[Amy Marturana | Yahoo Health]

It takes a huge amount of body awareness to hoist yourself onto a pole, swing around it, and land gracefully back on two feet. That — plus coordination and a whole lot of of strength.

Pole dancing is a killer workout for your body — it produces long, lean dancer muscles. But paired with the sensual hip movements, the muscle-toning benefits take a backseat to its self-confidence transforming effects. And it only takes one class.

Building confidence in a mindful way is at the heart of City Pole, a new holistic pole fitness studio in the Tribeca neighborhood of New York City. Founder and CEO Kylee Sallak created the studio with a certain philosophy in mind, based off what she calls the “five pillars of confidence.” Written on the studio wall so students and instructors can keep them top of mind, the pillars are: primal power (the power of moving your hips), mindful motion, poised posture, gaze with intent, and mindful sensuality. The goal in class is to practice all of these — and then hopefully, apply them to your everyday life.

“For many people, pole fitness is new,” Sallak tells Yahoo Health. “It’s really about bringing awareness to your thought process, and feeling empowered by the movements your body is making.”

Expressing sensuality can be tough for many people (Sallak notes her classes are about 90 percent women). “It really runs the gamut from women who are naturally comfortable being sensual, and women who are exceptionally rigid and uncomfortable, and everybody in between.” By creating a safe, supportive environment, with encouraging instructors and intimate classes of no more than five people, Sallak sees a lot of growth and change — women let go of the guilt or insecurity they feel swinging their hips, and instead, harness the power of moving with purpose and truly owning it.

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The writer learning some basic pole dancing moves in her first class at City Pole. (Photo: Amy Marturana)

Another hugely empowering aspect of pole fitness is how quickly you notice progress compared to other types of workouts. “You go to the gym and you wait for results, and you don’t see it, so a lot of people get frustrated and give up before anything happens,” Sallak says. “Pole fitness progression is so fast because you’re actually able to see your body making these shapes and doing these tricks and spins and holds, in your first class, that you just did not think you were capable of doing.” That instant success gives a powerful shot to your confidence.

And this feeling of accomplishment doesn’t end with your first class. Wendy Traskos, founder of NY Pole Dancing, a studio in Hell’s Kitchen, says she still notices the changes in herself after years of practicing. “I am almost 45 and I have been pole dancing for over a decade, and still surprise myself with what I am able to accomplish on the pole,” she says. “In pole dancing, you will find you are stronger and more beautiful than you ever thought.”

Then, there are the physical changes: not building muscles or losing weight  — although both can certainly be achieved with regular pole dancing — but changes in the way people carry themselves. “I have seen women walk into NY Pole Dancing very timid, shy, insecure, and looking almost frightened,” Traskos says. “Many of those women, later, I barely recognize them. They walk with good posture, and are more outgoing and focused on their career goals.” She’s even had many professional business women confess that pole dancing has made them more assertive, confident, and happy at work.

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