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The community of aerial fitness fanatics is about to get bigger in the kingdom with the arrival of a larger studio space for them to climb new heights and twirl in style in an empowering environment.
Dina Elhifnawi’s dream of teaching the art of poling in Bahrain became a reality when she launched Carousel Aerial Arts and Fitness Academy inside a gym in Zinj in 2019, offering women and girls 16 different types of classes with only six poles to practise their high-flying spins and tricks.
“I created a community of pole sisters with the aim of supporting each other and working towards a better version of ourselves,” said the 31-year-old former creative director of Egyptian Al Masry Al Youm newspaper, who now lives in Amwaj Islands.
On January 1, 2022, the sisterhood grew even further with women of all ages, nationalities, shapes and sizes taking on the core strengthening and body-positivity sport in the academy’s new home at the Bahrain Financial Harbour.
“Where we originally started, the space was smaller being 84sqm with a clear height of 3.3 metres,” said Dina, the owner and lead instructor. “Now, it is 155sqm with a clear height of 4.3m high with 11 poles and six aerial hoops.”
There are several strength and flexibility as well as aerial and dance classes for ladies and children to try their hands at including aerial hoop, pole sport, splits flexibility, headstands and more. The academy will also be featuring silk classes soon.
“Pole and hoop are very artistic,” added Dina. “I believe that pole dancing and aerial hoop has evolved within the community and outside as well.
“More people are sharing that they are a part of the carousel community on social media now and many mums bring their children for the aerial arts classes because it’s a beautiful way to work out and have fun at the same time. The benefits of poling and hooping are endless.”
Pole and aerial fitness release endorphins commonly known as ‘happy hormones’ because of the physical exercise it involves. These endorphins help reduce the perception of pain and relieves stress, as well as lessening anxiety in the process.
It also increases strength, flexibility, core and muscle due to constant repetitiveness to land a move. It also improves coordination; burns fat and, most importantly, builds up self-esteem while allowing for freedom of expression.
“Pole and aerial hoop can have a long-term positive impact on one’s mental health,” said Dina, who studied journalism, media arts, business administration and graphic design at the American University in Cairo. “It is not just about physical health, it makes you stronger emotionally and psychologically because it’s incredibly liberating. It is about challenging your mind and overcoming your fears.
“The moves require a lot of trust and letting go. By trusting yourself and your ability to achieve the move, you open your eyes to a wealth of possibilities. It is empowering and eventually you resolve any doubts you had about yourself.
“Most girls start to pole because of a recent changing point in their life - losing a friend or a family member, going through a break-up, or, they just moved to the island. It helps you with whatever you are going through in your life.
“Also, aerial fitness has no age and size, it’s for everyone and it definitely empowers women. You fall in love with your body rather than what it looks like in the mirror.”
Pole fitness dates back to the 12th-century called Mallakhamba, where it was seen as a type of wrestling in India. It then became influenced by English competitive sports and took on the structural framework of British gymnastics. It eventually became an organised, extreme sport where some athletes perform acrobatic tricks, jumps and other manoeuvres.
The International Pole Sports Federation (IPSF) was formed in 2009 by Tim Trautman and Katie Coates to make poling an Olympic sport and has held world championships since 2012. Poling was one of seven sports granted observer status by the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) in 2017.
Professional pole-sports leagues were formed and classes have provided opportunities for students to bond with and support each other and encourage athleticism.
For details, visit @carousel.fitness on Instagram.