Brunswick Center Focus


Body, Soul, and Pole: A Challenge Worth Taking

-Jennifer Belcher

Body, Soul and Pole is located on the 3rd floor of the Brunswick Center in Jersey City.

That was not easy.  It was not easy at all.  Every video I had ever seen of someone doing pole fitness made it look graceful and elegant: spiraling women, fit and strong, twirling effortlessly around a pole. That’s what was supposed to happen, right? Not hardly.  I learned very quickly that pole fitness is hard. Instead of resembling the ease at which my instructor demonstrated each new step we would try out, spinning multiple times without demand, I approached my pole, took my grip, and did my best imitation of a flying squirrel hitting a tree face on.  Ouch.

Why had I been so eager to try this in the first place, anyway?  Basically, I’m all for workouts that are fun, artistic, and let me challenge myself in ways that don’t feel like, well, a workout.  Having danced my whole life, I figured it should ideally not come as too much of a challenge. In addition to something more creative and fun that didn’t involve massive amounts of sweat and dumbbells, I had heard nothing but rave reviews about what pole fitness could do for one’s physique.

When I found out a new studio was opening up on the 3rd floor of the Brunswick Center, I was excited and anxious to try it.  At first I worried about what people might think. Pole fitness can be a little controversial given its provocative and risque origins.  Some people I’ve met have strong opinions on the dance classes saying they are demeaning to women and support a culture of sleaze and degradation. However, women using a highly rigorous form of body control and strength to combine fitness and art in a unique way is, in my opinion, empowering.

After a few months I talked myself into trying it out.  Having done my research I knew that I was in for quite the strenuous exercise.  According to Shape.Com, pole classes are a combination of workouts that incorporate the use of your own body weight, strength training and flexibility in one.  A few intro lessons in, I can tell you that it is so much more than that. Each class requires a significant amount of coordination, body control and focus.

Two days after my first class, my body was as sore as if I had completed a double gym workout.  My arms were killing me, which was no surprise. I’ve always been someone who has significantly lacked upper body strength.  The results of one pole class alerted me to the fact that this may, indeed, be the kryptonite class to my scrawny, under-toned limbs.  I am not kidding you, there were a few points in the days that followed when I could not even lift my arms.  

It wasn’t the incredible upper arm workout that had me going back to another introduction class, however.  The dancer inside of me could not deal with the fact that I was not able to look like a beautiful spinning siren after day 1.  The learning curve necessary to achieve the few moves taught in the class was steep, and I was determined to get them quickly. Flapping and flailing against the pole was not going to be how I went down.  This was an entirely new and frustrating experience for me, someone who had always picked up on anything dance rather quickly.

Needless to say, even after the second class, I still looked more like an out of control animal than I did someone who should have been up there.  However, my climbing skills (which require a tremendous amount of upper body strength) were already improving and the coordination necessary to achieve a whirl around the pole was steadily increasing.

If you are interested in trying a pole fitness class, do not let it overwhelm you.  It is NOT easy and it is not something you are going to achieve overnight. Unlike many forms of fitness which have you achieving the basics rather quickly, Pole Fitness is going to ask of you patience, determination, and the willingness to be okay with looking like a complete jerk crashing into a metal pole.  The good news is the women (and men) inside that class will do nothing but support you, lift you up, help you achieve body and mind confidence and stand next to you doing weird and awkward things around their poles as well.

So put all your reservations aside, find your best pair of biker shorts (the more skin exposed the better your grip on the pole) and try it out.  It will definitely challenge you, but it will also help you carve out a lean physique, and more importantly a strong will and self-belief.

In addition to offering introduction and intermediate pole fitness classes, Body Pole and Soul offers lyra and silks classes.  I recommend trying it with a friend.  You can have fun laughing at, I mean with, each other.  The studio also offers parties for events such as bachelorettes, birthdays, divorce parties (yes-that is a thing!).

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Power-House Pilates: Changing Minds and Bodies

-Jennifer Belcher

Pilates helps to strengthen your core, flexibility and balance.

“The studio down the hallway.”  For me that is what Power-House Pilates was for the two years I’ve been coming to the Brunswick Center.  I have always wanted to try Pilates…always.  More often than not when interviewed for fitness magazines, ballerinas, models, and long-limbed actresses will tout the impact Pilates has had on their overall health and fitness journey.  Forever I have associated Pilates with women (and men) who had long lean bodies and flexibility to die for.  While I had always pined away for that type of body, I never quite felt good enough, lean enough, or flexible enough (I can’t even touch my toes) to engage in that specific workout regime.  

A week ago, however, I decided to put my reservations and fears aside and take my chances at the “studio down the hallway” in the Brunswick Center.  The benefits of Pilates (strength, flexibility, enhanced core, balance, etc.) had to outweigh any risks of me looking like a complete fool in front of the instructor, right?

As I entered the brightly lit and meticulously clean studio, I was in awe at the various pieces of equipment around the space. Lining the room in perfect symmetry were mats, wooden reformers, and other pieces of equipment you don’t see in your typical workout studio.  Standing in silhouette against the sun-filled windows was what I would learn is the Cadillac reformer, or trapeze table, with bars, straps, and coils.  In my mind I had always envisioned Pilates being various exercises on floor mats.  However, I was immediately intrigued and excited as my eyes took in the retro style machines.  “We get to play!” I thought.

Morwen practicing a pose on the Cadillac Reformer

Having now had two private Pilates sessions with Morwen, owner and instructor at the studio, I can tell you that Pilates is unlike any workout I have ever experienced.  Over the course of 55 minutes, Morwen took me through a series of exercises on the reformer and tower Cadillac that challenged me, relaxed me, and filled me with curiosity.

Being brand new to anything Pilates, I found that many of the moves required coordination and body positions that I have never been asked to do in any other form of exercise. Morwen informed me that the creator of Pilates specifically designed the exercises in a way that challenged your brain as well as your body in an attempt to keep you mindful at all times.  Because of this mind-body connection, I felt certain that tiny muscle groups that I’ve never worked out before were definitely getting used (something I have often heard about Pilates). 

Through a combination of stretches, unique breathing patterns, quick and slow movements, and held positions, my body engaged in a unique workout that I cannot compare to any other form of exercise. There were times I felt like I was going to die as I performed a series of slightly different movements that targeted the same muscles groups until my body felt like jelly.  In sharp juxtaposition, these exercises would be followed by several stretches that Morwen led me through that resulted in that same Zen-like feeling you get during yoga.  Additionally, sliding, standing, and swinging from the equipment were just downright fun and really spoke to my inner child.

Pilates allows one to work on strength and flexibility simultaneously.

I’ve now completed two private sessions with Morwen and I have to tell you…I’m hooked.  As someone who has struggled with balance and flexibility my whole life, I’m rather upset with myself for being too intimidated for so many years by what I deemed to be the elusive and elite Pilates workout.  After each session, I have felt equally invigorated by a workout that has truly pushed my physical limits and relaxed by the stretching and breathing work also involved.  It is a post-workout sensation unlike any other.  Additionally, when I feel the small random muscles that are sore for a few days after my session, I know that it is the missing component of a truly full-body workout in my regular routine.

Morwen Banq, owner and instructor, began studying for her Pilates certification in 2002.

Although Pilates is often associated with dancers, models, and actresses, I was able to learn more about the history of Pilates and how it started during my sessions. Joseph H. Pilates, founder, developed the exercise program to actually help bedridden hospital patients exercise and work on their mobility. It wasn’t until later that it would become a craze for dancers around the world. To learn more about the history of Pilates click here: https://www.pilates.com/BBAPP/V/pilates/origins-of-pilates.html

Morwen’s beautiful studio is located on the third floor of the Brunswick Center in Jersey City.  In addition to offering 30 min and 55 min private sessions, she provides duet sessions and small group classes. If you have ever wanted to try Pilates but have been intimidated, you can sample it through her $99.00 new student package which offers three privates lessons.  As someone who avoided Pilates for years out of fear of “not being good enough,” I promise you won’t regret it.  For more information, visit https://www.power-housepilates.com/

Power House Pilates is located on the third floor of the Brunswick Center.