by Tanya Kunwongse
For those who find lifting weights smelly, running boring and yoga not exciting enough, there’s a place down on Barrington street called StudioInEssence. It offers alternative methods of exercising such as pole dancing.
“Originally I saw it as another fitness realm to the studio, but as I became more involved in it, I really loved the acrobaticness of it,” says Christy Sanford, the studio’s owner. She’s been teaching pole dancing for seven years.
Sanford has seen a variety of students over the years. Although the majority of students are still in university or are younger, many women in their 30s and 40s enjoy the sport as well.
“One of our instructors is 60,” remarks Sanford. The sport isn’t limited to women. There has been one male student in the past.
Skeptics may shrug at the sport and call it a fad, but Sanford says pole dancing is a legitimate fitness routine. In fact, pole dancing may even be better for you than the usual gym routine.
“It works out all of the muscles in your body,” says Margaret Hazen, a beginner student in the pole dancing class.
She sticks her foot out and grabs on to an imaginary pole with her hand.
“There’s this one move we do, called ‘Cowgirl,’ where you cross your feet sort of like a diamond. Then you bring your leg around, lift yourself up, shove your hips forward and then spin … now that really works out your back muscles, side muscles, and your thighs.”
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“We’re teaching people to be more flexible, to stretch out their muscles, while still being strong,” says Sanford.
“I love it,” says Hazen. “It’s addicting. It makes me think, ‘I need to find a pole! I need to find a way to practice!’”
According to Sanford, it’s excellent for people who aren’t in shape and simply want to tone their bodies.
“I hear a lot from the beginners that they’re not strong enough to do (some of the moves),” says Sanford, “but the program makes you strong enough to do (them).”