Founder Kylee Sallak greeted me in her spacious studio fitted with six poles — one for the instructor and one for each student (unlike other studios, you'll never have to share a pole here, so you're really getting the most out of your session). Her aim is to take away the sexy stigma surrounding pole fitness and instead provide a positive environment where students can connect body and mind.
A crucial part of that environment is the "rejuvenation room" in the back, away from the sounds of Manhattan. Floor pillows surround a small zen pool where rose petals float, and taking a seat here is encouraged for stress release. Dissolvable papers hang on the wall where clients can "write down anything that's blocking them, in work or in life, and drop the paper into the water to literally watch it dissolve away," Sallak told me before class. And, in a bit of dichotomy, there's also a boxing bag with pink boxing gloves, in case anyone wants to punch out their stress instead of dissolve it.
I changed into bike shorts and a tank top (the recommended attire, since exposed skin helps to grip onto the pole) in the equally beautiful fitting room and met with instructor Sam Doblick, who was wearing even shorter shorts than me. He started with some warm-up stretches that worked hip muscles I didn't even know I had. Then we began with the five pillars of confidence, the core of the class that's meant to be taken into our personal lives:
We started by rolling our shoulders back to demonstrate confidence to ourselves and to others. "It creates testosterone, which reduces cortisol, the stress hormone," explained Doblick.
Next, we swayed our hips side to side to the beat of the music (Mariah Carey, in this case). He reminded me that this was a safe place to let go of stress and find the sensual power in my hips.
"He reminded me that this was a safe place to let go of stress and find the sensual power in my hips."
This one really struck a cord with me, especially in the bustle of New York City — It reminds us to slow down and move mindfully and deliberately. With this, Doblick taught me his favorite move, the dip.
I grasped the pole with my right hand and placed my right foot to the left of the pole, then attempted to swing around with my left leg extended outward. I struggled at first, realizing that it's not for the sweat-prone. "What do you do about sweaty palms?" I asked. "Don't worry, I got you!" he said as he ran to grab me a magical liquid that quickly turned into a powder when I rubbed my hands (he had to reapply several times). After multiple tries, I could finally swing my body around into a proper dip.
Gaze With Intent
The next lesson was to bring awareness to the present moment and use eye contact for power. I kept my gaze on the pole as I slid my hands all the way down, then transferred my gaze to my reflection in the mirror as I slid my hands up my thighs.
For the last move, I rolled my body in a wave against the pole, with the purpose of taking myself seriously as a sensually empowered person. I kept my shoulders open for confidence, used the power of my hips, and gazed at myself in the mirror to really bring all the pillars together.
After I learned all the steps, Doblick took the music up a notch (read: Missy Elliot) and we did all five pillars in a row with greater speed. While I couldn't quite get the dip in that fast, he told me to go wild and "Do the Danielle method!"
But then came some serious moves. I was already feeling exhausted and my legs were getting raw from sliding on the pole. "Don't worry, we're going to get you climbing by the end of class!" Doblick encouraged. My eyes lit up with fear.
Luckily, it wasn't that scary. It was also the best ab workout of my life. Doblick held me the entire time while I lifted my stomach to the pole with my feet wrapped around for support. I almost got to the top, but not without screaming "I can't!" He told me whenever it gets difficult to think of something I really want and shout it out as I pull my body up the pole. His wish? "Cheeseburgers!"
Simultaneously achieving mindfulness and sensual prowess is bit on the expensive side, but you'll learn a lot in 70 minutes. First-timers can sign up for $30, and then prices jump to $45 for a single class. Or, you can opt for a package: three classes for $129, five classes for $205, and 10 classes for $390 (It's also on Classpass, and there's a half-off discount running through November 16th).
But clients can use the rejuvenation room for free any time they want for up to 50 minutes. And if you want to practice your own moves without an instructor, it's $25 for "open pole play." "We don't have intermediate or advanced classes because we don't want to create an intimidated environment," said Sallak. "We have an open level class to work on techniques you're ready for."
Aside from pole, they also offer a $15 yoga class every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday morning. If you're willing to spend the money, City Pole will offer you the one of the best (and maybe only) combination stress reliever/ab workouts that you buy in New York City right now.