Your Weekly Digest on What Muslim Women Are Talking About

The Year of Hobbies: Pole Fitness With Neda @Hijabiluscious

by in Lifestyle on 24th February, 2020

Image Neda’s Instagram @hijabiluscious

At Amaliah, we are calling 2020 the year of fun. A year where we give time to that which gives us joy. We kicked off the year of fun back in December 2019 with Amaliah Nights In, our new event series which is a space for sisterhood to come together and get creative, listen to the podcast here. As a part of the year of fun, we’re talking to women who are championing the art of hobbies. Last time we talked knitting with Azeezat Adeola about mindfulness in knitting, how to get started and knitting for social issues.

This time I spoke to Los Angeles based Neda, Neda started pole classes last year and has been documenting her journey on Instagram. Neda went to her first class thinking it would be funny to see a hijabi doing pole, she loved it and found the pole community very accepting and inclusive. Her humorous approach to shutting down trolls and videos of her routines have gone viral on social media.

If you would like to interview a Muslim woman about her hobby, get in touch on [email protected]

1. What’s the story behind your pole hobby? When did you start and why?

I went as a joke. I’ve been a competitive swimmer for years, and still am. But I wanted to take up something new on the side. So I went on ClassPass and had a free trial period so I can try out multiple activities to see what I’d like. And the pole studio showed up as an option, just a mile away from me.

I thought, wouldn’t it be funny if a hijabi like me went to pole class? I was expecting to be a punch line.

But my first class was so welcoming. The teacher was so body positive and happy to see me there, as were the students. I had such a good workout, and was sore, but felt accomplished. So I kept coming back, and the progress became addictive.

Image Neda’s Instagram @hijabiluscious

2. For anyone that would like to get started, how and where do they start?

  • Find a pole studio. Some let you try a class for free, or you can just pay by the class. Take a pole 101 class or a regular level 1.
  • You don’t need to show skin to do pole. Even if you aren’t Muslim and don’t feel comfortable wearing shorts, leggings and a shirt are just fine. So much of pole incorporates yoga movements for warm up, which is a big part of the class.
    Stilleto heels are optional. They are super fun to walk in and dance in, but no shoes are just fine.
  • You need grip as you progress but even faux leather leggings facilitate grip. That’s what I started with. When I got to more advanced moves, I got grip pants that are designed for pole dance. Yes it’s harder to do pole with more clothes on but I’m strong as hell for accepting the challenge.
  • Know that you are welcome no matter what your size or physical ability is. Pole is about inclusion and loving your body. And everyone deserves to have it.
  • Pole has the most diverse group of people by far, and everyone has a story. Everyone is an important addition to the sport.

Image Neda’s Instagram @hijabiluscious

3. How has pole affected your relationship with your body?

Pole has given me a confidence in my body I’ve never known. A lot of moves in pole look impossible like it’s a huge unattainable feat of strength. So many times I’ve seen moves especially in the beginning where I’m like nope I won’t get that. But then after some conditioning and patience, I eventually get it. Pole gives you so many opportunities to see how capable your body is. And I feel this every time I go to class. This is how pole gives me confidence in my body, it’s far more resilient than I thought

4. You’ve mentioned the haram police and commentary you get for doing pole, does it get to you? What is your message to Muslim women who may feel like they may get judged for joining a pole class?

Muslim women get judged for how we breathe, and mostly by other Muslims. No matter what you do, everyone will have something to say. But I live by, if you don’t pay then you have no say. Yes the comments I get sometimes sting. But I remember that they have the luxury of not being able to say this to my face. Pole has made my arms and legs huge, so I just remember these people would cower if they ever met me ‍*shrug*. So if you’re a Muslim woman who wants to try pole, just remember all the things you’ve done in your life that you didn’t allow judgement to dictate your decisions. Pole is just another thing to add to the list.

You do pole for you, you don’t have to explain yourself to anyone who isn’t looking to understand. And if you’re not comfortable then they don’t need to know about it. This is for you.

The ones close to me have shown nothing but support. They see what pole does for me and are happy I’m succeeding, as any true friend would.

5. What are misconceptions about pole?

That pole is only for stripping. Yes, exotic dance is a big category in pole. But so is fitness pole and aerial. The pole is an apparatus. It’s used in cirque di soleil and even children compete in pole in Europe. The dance is what you make of it.

If you don’t want to do exotic pole, there are so many other types of pole you can do instead.

6. You’ve made light of comments about being a hijabi and doing pole, have you ever felt a conflict?

(sorry I know this is an annoying question but I do want our readers and beyond to do some unlearning!)

No I haven’t, honestly. I don’t see what I’m doing as much different from gymnastics or acrobatics. I’m not popping or shaking anything and I don’t do my routines to entice or arouse. Cowardly comments have accused me of being sexual when I do the splits on pole because my legs are open. But if someone is sexualizing the splits, they are the one with the issue. They choose to see me sexually, and I will not solve that issue for them. Some of my clothes are form fitting, but I’m plus sized so my clothes will look tight unless I wear a potato sack.

I have just resigned to the fact that hijabis will be criticized for what they wear no matter what, because of the patriarchy. Meanwhile our community has no problem when Muslim men are top less in shorts boxing and becoming MMA champions. I don’t let this hypocrisy cause doubt within myself.

7. You’ve done some performances, how was that? 

I LOVE performing. I love engaging the audience. My last performance was to a persian song and I incorporated moves from my culture in addition to the acrobatic moves. I prepare for them by going to class 3 times a week and renting the smaller studio a couple of times to video myself and practice my routine. I also improvise sometimes.

8. What have been the benefits of pole and what effects have you seen on your body?

I am in the best shape of my life. I feel so healthy, my biceps are huge, I can see my abs coming in, my core is so much stronger, and even my endurance in the swimming pool has improved. I’ve lost weight, but that wasn’t intentional. It just happens when you take up a sport that you love.

Image Neda’s Instagram @hijabiluscious

9. What’s something that’s surprised you about joining pole and the pole community?

That I haven’t been judged a single time by the pole community and I’ve never been questioned about joining. The most surprised I felt was the first class, when I came in with my own misconceptions and had them broken down within the first 30 minutes of class. The community shows nothing but love and encouragement, and teaches you to embrace progress rather than perfection. The confidence I’ve gotten from pole translates to so much beyond the studio.

10. Are there any other hobbies you pursue or would like to?

Most of my time is on pole now, as I work 5 days a week. I still swim twice a week, but pole and swim are all I have time for outside of work.


If you would like to interview a Muslim woman about her hobby, get in touch on [email protected]

Nafisa Bakkar

Nafisa Bakkar

Co-founder and CEO at Amaliah Find me @nafisa_bakkar on IG and Twitter