Belly dancing is an ancient dance that can boost physical and emotional health and prepare women for pregnancy.

belly dancer - lady Egypt
belly dancer - lady Egypt

Belly dancing is one of the oldest forms of ancient dance. This dance is believed to date back as far as thousands of years, with origins in Africa, the Middle East, and India. In ancient Egypt this dance for women by women was performed regularly, and is most known historically for association with fertility rituals and birthing ceremonies. This ritualized expression comes naturally to the female form and prepares the female body for the stresses of childbirth and pregnancy due to the fact that women learn to use and strengthen the muscles of the hips and pelvis area through dancing. Unlike other dance forms which can sometimes overextend the body or damage bone structure, belly dancing is a low impact weight bearing exercise that strengthens the muscles of the torso, back, and arms. Belly dancing is known by different names, some of the most common being: Raks sharki, Oriental Dance, Middle Eastern Dance, Raqs Beledi, Arabic Dance, and Egyptian Dance. All forms of the dance incorporate swaying hip movements, undulating torso, and articulated isolations of the hips, torso, and upper body. Common movements include: hip drops, hip circles, shimmies, and fluid arm movements.

Physical Benefits of Belly Dancing

 

 Bellydancing imparts the grace and beauty characteristic of the dance form on the physical body, by offering a wide range of physical benefits to the dancer.

  • Stimulates weight loss. Belly dancing has been known to burn up to 300 calories an hour depending on the intensity of the movements. If coupled with additional cardiovascular exercise, it can be a very effective way to shed pounds and tone muscles of the entire body.
  • Aids proper digestion. The wave-like movements and contractions of the torso create an internal massage, and stimulate the body to effectively digest food. In addition, regular dancing improves circulation, which in turn improves the body’s digestive process.
  • Prepares for childbirth. The hip tucks learned in belly dancing are similar to the “pelvic rocking” movements expectant women learn prior to pregnancy. Women learn to move their pelvis while muscles of the pelvis and hips are strengthened.
  • Tones Muscles.In addition to the muscles of the torso and back, the shoulders and arms also receive a workout in belly dancing because they are held aloft throughout the dance and moved gracefully.
  • Improves coordination and balance.Belly dancing exercises the muscles surrounding the hips during moves such as hip drops, and figure eights. These movements enhance flexibility and can lead to improved balance when the dancer resumes normal every day walking.
  • Improves posture and strengthens bones.As a weight bearing exercise, belly dancing can strengthen bones and joints, prevent osteoporosis and facilitate gentle recovery from joint injuries. When muscle groups are weak, the spine unnaturally curves forward. The muscles groups of the back that are normally under-exercised are used and strengthened while dancing help to improve posture and prevent back pain.

Emotional Healing of Belly Dancing

Besides beautifying the physical form through the physical movements, belly dancing has been known to also serve as “dance therapy,” offering spiritual and emotional healing to women who perform the dance regularly. Through the repetitive movements, inner tensions can release. Although there is no academic research concerning psychological and emotional effects, women who were victims of abuse, rape, recovering from eating disorders, or terminal diseases such as cancer, have attested to the fact that belly dancing played a key role in their emotional recovery. The dance has been known to build self-esteem and encourage positive body image, relieve stress, assist in encouraging and embracing femininity, and increase the joy and creativity of the dancer.

 

References:

  • CBS News.com, “Get Fit Belly Dancing,” (accessed January 2, 2010).
  • Bellydance.org, “What is Belly Dance?" (accessed January 2, 2010).
  • Learn-to-belly-dance.com, “What is Belly Dance?” (accessed December 30, 2009)
  • Atlantabellydance.com, “Health Benefits of Belly Dancing,” (accessed January 2, 2010).
  • Shira.net, “Healing Through Oriental Dance,” (accessed December 30, 2009).

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