Pole dancing for fitness in St Albans: No sleaze, just workout
- Credit: Archant
Pole dancing has been on my bucket list for a very long time - the flowing lines, elegant twirling, and mesmerising contortion seem impossibly difficult and effortlessly beautiful all at once.
Luckily for me, the discipline has been wholeheartedly hoisted from seedy strip clubs into popular culture by numerous fitness classes popping up all over the country.
St Albans is no exception, and so I was thrilled to accept an invitation for a free class at Iguana Pole Fitness, run by Nadya Giffen.
Not sure what to expect, I turned up with enough skin showing to properly grip the pole. Nerves kick in - I know this is going to be hard.
Nadya warms us up and assigns moves depending on ability. Me and a fellow newbie are started off with a fireman's spin and I get fully into it. It might not be elegant but it is definitely fun.
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There are numerous moves, ranging from beginner to hideously difficult - such as an upside-down sideways split levitating-looking manoeuvre.
Obviously I'm not quite there yet, but Nadya is keeping things interesting by introducing increasingly challenging tasks without pushing too far.
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She is an experienced fitness instructor and a complementary therapist at Ginger Natural Health on London Road.
"In my opinion, pole is quite unique. It differs from most exercise classes as you work together in pairs, you share a pole with another person and you end up creating a real bond with the people in class," she said.
"You share your gains and end up forming lovely friendships. The support you get from everyone is hard to compare to anything I have ever experienced. There is a huge amount of trust and respect amongst the groups."
This is first and foremost an exercise class, but pole dancing has a long history. According to the International Pole Dance Fitness Association (IPDFA), the discipline has origins in Sumerian myths from 4500 BCE.
In the story, the Goddess of Love Inanna danced and removed one item of clothing or jewellery at seven gates on her way to find her lover Damouz.
"There are still some people that sexualise what we do or pole in general but what we do is fitness focused," Nadya stressed.
"There are people that work in the pole industry in a professional capacity, but that is different to what we do, we are an exercise class."
Having taken over in July this year, Nadya rebranded the business to be gender neutral and fitness focussed - with a simple iguana outline on a blue background. There is also another instructor at Iguana, Kate Jackson.
Nadya said: "I would always encourage anyone to come along and have a try. We always start with a few basic spins and conditioning to start building upper body and core strength.
"We are a very friendly, fun, welcoming bunch. Most people that are unsure generally feel they need to be strong to do pole but you don't have to be strong to do pole, you will build strength gradually.
"We have different age ranges, from ladies in their 20s to 50s who are different shapes, sizes and abilities, everyone is welcome."
Nadya said she fell in love with the sport after she was cajoled into attending a class by a friend.
I am certainly having a good time with my pole-buddy as we try harder and harder moves - at one point she is bravely supporting me as I literally hang off the pole.
Nadya said: "I am very strength focused and all my classes reflect that. Everyone works really hard in class, they put so much effort into their training, nothing makes me happier than seeing other people achieve their training goals.
"Pole builds fantastic upper body and core strength. It is a full body workout."
During and immediately after the class, it didn't feel like a hard workout - just a bit of a laugh. But massaging my still-sore upper body days later, I reevaluate.
It was physically demanding, no doubt. I just didn't notice at the time because I was having fun.
Nadya was complimentary of my skills. She said: "Amazing, you picked it up really quickly and gave it your best. Very impressive."
Look, now I'm blushing.
A beginner's taster session for Iguana Pole Fitness will take place on September 8 at 12 midday in All Saints Studio. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org