Stories of Impact: Natasha Parker
“I don’t want to think about how bad off I’d be without pole.”
What got you into pole dancing?
I stumbled across it quite by accident, actually. A friend and I were looking for something different to try that we would love and would make us feel good about ourselves and have fun. We found pole dancing, and I fell in love with it the first class.
What made you fall in love with it?
Well, Aradia’s tag line is “Meet Your Sexy Side,” and in the first class we started to learn how to walk “sexy,” and do floor moves and some basic pole transitions. It was so empowering and freeing and made you feel like a goddess. For the first time I felt confident and just free.
I knew I had to keep going back, and I got a home pole within three months, too.
Did you have issues with confidence before trying pole?
Yes, inside I did. Even though I was always involved with sports when I was in high school, I never really felt confident or pretty, and after having all my kids* I really struggled with my weight, feeling good about myself and being bipolar.
You previously mentioned that you experience bipolar II disorder and anxiety. How long have these thing been a part of your life?
I was officially diagnosed at 19, but when I was having my children I went into remission of sorts. But, after my last baby, I ended up having a bad downward spiral and went through numerous doctors and medications until we found a doctor who was wonderful and medications that work to keep me balanced.
Was this all before you started pole dancing?
Yes, a few years before, but when I started pole, my anxiety calmed down tremendously as it helped ease my mind. I could just let go and get lost in the movement, dance and learning new moves. The same with [my bipolar disorder], it helps keep me balanced.
I couldn’t wait for pole class every week. Once a week wasn’t enough so I got my own pole for at home back then.
How often do you train now?
The studio has evolved since I started years ago and now has monthly memberships and more class offerings, so I’m either taking classes at the studio three to four times per week. Not necessarily just pole, but also flexibility and pole yoga, chair and floor dance, etc.
I usually pop on my pole at home three to four times a week, sometimes on the same day that I’m at the studio.
It’s great that you’re so dedicated. When did you start noticing a change within yourself and your moods?
My husband and kids noticed it before I did, actually. I was just so happy to find something I loved so much, something that was “me,” and something I could be proud of and work toward. My husband noticed how it helped me ease my mind and calm me down after a hard day with the kids or problems at work that would normally spark anxiety issues or a downward spiral with my bipolar. He would suggest to go and get some “me time” on the pole.
Does pole still have that same effect on you?
Yes, it does. Don’t get me wrong, I have plateaus in pole like everyone else when they feel like they aren’t improving or getting the next big tricks, but that’s separate from my mood with bipolar disorder and anxiety.
When I’m going through a rough time, I still go to the pole, find a song that I need to hear and just let everything go and let the song and pole guide me. Sometimes adrenaline will kick in and it will be power tricks until I’m exhausted, or it could just be pole flow, spins and movement until the tears flow. Either way it sets everything free and the heaviness in my chest and shoulders releases.
Where do you think you would be, emotionally and psychologically, had it not been for pole?
Oh boy, I don’t want to think about how bad off I’d be. Pole has not cured me. I’ve still had ups and downs with my mental disorder, but it’s been so much more manageable.
If it wasn’t for pole, I can’t imagine the amount of downward spirals—really big ones—I would have endured over the years. They would have put tremendous strain, not only emotionally and physically, but financially on my husband, and would have strained my relationships with my children and my husband.
I’m very close to my family and without pole being so prominent in my life, it may not be this way, as bipolar disorder is very hard on families.
I’m glad pole has had such a positive impact on your life. Is there anything else you care to share?
Just that I am thankful that we have such an amazing worldwide pole community that we do. I’ve been to many different fitness classes and fitness groups over the years, and the pole community is the only community I’ve found to be so diverse, open, supportive and uplifting.
The amount of friends I’ve made all over the world from this community is amazing and the support system is unbelievable. Plus, the fact that so many of us feel safe in our pole environment to share parts of our lives to help and support others speaks volumes. It makes me feel proud to be a part of this community.
*Parker has six children—ages 21, 19, 17, 16, 15, and 13—and three grandchildren—ages 3, 17 months and 8 months.