How Pole Dancing Helped This Young Artist Deal With Pandemic Anxiety

For Cami Arboles, pole dancing is a form of meditation.

Cami Arboles

Cami Arboles

People of all ages and abilities have taken to pole dancing as a form of artistic expression or exercise. Studies show this skill brings many physical benefits for different people, especially when it comes to cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength, and flexibility. But for 23-year old artist Cami Arboles, pole dancing became a way to relieve stress and anxiety when the effects of the pandemic took a toll on her mental health.

"I started pole dancing at the beginning of my senior year in college," the Yale-trained artist says. "It was something I’d always admired from afar but was too scared to try." Eventually, she signed up for pole dancing lessons at New Haven-based studio Polefly at the start of the school year. "I thought, life is so short, so what’s holding me back?"

How Pole Dancing Helped Her Cope During The Pandemic

At the start of lockdown, Arboles no longer had access to the studio and found herself exploring her love for movement and flow on the pole at home. "I was about to graduate from college when the pandemic hit, and all my post-grad plans and employment prospects had vanished," Arboles says. "I felt like a part of me was gone. All my life plans were totally erased. Every day, I felt a lot of anxiety and sadness." 

Pole dancing helped her work through these heavy feelings, and learning new skills brought joy during a rough time in her life. "I bought a pole, set it up in my aunt's living room, and started dancing for hours every single day," Arboles says. "It was what got me out of bed most mornings."

Two years have passed since Arboles first tried out pole dancing, and since then, she has been documenting her journey on social media. Her Instagram posts showcasing her effortless skills have attracted more than 100K followers, including model Imaan Hammam, actress Vanessa Hudgens, and SZA (whom Arboles trained in three days for her recent music video "Good Days").

How She's Merging Pole Dancing and Meditation

With her current platform, the artist—who’s also a certified yoga instructor—is now bringing the art of meditation to pole dancing with The Mind Body Spirit Collective, a movement community for women, femmes, and non-binary folks.

"The community started as an online platform offering yoga classes and mindfulness practice," Arboles says. "We operate by integrating movement, self-reflection, and a positive mindset into our daily lives, and now we’re expanding to offer more movement and flexibility classes, as well as pole dancing lessons."

Learning pole dancing takes time, dedication, and consistency, and Arboles’ goal is to help people discover how it can improve their state of mind, making them feel more joyful and at peace. "To me, pole dancing is a form of meditation," says Arboles. "When I’m on the pole, my focus is entirely set on how my body and mind feel." As she explains, meditating helps her achieve a clear and calm state of mind, improving her flow on the pole.

In one of many videos posted on her Instagram account, Arboles can be seen spinning gracefully on a pole set up on a large expanse of sand. With the blue sky providing a perfect backdrop to the video, she swings around to a soothing R&B song. The scenery, music, and technique she uses in each video work together seamlessly and evoke a feeling of calm that even her audience can appreciate. "Music is a big catalyst for me," she says. "I love finding sounds that reflect my own emotions and vulnerabilities, and then I use movement as a vehicle to express them and let it all out."

Pole dancing and meditation can work hand-in-hand, but according to Fabiana Mendelez Ruiz, a professional pole dance instructor, it’s important to note that it isn’t a viable alternative to therapy, as an instructor isn’t a substitute for a licensed mental health professional. "However, movement itself is a great way to meditate, and pole dancing requires a lot of mental work to get through the tricks and moves, which in turn can be quite meditative in itself," she says. "If you're focusing your attention somewhere other than the trigger that’s causing anxiety and spending more brainpower trying to nail a particularly tricky move on the pole, it makes you contemplative, and that too can be meditation."

Final Thoughts

The sensuality of pole dancing has been popularized in mainstream culture over the years, leading many to underestimate the versatility of this skill. For Arboles, the goal is to promote the idea that pole dancing can take many different forms—whether as a sport, an art form, or an erotic activity. "Many people struggle to acknowledge that athleticism can be sensual and that multiple perspectives can exist in pole dancing," she says. "I hope that I can continue to affirm these sentiments through my work." 

Related Stories