Defying the stigma, a Saudi yoga instructor takes up pole dancing – Democrat Blog

Nada, 28, thinks he has made progress, at least in his circle of friends.


When yoga teacher Nada took up pole dancing, the reaction from deeply conservative Saudi Arabia was both harsh and swift, and she has been struggling to overcome the fallout ever since.

He was told by his family and friends in the capital Riyadh that this grueling form of exercise – a test of strength and coordination involving acrobatic movements on a vertical pole – was “so bad”.

Pole dancing as a form of exercise has been tainted by its association with the strip clubs and burlesque houses often depicted in Hollywood films.

Undeterred, Nada took the class she signed up for a few years ago at a local gym, in part to fight that stigma.

The 28-year-old believes she has made progress, at least within her own circle of friends.

“At first they were saying it was inappropriate and a mistake,” she told AFP. “Now they say ‘We want to try it’”.

But Nada’s insistence on being identified by her first name only indicates that she and other Saudi pole dancers still have work to do.

Greater involvement

For many years, notorious restrictions on what Saudi women could wear and where they could work also limited their opportunities for physical recreation.

However, the promotion of women’s sports has recently been part of a broader movement to open up Saudi society and project a softer image to the outside world, despite continued repression by female activists and dissidents.

Last month, the Saudi women’s national football team played their first home game against Bhutan, and a women’s premier league is in the works.

Officials are also working towards greater participation of women in golf, a sport traditionally dominated by men and whose popularity is taking off nationally.

Against this changing backdrop, at least three gyms in Saudi Arabia have spotted an opening and started offering pole dancing lessons.

“I feel like pole dancing has gotten more attention, because it’s something new and girls like to try it out,” said May al-Youssef, who owns one such venue. sports in Riyadh.


Feel good about yourself

Pole dancing enthusiasts claim that since alcohol is banned in Saudi Arabia and there are no strip clubs, the activity’s bad reputation must come from abroad.

A pole dancing student in Riyadh said she was “not at all ashamed” to try the activity.

“It’s my personality, I would say. I’m not ashamed to embrace my sensuality, my femininity. I’m not ashamed of anything, as long as I don’t hurt other people,” she said.

But she acknowledged that not everyone was so comfortable with it, and agreed to describe her experience only if she could remain anonymous.

The only reason she quit, she says, is because pole dancing turned out to be very physically demanding – much harder than it looks on screen.

“I realized it wasn’t my thing,” she said. “It takes a lot of muscle, a lot of strength to be able to do that.”

Gym manager Youssef said she hopes the physical demands of pole dancing shine through in the photos and videos she posts on Instagram.


She believes that the transformation of her clients is the irrefutable proof of her benefits.

“Over time, they seem to love their bodies more,” she said. “They say to themselves: ‘I feel good about myself’”.

(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by staff and is published from a syndicated feed).

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Defying the stigma, a Saudi yoga instructor takes up pole dancing – Democrat Blog

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