Always on the lookout for new adventures, Heather Duncan tries a very different kind of workout that’s starting to get noticed in Oman
Dressed all in black with a hijab covering her hair, Nusaiba al Maskari is hanging upside down on a pole and has manoeuvred her body into an impossible-looking situation.
I’m about to find out how hard it is. I’m here to learn all about pole fitness, a health craze that is already hugely popular around the world, but is still relatively unheard of in Oman.
No longer relegated to the world of adult entertainment, pole dancing has spread to the fitness market and has come into a whole sport of its own. Using exercise and gymnastic moves, incorporating the use of a pole, it improves flexibility, muscle tone and general fitness among other things.
With the potential for a full body workout, it is a great way to shape up, have fun, develop strength and boost self-confidence.
It’s already been in Dubai for a while, but has only recently reached Oman’s shores. So, when I heard that there were classes in Muscat, I was up for the challenge and booked in for the very next session.
The first surprise was to see that our instructor was an Omani lady. An auditor by day, Nusaiba – also known as Nusa – seems an unlikely person to embrace the world of pole fitness. But it’s soon clear that the “pole” is her passion and any thoughts that her gentle, calm nature might not be suited to the sport are dispelled when she shows off her moves.
Nusa seems at home in her studio, which has several poles. Barefoot and in black jumper, leggings and scarf, she’s incredibly nimble and lithe.
Her friendly personality also immediately puts me at ease and calms my nerves.
Nusa has made it her mission to get the word out about pole fitness in Oman and is keen to dispel any myths still surrounding the activity.
Even with a full-time job, a young child, a husband and her studies, she still finds the time to practice her poles skills.
“I practice every single day, sometimes late into the night or first thing in the morning,” she tells me proudly. “Whenever inspiration strikes and I think up a new move, I am desperate to try it out.”
Being a pole instructor isn’t a common hobby for most Omani women, but Nusa beams that her family are incredibly supportive and make it all possible. She is especially thankful to her mother, who helped with funding the equipment, and her husband.
“My husband has been with me from the very first day with this and has helped me through all the pains and complaints along the way,” she adds.
Don’t be fooled into thinking this is an easy sport. While anyone can join as a beginner, it requires skill, discipline and strength to make the moves appear so effortless.
You will use almost every part of your body when doing pole – from holding up your entire body weight with just your arms or legs to keeping yourself upright and stable by engaging your core and gripping onto the pole using your skin.
It’s a hardcore, and sometimes painful, workout.
There was no room for fears, however, and within the first 15 minutes of the lesson, Nusa has my body upside down on the pole. She was throwing me in at the deep end, but her faith pushed me to try harder and not give up when my confidence was wavering. At first it was scary, but also empowering that my body was capable of achieving this on my first lesson.
Pole class doesn’t actually involve dancing like some may assume; think more of gymnastics, using only a pole as apparatus. It involves a series of moves and positions pieced together to make a beautiful athletic performance.
As Nusa demonstrates moves on the pole with names like Gemini, Scorpion, Umbrella and Butterfly, I was intrigued and amazed at how graceful and effortless she makes it look.
Her dream is to encourage other Omani women to take part and join in the fun. She’s also thinking big and one day hopes to open a pole studio, where she will teach pole, aerial hoop and aerial silks (think the impressive stunts of Cirque du Soleil).
By the end of my session, I’m elated, sore and my limbs are covered in bruises, but that won’t deter me; I’ve been bitten by the pole fitness bug and have already made plans to go back again to learn some new moves.