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How Joining a Pole Studio Changed My Life (and It Can Change Yours, Too)

How Joining a Pole Studio Changed My Life (and It Can Change Yours, Too)
“Just go in.”
As it turns out, the voice inside me that won that day also happened to be the quietest. Under the delicate midday light of late November, I was sitting in my car outside the humble door of Aradia Fitness, nestled in a business park with children’s martial arts studios and music tutoring spaces, debating with myself whether I wanted to go through with an Introduction to Pole Fitness class.
One part of me was quite vocal about how I would certainly be facing skinny college-age women who would probably ridicule my physique, and how I would most likely make a fool of myself. Another part of me dwelled on the thousands of dollars I had already spent on dental implants as a result of a childhood injury of falling flat on my face—what if I fell and hurt or mangled myself again? These loud, obnoxious voices debated back and forth internally until a smaller voice cut through.
“Maybe you’ll have fun. Maybe this is what you need. Just go in.”
So I went in, and I was surrounded by an array of equally terrified-looking women, some of whom were indeed collegiate, but others who appeared to be my age and above. There were all sorts of bodies, some slender, some Rubenesque. We made nervous small talk until we were greeted by the studio owner, Neelam.
Perhaps it was something in the color of her eyes or the sound of her voice, but Neelam radiated amber and honey, as if she were sunlight personified. She told us a brief story about her own dance and fitness journey, and as she stood illuminated by the afternoon glow cutting through the deep red curtains, the whole place felt exotic yet inviting, a little ruby oasis in the middle of suburbia. While even the mere sight of poles felt intimidating at first, Neelam helped us relax. She has this unyielding quality of calming everyone around her, and putting fears to rest. Her hugs are an indescribable medicine. That day, I stumbled my way through a few spin attempts but had fun practicing some body waves and catlike moves on the floor.
In the first month, I didn’t quite feel sexy or empowered. But, I did feel challenged, as though I was a child learning a new language, trying to memorize a few basic words through repetition. More than anything, what brought me back to Aradia after that first class was the sensation in my shoulders the next morning. I was sore in muscles I had never activated before. I had spent my entire life involved in some kind of physical activity—volleyball, golf, basketball, running, various Beachbody home fitness DVD programs—but I had never felt soreness in that particular spot. I was also sobered by how weak I was in other areas, and felt determined to pursue the kind of core strength that pole dancers and aerial gymnasts display. I knew that this kind of movement would be stimulating and different, and it was introduced to me at a time when I needed change.
October 2017 found me in a new job role with a better commute but a distinct lack of social support and diversity. Other than my boss, my office only had one other woman in it. My best friend in the area had just delivered a baby that month, and so my life both inside and outside of work felt deprived of camaraderie and sisterhood. By November, I became desperate for something to keep me motivated, and so a quick Google search of places where I could learn a form of dance that had always intrigued me revealed the Aradia studio in Ashburn, which had numerous glowing reviews.
The second class I signed up for was one called Liquid Motion, because the description emphasized more floorwork. Knowing that I needed to build up my strength and coordination to keep going with actual pole training, I thought Liquid sounded like a nice supplement that would develop some skills without leaving the ground. That was when I met the instructor, Karen, who is the living dichotomy of sensual and maternal. She exudes a hard core rocker chick vibe, always looking like she stepped out of an epic music video. Ultimately, she is a badass who cares for her students deeply; I have seen more than one woman come to class and break down in tears over some personal trauma, and Karen responds with comfort and strength, taking time to guide them away from pain, loss, or anger. Then, when Karen performs, she is alluring and coy, an icon of feminine movement. When you see her dance, you understand the dedication, discipline, and hard work behind the architecture of her muscles. She has an eye for details, and in simple tweaks to the position of your head or leg, changes something from impossible to possible. Liquid Motion clicked with me because it was the class where I first felt like I could say something beautiful with my body, which I previously often regarded with disgust or shame. Even when my simple toe point became a little straighter, I felt proud and eager to train harder.
Then there is Jenna, who combines physics and philosophy in her artistic approach to pole. She emphasizes the concept of opposition, which applies not only to the actual dynamics of spinning, but to creating aesthetically pleasing shapes with one’s body. She demonstrates endless patience with me, and watches my face with concern when I try to do a few spins in front of her. “I don’t think you’re quite feeling the joy of flying yet,” she says to me, and she’s got a point: I have been so focused on trying to execute these movements that I am growing increasingly frustrated by my inability to get things right. Her solution? “I want you to go back to the very basics, and just play with the sensation of swinging around the pole, even if you’re only doing a dip, so that you can really do this with abandon.” Jenna has a knack for finding her students’ strengths and building upon them, and has managed to snap me out of creeping dismay or defeat on several occasions.
There are so many other teachers at Aradia who are just as compassionate and talented, and I can’t wait to work with them all as I (slowly) progress up the skill ladder.
When I look back on the last several months, what I recognize in myself is profound emotional growth in addition to the physical changes. That aspect, to me, is something I have never gained while running on a treadmill in a crowded gym. I have developed, little by little, a stronger sense of self-worth and expressiveness. I feel like smiling much more. I take pictures of myself. I hear songs on the radio while I’m walking the dog and suddenly find myself doing some kind of toe drag or hair flip because I feel inspired. I still worry about things in my life, but now I have a few hours a week where, surrounded by ruby curtains and twinkling lights, I can take a breath. I can feel elevated by my classmates, like Jeanine, a nurturer whose laughter is contagious, and Kay, whose strength and confidence I wish to someday achieve.
A question posed by one of our visiting instructors, Nia, resonates with me still: “who is she?”
I’m still finding out. I’m still creating her.
But for those who are still hesitant about embarking on such a journey, for anyone trying to muster the courage to put on some skimpy shorts and sky-high heels, my advice is this:
Just go in.
By Our Student Liz.
Join a sisterhood unlike other

Be An Aradia Goddess

This Is My Body

THIS IS MY BODY.

I am a movement artist, an aerial dancer, an instructor, a performer… and, I am a woman.

One thing I see in men and women of the world is a tendency to honor our intelligence, attractiveness, kindness and creativity. We embrace our very HUMAN-ness, give warm smiles to others and tell people to be themselves, because who you are is BEAUTIFUL.

I love this way of thinking. I am so grateful that our society recognizes our strengths and flaws and journey. Yet there is still one piece of our human puzzle that is so commonly omitted in the world of public appearances. While the rest of our spirit is bathing in the sunlight, our sensuality and our human figure at its very basic level is often cast in the shadows and shrouded so that not a line or curve can be seen, at risk of offending or drawing in an unwanted gaze. It is our raw bodies and sexuality that we pretend does not exist, that it is not a part of our daily lives in so many ways.

Today, I challenge that body “modesty”. I challenge our society’s sexuality-shaming tendencies. I am human, I am woman, and I am a sexual being with curves, lines, boobs and an ass. Heck, I even have a vagina! *gasp* And while I won’t spill all of my sexual habits and interests casually to any passing stranger, I am not ashamed to have them. To deny that side of me is to deny who I am. I for one, refuse to do that.

Photo by RTP Photography. Model: Emma Reyn.

As a pole and movement instructor, there is a special opportunity I have to see so many wonderful humans come through our studio doors from where they are in life, in need of *something* which has brought them to me, and then to watch as they slowly transform and unfold into new, amazing, and magical creatures.

We all come to these classes for so many different reasons. But one thing I see so clearly when I walk into Aradia Fitness is women (and men) choosing to truly embrace their bodies, to share this little piece of their souls to our community, and to be truly open with each other (and let me tell you, there is no shame when it comes to our body talk!). Maybe this is the only place we feel comfortable with so much openness, or maybe the students that come in are already wild and free and can’t help but bring with them a shine that infects us all. Whatever the case, it fills my heart to see my pole family every night finding new ways to respect their bodies and express their souls, and for many to express that sensual side of themselves which is too often thrown under the rug of shame and guilt.

Never be ashamed of who you are. Life is an adventure.

When I started my personal journey at Aradia Fitness so many years ago, I was a speck of dust in a room full of diamonds. Shy, quiet, and extremely self-conscious. To wear even a bathing suit out in the world made me squirm endlessly, and to even think about sexuality of any sort turned my cheeks bright red like a tomato.

But I found my home that very first night at Aradia Fitness, and for me, it was the first step on my path to feeling like a woman, a lioness, and a magical unicorn.

Pole fitness is not only an awesome workout, but it’s also a great way to make friends that can encourage and inspire you daily.

It was the beginning of my journey to truly appreciating myself, finding my confidence, and shining my brilliance for the world to see. It didn’t matter where I came from or what I looked like, and every piece of encouragement from my newfound pole family challenged those voices in my head telling me that I was not worthwhile. Soon those voices became quiet whispers I could ignore while I conquered the world (and the pole) for a while.

Every hip circle, hair whip, and heel clack became my battle cry for sensuality. Every invert became my defiance to the doubts of my strength. Every turn on the pole was a new expression of myself discovered and actualized. And feeling that sense of self is what led me to teaching, in hopes that I might inspire that same sense of self for others.

My fellow humans, this is my challenge to you. Find that voice in your brain that is screaming negativity, fear, doubt, and shame. Turn your music up, and then turn those voices WAY down. Be yourself. Your whole self. Body and soul. Wherever you are today. At least for a few minutes, or maybe an hour while you’re in your safe space with your pole fam.

You have my permission. Not that you need it. <3

Emma Reyn is an instructor, performer, and figure art model. Come meet your sexy side in her Sultry Pole classes, work on those lines and curves in our FlexAbility class, or get moving with her in Pole and Lyra classes!

Article Written by Emma Reyn, Instructor at Aradia Fitness Cary in Cary, North Carolina

May 30, 2017