I f*cking love novelty sh*t. When it comes to trying new badass stuff, I'm an impossible flirt. If it's weird, I want it.
So I decided to try pole dancing meditation at City Pole, because... pole dancing mediation? What the actual f*ck, amirite? Those two things seem so counterintuitive. How can you dance like a stripper while finding your center and inner peace? Riddle me that one, maestro.
What is pole dancing meditation?
It's just what it sounds like, actually. Instead of just focusing on pole dancing, it's about engaging your mind too. According to the City Pole website:
"Taking an internal approach to pole fitness, we welcome clients to feel vulnerable and explore their sensuality while strengthening their bodies and sharpening their minds. The mind-body connect is important to us and we prioritize nurturing your mindfulness."
I asked my co-worker Celine to come with me, and off we went. We climbed up the slippery subway steps at Canal Street to the outskirts of TriBeCa, nearly crossing into Chinatown territory. This neighborhood was rather grim compared to the area where Taylor Swift calls home. It's riddled with tiny stores that sell semi-new suitcases and cheap, neon iPhone covers. But that's New York.
The studio was in a run-down, industrial-esque apartment building on Beach Street with a janky elevator and molding fixtures. It looked eerily similar to the house where "Hey Arnold!" lived.
Any skepticism I had melted away when Kylee Sallak, the founder of City Pole, met me and Celine outside her studio. Her cheery disposition put us at ease immediately. She's a bubbly dirty blonde who looks like your childhood best friend's cool older sister that you looked up to.
We took off our shoes and made our way through the small studio. It reminded me of one of those early 2000s ultra trendy boutiques I shopped at in middle school, all hot pink and black details. The full-length vanity mirrors and black velvet decorative couches tickled the fancy of the adolescent inside me.
Kylee said there was a reason for this. "I saw a need for a studio that embodies warmth and compassion, rather than an intimidating element," she said.
We then made our way to the Rejuvenation Room in the back. Kylee said this room is meant to connect mind and body. It was going to be the peaceful haven where we would meditate after a long hour of working the pole. I was definitely intrigued.
She told us:
"I wanted to encourage my students to honor and acknowledge whatever comes up by giving a structured opportunity of self exploration via the Rejuvenation Room. Meditation, both movement meditations as experienced in the 5 pillars, or silent meditations as experienced in the Rejuvenation Room, are both excellent ways of actually being present for yourself."
Kylee has seen women crying after meditating in the Rejuvenation Room because of all the tension and stress they released. "Light bulbs went off for them," she said.
Inside the room, there were punching bags, bubble wrap and a rose petal water basin. There was soft, calming music and a lavender scent floating through the room, all of which made me feel like I was sitting in a relaxing spa, not the back room of crumbling building near Chinatown.
“You have two minutes until your class!” Kylee proclaimed, shooing us back into the studio and into the hands of Sam, our pole-dancing instructor.
We started class with a series of Pilates-like stretches.
"Swim like Michael motherfucking Phelps!" Sam yelled over his Adele and Sam Smith-infused playlist as we reached our arms to stretch out our lats, muscles we'd need greatly in the hour to come.
Sam was every nervous, inexperienced girl's fitness wet dream. He's a glorious lean man who is pure perfection from the top of his man bun to his chiseled ass, the cheeks peeking out the bottom of his white shorts. He is also the sassiest man you will ever meet.
We then moved to the poles to get down and dirty with our badass woman selves. Before we actually began, Sam explained the five pillars of confidence, which are the keys to connecting the mind and the pole. Pole dancing wasn't just about getting that burning workout and being a sassy ass biatch on the outside. It was about working out your insides as well. You know, inner peace and sh*t.
See, it's not just weird AF! Would Auntie Gigi lead you astray, children?
Kylee explained the rationale for these pillars:
"The fluid movements themselves, are ultimately used as a movement meditation so students can make sure they are present, in mind and body, in class. Turning off the work brain, the partner brain, the mid terms brain, the kids at home brain, and just BE."
It's not exactly easy to feel comfortable acting like an exotic dancer, so in case you got nervous while twerkin' on the pole, these five pillars were painted on the back wall in delicate handwriting.
There were only six poles in the studio. I wondered why there were so few poles, but after the taking the class I realized that it's because you would f*cking die otherwise. This sh*t is mad dangerous. You needed the teacher's hands on attention to even complete the moves, let alone do them safely.
I had a constant, underlying feeling of dread that I was going to seriously injure myself, but as Sam pointed out, the pole is stationary. That thing has got you no matter what.
Sam assured me that if I waited for the back of my knee to catch the pole, I wouldn't fall. "I gotchu, bitch," he whispered as his leg came around to catch me.
There was no way to feel self-conscious with Sam. He broke you out of your shell. Even the meekest among us stood no chance against Sam's remarkable fierceness. Kylee called finding Sam "a godsend," and I understood her sentiment. He has confidence for days. It's truly something to behold.
I guess it's easy to be confident when your thighs could cut diamonds.
When I was attempting my first pole trick, trying to be sexy but feeling awkward AF, I said, “This is literally never happening,” but within minutes I was spinning backward around the pole and having the time of my life.
It did not feel like a workout class at all. And it's impossible to be really stressed when you have someone as overtly expressive and unapologetically outrageous as Sam fearlessly leading you into the foreground of stripperdom.
He was resolute in his craft. A true pole artist among us wayward plebs, he showed us how he could hang upside down from 13 feet in the air with the grace of a ballerina.
"You want your bicep to tighten at a 90-degree angle. People think the pole is all hands, but it isn't," Sam said. He showed me the proper way to utilize my armpit to lift my legs for ~sexy~ fan kicks and "ego kicks" (inverted fan kicks), aptly named for how much higher your legs go.
"Our egos aren't bad! Let's stroke them!" Sam said. I found myself in a constant fit of sweaty-palmed giggles, not out of embarrassment, but out of sheer joy.
Being a stripper is hard AF. I was astonished by the physical strength needed to pole dance. There was so much more to pole dancing than just gripping your hands and stripping off a thong. After every spin, I would dramatically fall to the ground and retract to the fetal position from exaggerated fatigue.
“Point your toes for Jesus!” exclaimed Sam with bravado.
After class, we made our way back to the Rejuvenation Room to meditate, part two of our adventure.
Sitting on the plush pillows, I felt like so much of the stress I let go of in class was really washed away. Celine and I popped bubble wrap and used the hot pink boxing gloves to smack the punching bag, though neither of us were particularly stressed after an hour of pole work.
Everything in the room is playful and digestible without being silly.
I wrote things down that I wanted let go of and set them free into the clear, cool water basin of floating rose petals. The paper dissolved along with my anxieties.
I sat peacefully for a few minutes, practicing the meditations I've learned in yoga classes, and just breathed. It felt good to just be still with the hectic city of New York right outside the walls.
I left class feeling sexier, calmer and ready to take on the world. It wasn't a sweat inducing intense workout, but I highly recommend this class. You can take your first one for $25 and get package deals after that.
It was so much fun. Take your girlfriends. Make a day (or night) of it.
And BAE, if you're reading this, I wouldn't mind a few more lessons for Valentine's Day. It's a gift we'll both enjoy. Hint hint.