At Aradia Fitness Calgary, we love all our students. To show them our ongoing appreciation, we choose one every month for a special student spotlight. The choice is based on dedication, commitment, attitude, and general sparkliness. This month, we have chosen Melissa. She came to us in Pole 1 with a great sense of humour and wicked smile. Now in Pole 5, Melissa flies on the pole with so much grace and confidence, that she inspires us all to do the same.
Melissa flies in the Daphne pose.
1. Where are you from? Hometown?
I’m from Calgary.
2. Favourite pastime (outside of pole), including any other dancing you do….
Outside of pole, my husband and I coach a salsa dance performance team. We used to teach classes, but find with two young children it’s more time efficient to focus on a choreography with a set group of dancers. We also love to social dance at the local salsa events.
3. What do you love most about pole?
When I was a kid I was really into gymnastics, so getting to flip upside down and do tricks & combos again is like food for the soul.
4. What keeps you motivated to come to your pole classes consistently?
The instructors and other students are so inspiring! I was just saying in class last night that I thought I would be satisfied now that I’m in level 5. However, I’m surrounded by these physically strong, talented women in my classes who inspire me to keep working through the levels.
5. What surprised you about pole dance and fitness?
There’s a few surprising facts:
A. It’s shocking how much strength and control is required to make things look polished.
B. It hurts, which in turn makes you tough.
C. There’s a misconception about what pole fitness really is. I feel like that’s partially because of class attire. I know I was taken aback myself in the beginning…..seeing girls in sports bras and shorts. I didn’t understand why that was necessary. Can’t we just wear leggings? No! Because you really need bare skin contact with the pole.
6. Why should someone join Aradia Fitness Calgary and start pole today?
Try it and feel your strength increase. Do things with ease that in the beginning were so hard. Talk about a serious fitness challenge as well as learning balance, coordination and endurance. I tell everyone to try it!
To be completely honest, I didn’t think I was the “yoga type”. I went along my days, with what I thought was purpose, commitment and conviction. Until I met my friend Jessica in 2003, I didn’t think yoga would be a good use of my time or add value. As roommates, she talked about how yoga was a way of life as she had just completed her yoga certification. I listened but went about my days without change. The day came that she was going to teach yoga at a studio and she asked if I would help her with her classes. I obliged begrudgingly until we started. Every night for the next few months, I would “take” her class at home to test it out. The first few times were an effort but surprisingly, after that, came a new found appreciation. I was eager to do yoga at night – what was happening? It felt good and I couldn’t put my finger on it.
I continued to do yoga for a number of years and then I found my love for pole in 2008. I focused all my attention on this magical sport that I had made my own. As I achieved more and more in pole, I began to realize that my body was not performing at its optimal level. I began holding my breathe, stressing my body and muscles and my flexibility was at a standstill. I began to read about cross training for pole dancers and the benefits. It was then that it came full circle. Yoga worked every part of the body that I used in pole but in different ways.
The main benefits for anyone practicing yoga are learning how to breathe, increased flexibility and strength as well as balance and coordination. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve held my breathe doing a difficult pole move… everyone does it and sometimes I still do but practicing yoga helps me focus on my breathe. Holding your breathe instead of breathing through the entrance into a pole move hinders your ability to even do it. Many times you have heard your instructor remind you to breathe. You would think that is an easy fix to do on your own but it takes practice. Something done repetitively, is something that becomes second nature and yoga focuses on breathing each and every class.
On to flexibility; yoga has a way of moving you into poses that are beneficial not only for your flexibility but also your strength. A very simple example of this is Sun Salutations. It’s not a coincidence that we do a variation in my classes to warm up. I have a secret: I do five of them almost every morning when I wake up. It just starts my day off right! Yoga is a safe way to increase flexibility and the more flexibility you have in pole, the better your technique will be. I had an unfortunately injury in 2015 that has stunted my flexibility but yoga has helped me immensely. Even without these types of challenges, many people just chalked it up to not being flexible and that no amount of practice would help. I’m proof that working on it can and does help and yoga is one of the best ways to do it.
One of the biggest challenges in any sport is coordination. Coordination is a key skill in pole and any time you can practice slow, methodical movement, it helps greatly. Coordination is a skill that is learned through practice. It isn’t built into the DNA for some people and not others. The actual definition of coordination is ‘the ability to use different parts of the body smoothly and efficiently’. This skill cannot be more important than in pole. I notice it when I see a video of myself working on combinations. How many unnecessary movements am I doing? Can I reduce these points of contact to smooth out the transitions? Are my legs moving efficiently vis a vis my hands? Yoga is about thoughtful, efficient movement. It’s about flow and transitions. It is exactly what we strive to achieve in pole.
Balance is key, inside and out. We’ve all seen some yoga poses and thought to ourselves “I would tip over”. I still tip over but by practicing, I get better every time :). Even more important in my mind is the mental balance and connection you achieve in yoga. When life is chaotic, concentrating in class, slowing down your movement or even achieving greater goals is hard to do. When my head is not in it, I have a hard time performing. I love the relaxation, release and calm yoga gives me. I have yet to leave a yoga class not feeling rejuvenated and refreshed.
If you haven’t tried it before, or if you tried it a long time ago, try it again. I am a big believer in yoga, especially for us. It’s no coincidence that we offer it at Aradia as do many other pole studios in Canada and around the world. It compliments everything we do as pole dancers and it will help you get to the next level.
October of 2016 was a month of many decisions. We were already in the process of refreshing our curriculum in the new year and I wanted to add new classes to compliment our Pole Dance classes. October was also when Dakota Fox (Aradia Fitness USA) was coming to Alberta for workshops and so we decided it would be a great time to meet, train and also go to our sister studio’s Showcase in Edmonton! We met at the Aradia Sherwood Park studio and gathered the owners to review some ideas and events in the new year. I mentioned that I was looking for a new and exciting class and Dakota immediately jumped in. She said that she had added POUND® to her studio earlier in the year and it was AMAZING. After looking up the program, I decided to become aPOUND® Pro.
POUND® was one of the hottest classes in the US and Dakota encouraged me in getting my certification. The first thing I did was check out videos online. I also checked out the program on their website and read that it burns up to 900+ calories per hour, improves your rhythm, timing, coordination, speed, agility, endurance, and musicality and that drumming has stress-relieving effects. I signed up immediately. The first certification session in Alberta would be in Airdrie in January 2017 so I registered and waited patiently for 3 months. We would be the first pole studio in Alberta to offer it!
The training day finally arrived. I didn’t really know what to expect but I headed to Airdrie to find out! Ira McNamara was our Master Pro and would be teaching us everything we needed to learn to give our students a great workout and experience. He was fantastic. An exceptional instructor with so much knowledge and his energy was infectious. It was quite the experience trying it out for the first time. I was all over the place and I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself (and out loud). I was surprised and encouraged my Ripstixs (POUND® lightly weighted exercise drumsticks) didn’t fly out of my hands and injure someone. The first thing we needed to learn was how to read the sheet music. Initially I thought “how hard could this be?”. It was hard! In retrospect, I’ve never done a certification and started teaching right away. As with all certifications, the preparation and commitment after training is just as important which was exactly what Ira told our group. By the end of training, I was a ball of sweat and exhausted but I was so excited to add this to our Aradia Fitness Calgary studio!!! I bought 15 sets of Ripstixs that day and headed home to rest.
In late January, we started advertising our new class and the response was immediate! Students were asking when the first class was going to be. I decided on mid March because I still had to build and learn a routine with the help of the POUND® Label (their internal website for POUND® Pros). I practiced and practiced and with every day that passed, I got better and better! I could read the sheet music no problem and I even tested it out with some friends at home. It was all coming together!
March 19th at 3:15pm was the day! I have to say I was nervous but so excited. We had 11 people registered in our first class! I headed to the studio early and eagerly awaited students to arrive. To start, I reviewed the POUND® Positions and also how the class could modify the movements to suit them best. We began and the 45 minutes flew by! Thankfully my Ripstixs remained firmly in my hands as did the Ripstixs in my students’ hands 😉 . We had so much fun! The students all told me how great it was after class! It confirmed everything that Dakota said about this workout. One of the best things about this workout is that you just get better and better throughout the class and every time you attend. That is true of any workout but in just one class we all saw a lot of improvement in ourselves!
I’m so glad I did this! In fact, it is so infectious and fun, another instructor of ours is becoming certified this month and our sister studio in Edmonton is also getting certified! I want to thank Dakota Fox for telling me about POUND®. After our first class, it really confirmed what an amazing, fun and exciting workout this is. There is so much energy in the class and that comes from our students ROCKING IT OUT! You were all fantastic and I can’t wait to see you next week!!!
(Many thanks to my Master Pro, Ira McNamara and the entire POUND® team!)