I turned 50 this year, went through menopause, grew out my silver mane, became a grandmother and joined the Pole Pressure Dance Troupe.
The half-century mark snuck up on me. Busy raising my son, owning and operating my gym, and living my ups and downs, I woke up one day and realized I had gained 20 pounds in the last 7 years. ‘How did this happen?’ I asked myself. Being a lifetime fitness enthusiast and owner of a health and fitness business it seemed out of character to find myself overweight or should I say, ‘over FAT!’
Looking back I can see where it all started. When I turned 43, I was peri-menopausal.
Hot flashes, no sleep, and all I wanted to do was eat potato chips and drink beer. I was emotional and stressed out! I was going through a separation, my teenage son was acting out, and my life was not what I expected it be. I moved to the suburbs and added an hour-long commute to my already packed day that meant more sitting and more stress.
For years, clients and students have told me about getting stuck in ruts. I realized that was exactly what was happening to me – mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. It was time to re-center and use the Native American Medicine Wheel to change my life.
My intention for 2012-2013 or “The Rainbow Bridge” as Brooke Medicine Eagle, author of The Last Ghost Dance, calls it has been to focus on the Native American Medicine Wheel to balance my life. The Native American Medicine Wheel represents the horizon line and is divided into the four cardinal directions: North, East, South and West. It is then subdivided into four more directions: North/East, South/East, South/West and North/West. The center of the wheel represents the self and one’s connection to the sacred circle, or circle of life. In India this “sacred circle” is known as a Mandala.
Circles are found in nature as in the rings of a still lake when you drop a pebble into it, the rings of a tree trunk that tell its age, the movement of a hurricane or whirlpool, the shape of the Sun, moon and planets, and the cycles of time and seasons. My roots are not just silver – they are grounded in my Native American ancestry and my yoga practice. Both cultures emphasize balance and harmony, and influence my life.
In The Last Ghost Dance, Brooke encourages all of us women to take responsibility to heal Mother Earth. To heal the world we live in we need to first heal the body we live in. To do this we must take a good hard look at our lives, past and present, take steps to heal the wounds, and transform our inner landscape. We must let go of the people, things, and thoughts that weigh us down, be in the now and intentionally create a new vision for our life. Then we can move courageously forward.
One thing I discovered on my inner journey was remembering how much I loved music and dance. It was my love for Jane Fonda and Jazzercise when I was 16 that got me on my path to becoming a fitness professional. Through the years, movies and dance sparked my interest and my creativity. I read a book many years ago called the S Factor by Shelia Kelly named after the S-curvature of the female body. After reading this book I wanted to learn more about feminine erotic dance and pole fitness. During the first introductory class I was so amazed at the teacher and how she could move her body, defy gravity and how beautiful, powerful, strong and fit she was. I was intimidated, impressed and out of my league! But I took a leap of faith and started Pole Dance Fitness at City Fitness, the gym I currently co-own in Washington, DC.
Many women my age ask why I pole dance, saying ‘nobody wants to see a 50-year old stripper!’ This comment makes me laugh – pole dancing classes have nothing to do with stripping. They are a celebration of feminine energy and power. It is difficult for women and men of all ages to break through the stereotype of a pole dancer. I tell them I love pole dance fitness because it combines everything I expect from a well-rounded workout. I am empowered when I lift my bodyweight and execute a trick that requires all of my strength, endurance and flexibility. I enjoy the creative expression of the feminine dance movements or making the S curve! After every class I thank my amazing teacher Sarah for helping me bring my “Sexy” back. Yes, it’s OK to be sexy at 50! As I say, ‘Silver is the new blonde, fit is the new thin and strong is the new young!’ I have lost 12 of the 20 pounds gained, and put on some serious muscle weight and body confidence! My body has never looked better! Who can argue with that!
Washington, DC is the perfect example of a city full of women who end up embracing their masculine energy instead of their feminine, as that is what is often required to be taken seriously in the business and political world. They feel that they have to hide and play down their womanhood. It saddens me to see the average woman on the Metro or walking on the street stressed out, hunched over her smart phone looking like an old woman!
In the ‘70s, Gloria Steinem promised we could have it all. For me “all” means claiming all parts of being a woman: the six-figure salary, the six-pack abs and the S-curve of the female form. I want to own my own business, my home and most of all, I want to own my own body, my curves, my sexuality and my sensuality. I don’t think I need to be like a man to be a good woman. “I’m just a girl” as 40-something pop singer Gwen Stefani with her awesome six-pack abs sings, “I’ve had it up to Here!”
As I see it, 50 is the new 40. Jane Fonda became our workout guru when she was 40. Gretta Pontarelli, a 60-year old pole dance competitor along with beautiful Cindy Joseph, the silver-haired super model who was discovered in her late 40s, can be our new role models along with the forever fit and amazing Jane. When I teach yoga classes at City Fitness I feel blessed to be surrounded by so many women over 50 who are smart, beautiful, strong, healthy, vibrant and socially aware. It’s not about hiding our age. It’s about being “Pro-age” as Cindy Joseph says, celebrating our wisdom and grace and making the most of our life. We, the Jane Fonda Generation!