“Being on a pole is like flying. It is meditative and one of the most beautiful ways to connect with yourself,” says 27-year-old Aarifa Bhinderwala, as she caresses a 10-feet high steel rod under the dim glow of yellow lights in a mirrored room.
Like poetry in motion, she firmly grips it with her hands and a leg, pushes herself off the ground and spins on it mid-air. Donning a black two-piece, she syncs her lithe movements to a soulful melody in a four-minute video uploaded recently on Culture Machine’s digital channel, Blush.
She gracefully twists on the pole — stretching herself in a way that she is parallel to the ground and even defying gravity by turning upside down. The video aims to break the stereotype that pole dancing is a thing of strip clubs. It celebrates Bhinderwala’s journey with the pole that helped her deal with Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS) and shed insecurities about her body.
On top of things
Bhinderwala discovered pole dancing three years back, when she visited her sister and newborn nephew in Perth, Australia.
“I was looking for things to do in Perth and came across a class on pole dancing at Shemoves Pole Dance Fitness Studio. There wasn’t anything like this in our country,” says the Malad resident, who took to the pole in the first class itself. “I had never considered myself to be a strong person since I wasn’t much into fitness. In the first class, I learnt to hold my own body weight because we had to try aerial movements using the pole. The motion of spinning on it reminded me of my childhood when I would fling my arms and twirl, feeling a buzz in my head,” says the artiste.
She went on to complete the beginner’s level from the fitness studio, and later, studied intermediate and advanced levels from Pole Revolution in Tasmania. “In the second level, I tried my first inversion and it felt so liberating. At that moment, when you are upside down, you realise the value of living in the moment. I felt that if I could defy gravity, I could definitely face my fears,” recalls Bhinderwala, who returned to the city, armed with lessons from seven levels of pole dancing. Since May, she has been teaching pole dancing at her residence equipped with five floor-to-ceiling poles.
PMS and I
“Pole dance is a form of expression and helps release endorphins, which are the feel-good hormones in your body. I would suffer from severe case of PMS where I would feel low, irritable, anxious and edgy every time I was on the verge of getting my period. Pole dancing has helped me deal with it. I have also found teaching it therapeutic,” says Bhinderwala. She cautions against pole dancing during the first two days of one’s period. Later, it’s okay to do light movements sans the inversions.
“There’s a big myth that you have to be strong to pole. In fact, you pole to get strong,” says Bhinderwala, asserting that there’s no barrier of age or body type with regard to pole dancing. Her students range from a seven-year-old to women who are 45.
The core idea
“A 60-minute pole dancing session is as beneficial as a strenuous sport. We start the session with a warm-up, then we stretch and do floorwork followed by spinning, and end the class with stretching. I teach students how to lift themselves up, climb on the pole, perform inversions and stand on one leg. All these movements help increase your stamina, get flexible and burn calories,” says Bhinderwala. She believes pole dancing is one of the best transverse abdominis workouts, which helps strengthen your core abdominal muscles that play an important role in your spinal stability.
Starting early next year, Bhinderwala has also planned classes for men, which will be more “gymnastic-oriented rather than the classic pole dancing”.
Before you pole
Clothes: Bhinderwala advises wearing comfortable clothes but the kind that allow you to see your form clearly. “Pole dancing also requires strong skin grip. So, I suggest you wear shorts. That’s also why most pole dancers are not ‘covered’,” she adds.
Meals: Opt for a healthy, balanced diet and avoid eating heavy meals an hour before and after the session.