can walk and dance with.