By Kari Araujo
At first grip, the pole makes you feel powerful. It feels as if the cool touch of strong steel instantly shoots a trigger to your brain that turns on your confidence switch. When you finally stand in front of the pole, you know that you’ve broken a barrier. Whether mental or cultural, there is a lack of “This is not for me” in your system.
This exact feeling of power, strength and confidence is what Gaby Rojas, owner and head instructor of Vertical Fitness in McAllen, Texas wants every woman to feel. The 40 year old mother of four has been practicing pole fitness for 3 years.
“It was after my fourth child that I was looking for a different way to strengthen my core and gain my confidence back to feel good about my body again” says Rojas.
After studying pole fitness under instructors in Mexico City, and receiving a pole fitness certification, Gaby Rojas set out to open the Rio Grande Valley’s first pole fitness studio.
If you think you’re joining a pole fitness class to giggle with your girlfriends and dance around to sexy latin music, think again. This isn’t your Tia’s Zumba class.
The warm up alone, is about 15 minutes of tummy burning, core exercises. You’ve already began to break a sweat, when you begin hip, shoulder and chest isolation movements. Even for the most gym faithful girls with a regular weight training routine, it is bound to present muscle groups and movements never encountered during a regular workout. The rest of the class is a combination of fun, sexy but challenging dance moves like “The Fireman” or “The Martini.” Gaby Rojas even gives us a preview of the advanced class with gravity defying, upside down, WTF, how does she even, style movements like “The Elbow Grip Handspring”
As she comes off the pole, Rojas shares a laugh with the girls in her beginner class, saying:
“No matter how many years you practice this, these movements will always feel weird because you don’t know right from left when you’re hanging upside down! Don’t worry if it feels weird now, it will always feel weird!”
Rojas explains to us that the empowerment and confidence gained through pole fitness has nothing to do with the way your body looks after years of practice.
(Though it is imperative to mention that, Rojas, a 40 year old mother of 4 looks like she’s in her 20’s and drinking eight, 8oz. glasses of water from the fountain of youth daily.) This confidence, power, and improved self esteem is a product of overcoming challenges presented to you by the pole. She mentions that you discover yourself as a woman, you discover what your body is capable of if you devote yourself to this art and discipline.
“I have definitely fallen, but you fall and get up, nothing happens. It’s just conquering your fears. Fall and get up, that’s what life is about too right?”
There is no competition between the women at Vertical Fitness; there is a strong sense of unity and encouragement. Rojas mentions that because so few women dare to try a Vertical Fitness class, the few who do become part of a sisterhood; a group of women who, together, shift paradigms and social stigmas. When one of the women in the class has trouble balancing a movement Rojas encourages her and says,
“Here we don’t say we can’t. Here we say ‘ya casi’ (almost there.)”
After a few tries, she gets there.
Rojas says her goal developing the women in her class is simple:
“Si fuimos diseñadas de la A a la Z para tener un hijo, para tener un embarazo de nueve meses sin desarrollar otra columna, entonces podemos conquistar el mundo. Y si esta en nuestra naturaleza parir hijos, podemos conquistar todas las areas de nuestra vida la personal, y la laboral.”
(If we were designed from A to Z to have a child, to go through a nine month pregnancy without developing an extra spinal cord, then we can conquer the world. And if it’s in our nature to bare children, we can conquer all areas of our life personal and professional.)
Though at first spin the pole makes you feel like you need to be humble and sit down, you also get an intoxicating urge to try again, and again and again until you can conquer the movement. The pole encourages you. When applied to other aspects in your life, this obsession with improvement can become a real key to success.