Pole positions

Here's a unique way to get rid of those extra holiday pounds: polercizing. Using pole dancing as exercise is an effective way to tone up and build self- confidence, says Tanika Mason, the owner and instructor at 5, 6, 7, 8 Studios in Martinez.

The class has been offered since the dance studio opened in November 2008.

The class begins with warm-ups, followed by dance tricks, and finishes with a combination in which participants pick their favorite three or four moves and string them together. The music is turned up and the lights are dimmed for just the right atmosphere.

Ms. Mason said that beginners are usually shy about the class but that after they get used to it, they feel more comfortable and their self-confidence rises.

At the start of class, everyone repeats the motto, "No judgments."

"A lot of people have said they didn't realize that it is so much work and that there's a lot more fitness to it," she said.

The participants agree that it's a good workout and tougher than it looks. Using knee pads is suggested.

"I had bruises on my knees," Kalyka Abraham said of her first time polercizing. "I didn't know this could hurt," she said as she pointed to her index finger. "And my toes, too."

Robyn Majestic, who has attended classes for nearly three months, said she's proud of her bruises.

"I kind of like them though, because they're like my battle wounds," she said.

Ms. Mason said: "We've had pro strippers come here, and they find it very difficult. This focuses more on fitness and toning. We are even petitioning to be in the Olympics."

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