She’s defying gravity, doing away with misconceptions and is living her strongest, happiest life.
Nupur Chaudhuri, the award winning pole athlete tells you all about what it’s like being a Pole athlete and how it is making her be the best version of herself.
Could you tell us a little bit about Pole Sports/Poling?
Pole Sport, I’d say is the Art of Defying gravity. There’s one vertical steel pole and you are doing tricks and contorting your body into different shapes around this vertical pole and at the same time you are fighting gravity. So it definitely is anti-gravity fitness, an aerial sport and definitely not easy. But what I must say is that just one pole cannot be categorised as Pole Sport or Pole dancing or Pole Art because it is a combination of all of it. It is entirely up to the individual to pick whether they want to be an athlete, or a pole artist or pole dancer.
The history of pole sport goes way back and we as athletes and artists today have to be very grateful that this artform is there to explore and we are able to be part of it. I personally believe that Pole Sport has its history in the ancient Indian sport called Mallakhamb. I have learnt Pole Mallakhamb as well and there are many similarities. It is an amazing form of fitness, it is a fairly new sport compared to the others that exist and it is a beautiful artform that lets you be creative, let’s you be you!
Pole becomes you, it becomes an extension of you. It allows you to explore your strength, build your strength. It definitely improves your mobility, active flexibility and the muscle engagement a lot as well. I attribute my strength, my body confidence and my happiness quotient to this sport. It is a sport that makes you much stronger, makes you more flexible and helps you find your self confidence. Pole is not easy, it’s very challenging so every time you get a move, a transition, a combo or a routine it’s a major win.
Tell us about your journey. What drew you to become a pole athlete?
My Pole journey began in 2017, I of course would have liked it to have started much earlier, but being in Pune I did not have access to this training. I had found a teacher in Mumbai a few years earlier, but at that time I was a deputy editor on the Pune Times team so making it to Mumbai for sessions was not possible. The teacher did say that if a studio space was available and there were other students who would learn with me, the sessions could happen in Pune. At that time the sport was very new and I could get friends who were interested to learn.
The idea at that time fizzled out. Life moved on, I switched careers, became a footwear designer. My days had opened up a bit, timewise and I decided to explore a little bit about Pole Sport again. This time I found another teacher in Mumbai and with the right encouragement from my husband went to Mumbai for a class. My mother had accompanied me for the first session and both of us fell in love with this art form. I knew at that point that I had found what my soul had been searching for. This is where the journey started. My friend and I drove to Mumbai every Sunday, took a class and drove back. All of it very exciting and exhilarating. Unfortunately I sustained an injury to my wrist and my hand was in a plaster for a while. Once the plaster came off, intense physio therapy sessions started and it was my husband and my physiotherapist who encouraged and motivated me to work towards getting back to the sport.
Baby steps and a year later I was ready to get back to training. This time though I wanted to travel abroad and learn from more experienced teachers. I found a studio in Dubai and my friend and I lived there for a month of ‘ Eat, Sleep, Pole, Repeat ‘ literally! I had to start again from scratch, but that I’d say was the turning point for me. I met these amazing instructors from around the world and so many people from the pole community. It was an amazing experience and learning phase. I was very disciplined and kept up with my training very seriously.
I, then went on to do a Pole Camp in Thailand, where I trained with a Dutch world Champion. I started teaching in 2019, with a few friends.I kept up with my personal training and this time went back to Dubai to do another month long course, and this time in the advanced category. The pandemic hit my classes like it did everything else. I was teaching online for a bit, but now I’m back to offline classes. It’s great that I can contribute and grow this community of like minded people. I recently competed and won silver in the pole sport PSO Libra championship. It was a great experience competing at an international level and winning.
What misconceptions are there about Pole Sports?
I’d say the misconception that Pole Sport mainly faces is being looked at as a skin show . Initially I would defend myself but now that I understand the discipline, complexities and the amount of training that is involved, I now have the knowledge to know how amazing this art form is. There is the misconception that the clothes worn for pole are worn to be provocative but the main reason that people wear what they wear is because your skin needs to grip the pole.
Mallakhamb athletes too wear tiny orange shorts and there’s a reason for that. I need my skin to grip the pole, if I wear more clothing I’m going to slip, fall and injure myself. And of course the other reason being that I wear whatever I want to wear and that should stand true for all women. No one ( man or woman ) should be judged based on what they wear or what they do. These are the misconceptions that are there and need to be done away with.
This sport hasn’t received much recognition in India, your thoughts on why.
Well, Pole is new to India in this form, Mallakhamb isn’t. Pole is new to India but I would say it’s really really picking up. When I started there were just a handful of us but more and more men and women are taking to the sport now and viewing it for what it is. They are reading up about it, understanding what it is and they want to give it a try. Some because it’s new and different and some because they see us getting stronger and more confident.
The misconceptions that I mentioned earlier probably inhibit people. It’s still not as popular with men in India as it should be, there are so many male pole athletes around the world. Here they probably don’t understand that it is a sport for men as well, they instantly connect to women. I think men should keep an open mind and try it out and they probably will discover that they love it. My husband has tried pole and he has even more respect for what I do because he understands how hard it is and the tremendous amount of strength that is involved. I have to say that the videos that I share on social platforms have received very positive and supportive feedback.
Any ideas you have to change that and make it more popular.
The reason that I post on Instagram is that more and more people become aware and see the sport for what it is.About how diverse and inclusive it is. So I think social media is a great way to popularise this. Also people like you who are interested in writing about the sport, who are talking to me about it and putting my opinions and views out there, it’s really going to help the popularity of Pole grow.
There are conversations building up around it and we need to build this further with fitness platforms like Fitqii, with other bloggers, actors, different people who need to talk more about it. To make it popular and definitely to change lives, because that’s what Pole does. I have some plans on how to make it more popular, conduct workshops and such. Hopefully going forward we’ll be able to organise competition for people in India because it doesn’t happen here as yet.
How does fitness line up with Poling?
Nupur: I often refer to Poling as Pole Fitness because I do a lot of strength conditioning on the pole.I prepare the body for what is to come. You can’t just get into a spin or an invert or a human flag without a warmup. I do a lot of pull-ups, core work and strength training. We work with progressions on the ground and then take it aerially.
Students see a difference in just a few classes. Strength going up, pull-ups getting better. It’s a great form of fitness because it’s more body weight fitness like calisthenics and acrobatics, just that we’re doing that on the pole. In pole you get to engage muscles that you would not normally engage in other forms of exercise or in other daily activities. It’s very complimentary to any other kind of fitness that you might follow. So if you’re into weight training, you’ll find that you can lift far better. We may pretend that it is easy but our muscles are working overtime while doing routines.
What is the one move that you haven’t done yet, but aspire to do?
Oh! I have a list of so many. But just off the top of my head I want to do the inverted and upright bird of paradise on the pole. It requires extreme form of shoulder flexibility as well as leg flexibility. I think I’m close but not there yet, I just need to get more consistent with my flexibility on the pole. Another one is the true grip muscle up on the pole. It’s a superb strength move. I can now do a pole assisted twisted grip muscle up. I hit that goal just recently, so still celebrating that win. I also want to do the complete human flag, so working towards achieving these moves.
What does a day in your life look like?
Well, I’ll tell you what my day looks like when I’m teaching classes and when I’m not. I take classes on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, so my weekends are literally like my week. I try to keep the week for myself so I can train, unwind, and spend time with the family. So on Friday -Sunday I wake up early, chill with the dogs , have breakfast and then head for my classes.
The classes typically run through 3-4 hours of the day, which is quite a heavy day as I’m not just standing and giving counts, but I’m demonstrating and spotting students. The evenings are usually when I get a chance to unwind.
Any advice you’d like to share with aspiring Pole Athletes?
The advice I’d like to give aspiring polers is to find what style of pole suits you the best. You have to find your own style, your own passion with pole. Do a lot of pole conditioning. I know the spins and the routines are a lot more fun, but it is the conditioning that will keep your muscles strong and activated for your routine. Another bit of advice is to never compare your journey to anyone else’s. The only comparison should be with your own last attempt, that’s the bar.
Definitely be inspired by others or have a goal based on what someone else has done, but do not compare. I often hear people say that they either don’t have the strength or the body to do pole. Either they feel they are too weak or they are overweight, but that is just not what you should be telling yourself. If you have a body and a pole, then you have a pole body. Anyone can pole, just that your journey will be different. So learn from the falls and the fails and even from the wins and the successes. Enjoy every moment of your journey.
A quote that would describe you best.
I think a quote that would best describe me is, “Always be a first rate version of yourself, not a second rate version of someone else”.