As many of you will know, I have taken up Lyra (circus hoops) at Pole and Aerial Divas Caroline Springs this term, and can see myself continuing next term and into the future. Something else many of you may know, and if you don't you will shortly, is that I have long term issues with my knees, including stability issues. Most of these were caused through a combination of competitive cycling, my work, and two freak accidents that occurred at my home very close together.
Long story short, I have little cracks running through my knees and they get bigger or smaller depending on how much stress they are under and how much support they have. This is the reason you will never seen me without knee pads when I pole dance, as they not only protect my knee caps from the hard floor, but provide the support I need to pole safely, it's also one of the reasons that I participate in weight bearing exercises, as it builds the muscles around my knees and the more stress they can take, the less is on my bones; weights also helps the bones increase in density and (according to my doctor) there has been a marked decrease in the number and size of those terrible cracks since I started regular weights training, as both my bones and muscles get stronger.
In the beginning, I resisted constantly wearing knee pads for pole, as they got in the way of some of the tricks and (being the stubborn idiot I can be) I gritted my teeth through the pain. When my doctor asked me why I didn't want to wear the knee pads and I told him my reasons, he looked me dead in the eye and said 'I can't make you wear them, but I can tell you that, if you don't wear them as standard while you dance and find a way to make it work, you will be looking at a double knee replacement by the time you are thirty-five'. Ever since then, I've worn them religiously and, even if it meant it took me slightly longer to learn the tricks, I have still mastered them in time. As for weights, I don't need the knee pads if I'm not putting direct pressure on my knees, but I wear them sometimes if my knees are hurting or I want to give them a little extra support. As mentioned above, I have made progress in managing my injuries.
Then I started Lyra.
In my defence, I took all the usual precautions I need to take when starting a new sport: I wore my knee pads, I was on the look out for 'bad pain' and I alternated between my knees to ensure one knee wasn't doing all the work.
But there were issues.
They are not insurmountable, and as I start getting stronger and more confident in the lyra they will fade away, but right now they are very restrictive. Lyra is heavy on the knees, with lots of hangs and holds, and because it's a much thinner apparatus than a pole and you are literally hanging on with your knees and only your knees at times, it puts pressure in different places and I can't compensate with skin grip or my hands as much. Over time I will be able to do this - I did it with pole - but right now I can't and, as a result, I've had to scale back my lyra tricks. This came after a recent visit to the doctor indicated that the cracks in my knees were getting bigger and the knee pads weren't offering enough support to the sides of my knees, which were taking too much pressure from the hoop in hangs and mounts to be safe for my injuries. I've been told to try turning them backwards in lyra or, if that doesn't work, I will need to buy a size smaller or put pressure bandages around my knees as they strengthen.
So, while I am working on this, I am doing lyra in a low hoop which I can step in and out of, as I cannot do more than one mount on either knee on a higher hoop, due to the pressure kicking and swinging places on my knees. I still practice mounting with my hands at the top of the hoop and my legs straight, and all tricks are preformed exactly the same way as if I was was in a higher hoop - it's really only my mount that's different.
And, apparently, some people take issue with that.
I received a message on Instagram recently, questioning with I 'even bother to do lyra if you can't do it properly' and telling me to 'stop embarrassing everyone by thinking you're good at this or anything and go back to pole!'
I didn't indulge this hater with a reply and, for good measure, blocked them completely from my Instagram, but their words still hurt.
For one, this person doesn't know me, will never know me, and has no idea why I'm doing tricks in the low hoop (and, to be frank, it's none of their business anyway) yet they still felt they had the right to criticise me for it. I'm learning, I'm a beginner, and I have long-term knee issues that have precluded me from mounting a raised hoop.
It also didn't help that their words came at a point where I was finding lyra very challenging and was considering my options for the future. Even though I know I shouldn't compare myself to others, when I'm sitting there in my low hoop watching everyone else up high executing beautiful aerial divas, fake splits and lady in the moon, it can be hard to feel like I'm progressing or that I even belong in the lyra class. I'm fortunate that my instructor is a wonderful woman who constantly pushes me to achieve and is never too busy to give me a spot, even when she thinks I can do the trick on my own.
Then, on Wednesday, we were working on various tricks and (once again) I was in a low hoop. I was really feeling off about lyra, couldn't do the tricks we were being taught and was starting to feel particularly annoyed when on came a song I have become quite fond of.
Halsey - Without Me
Content Warning: Violence, sexual themes, explicit language
The bridge between choruses really resonated with me that Wednesday: if they laugh then f**k 'em all, and, in a strange way, it gave me strength. It also made me realise that the person who was taking issue with me doing something I love and looking after my body at the same time has no right to get in my life. The people who matter, my friends, my family, my fellow pole and aerial divas, are not laughing, they're not disheartened by the fact that I need a low hoop sometimes, and they are ready to celebrate my achievements with me when I get there!
So, from now on, if they laugh...
If you're afraid to fall it means you're prepared to brave the heights from which you might fly.
Me With No Apologies.