Inside City Pole, a pole-dancing fitness studio in Tribeca in New York City. (Photo: City Pole)
It takes a huge amount of body awareness to hoist yourself onto a pole, swing around it, and land gracefully back on two feet. That — plus coordination and a whole lot of of strength.
Pole dancing is a killer workout for your body — it produces long, lean dancer muscles. But paired with the sensual hip movements, the muscle-toning benefits take a backseat to its self-confidence transforming effects. And it only takes one class.
Building confidence in a mindful way is at the heart of City Pole, a new holistic pole fitness studio in the Tribeca neighborhood of New York City. Founder and CEO Kylee Sallak created the studio with a certain philosophy in mind, based off what she calls the “five pillars of confidence.” Written on the studio wall so students and instructors can keep them top of mind, the pillars are: primal power (the power of moving your hips), mindful motion, poised posture, gaze with intent, and mindful sensuality. The goal in class is to practice all of these — and then hopefully, apply them to your everyday life.
“For many people, pole fitness is new,” Sallak tells Yahoo Health. “It’s really about bringing awareness to your thought process, and feeling empowered by the movements your body is making.”
Expressing sensuality can be tough for many people (Sallak notes her classes are about 90 percent women). “It really runs the gamut from women who are naturally comfortable being sensual, and women who are exceptionally rigid and uncomfortable, and everybody in between.” By creating a safe, supportive environment, with encouraging instructors and intimate classes of no more than five people, Sallak sees a lot of growth and change — women let go of the guilt or insecurity they feel swinging their hips, and instead, harness the power of moving with purpose and truly owning it.
Another hugely empowering aspect of pole fitness is how quickly you notice progress compared to other types of workouts. “You go to the gym and you wait for results, and you don’t see it, so a lot of people get frustrated and give up before anything happens,” Sallak says. “Pole fitness progression is so fast because you’re actually able to see your body making these shapes and doing these tricks and spins and holds, in your first class, that you just did not think you were capable of doing.” That instant success gives a powerful shot to your confidence.
The writer learning some basic pole dancing moves in her first class at City Pole. (Photo: Amy Marturana)
And this feeling of accomplishment doesn’t end with your first class. Wendy Traskos, founder of NY Pole Dancing, a studio in Hell’s Kitchen, says she still notices the changes in herself after years of practicing. “I am almost 45 and I have been pole dancing for over a decade, and still surprise myself with what I am able to accomplish on the pole,” she says. “In pole dancing, you will find you are stronger and more beautiful than you ever thought.”
Then, there are the physical changes: not building muscles or losing weight — although both can certainly be achieved with regular pole dancing — but changes in the way people carry themselves. “I have seen women walk into NY Pole Dancing very timid, shy, insecure, and looking almost frightened,” Traskos says. “Many of those women, later, I barely recognize them. They walk with good posture, and are more outgoing and focused on their career goals.” She’s even had many professional business women confess that pole dancing has made them more assertive, confident, and happy at work.
A lot of it comes down to the importance of body language. “Specifically at our studio, we put an emphasis of holding your body in a really open way,” chest up, shoulders back, Sallak says. In fact, research has shown this “power posture” increases testosterone and decreases cortisol, which boosts confidence and lowers stress. Keeping the shoulders back, controlling your hips, using expressive eye contact, and moving more slowly and intentionally all signal confidence. “Apply this to your pole fitness class, but we want you to take it with you, too,” she says.
Once you reinforce that confidence with yourself, you’ll exude noticeable confidence to others. “People are picking up on your energy when you’re moving with intention,” Sallak explains.
To foster that newfound mindfulness and body awareness many students gain after class on the pole, Sallak has created a “Rejuvenation Room,” where students are welcome to spend time after (or before) class, meditating and releasing whatever is holding them back, either by popping bubble wrap, slugging a boxing bag, or writing their fears on a piece of water-soluble paper and watching it dissolve into a little pool in the center of the room.
In the “Rejuvenation Room” at City Pole, students are encouraged to meditate and reflect on their class and life. (Photo: City Pole)
“To me, there was an obvious crossover bringing the meditative aspect and the pole fitness together in one place,” Sallak explains. “There is a value to being present and understanding, ‘I’m here, I chose to be here, I can turn off my work brain, I can turn off my husband brain, I’m treating myself and I’m able to be present.’”
It seems that once students try it out, and see so much initial improvement, they typically choose to keep coming back. “What really makes this a great workout is the fact that women fall in love with the fun physical challenge, so they tend to stick with it for a long period of time,” Traskos says. “Being a trainer for over 20 years, and training mainly women, I find women are rarely passionate about going to the gym and lifting weights. But they really want to get up that pole and touch the ceiling.”
Once you get a taste of what your body is capable of, the sky really is the limit.
Body-Peace Resolution is Yahoo Health’s January initiative to motivate you to pursue wellness goals that are not vanity-driven, but that strive for more meaningful outcomes. We’re talking strength, mental fitness, self-acceptance — true and total body peace. Our big hope: This month of resolutions will inspire a body-peace revolution. Want to join us? Start by sharing your own body-positive moments on social media using the hashtag #bodypeaceresolution