Belly dance is more than an art form, it’s a type of exercise that more recreation centers and fitness centers are adopting. It offers cardio and isometric benefits, yet unlike jazz, aerobic and step classes, students are learning an authentic dance. In addition, the movements are all natural and low-impact. Students burn calories and lose pounds and inches with regular classes and practice. As an instructor, I have gone from a size 10-12 to a 6-8. I have had students who have done the same. Hips and thighs firm up, arms get taut and abdominal muscles are strengthened. Strong abdominal muscles help support and strengthen the back (the ever-important core). The dance and its isolations makes the body more limber. Flexibility increases as muscles so often unused get stimulated. Yet, the body maintains its feminine curves. The dance also helps with balance, very important as one ages.
Women are incorporating belly dance into their wellness routines. Many alternative health and holistic health practices incorporate belly dance into their therapies. The isometric and contraction movements of belly dance soothe the internal organs. Digestion is aided, a natural method of regularity. Women have experienced shorter periods, less cramping and swelling and decreased breast tenderness. Though not proven in scientific study, I can attest to the positive changes. Dancing also brings joy that creates more energy. Let’s not forget that belly dance is a reproduction and birth dance. Many of the movements are incorporated during labor and delivery, aiding in the birth process. Some belly dance classes are held just for pregnant women to help ease labor, delivery and recovery.
The benefits of the dance go beyond the physical, though. Women’s attitudes, self-esteem and confidence increase. Women begin to accept their bodies and take more interest in its function and well-being. The feminine emerges. Sensuality is embraced. Time and time again I have witnessed the transformation of students. So many students enter class shy and self-conscious. By class four, they are baring their midriffs and by the last class have become confident and even extroverted. Letters from past students express how the dance has literally changed their lives by changing their attitude and level of confidence. These are students of all ages, sizes, races and personalities. Though I use the word “women” frequently, many men have studied belly dance. In Arabic culture, most men dance. For an example, look up “Tito” of Egypt on You-Tube.
There is also a spiritual side to belly dance. The dance plays homage to the goddess in all of us. After all, in ancient times (and even in modern times with the popularity of liturgical praise dance), dance was used as a part of religious ritual. Dancing frees the soul and the mind. The heartbeat of the music and undulations are soothing. The dance is calming and stress reducing and can put a dancer into a meditative state, almost a spiritual trance. I consider it my drug of choice.
Embrace belly dance for the body and the soul!