By Bronwen Bartlett
If you love to dance and want to spice up your fitness with more FUN and DANCING… this is especially for you!
Belly Dance – it’s more than just an entrancing and exciting art form; belly dancing for weight loss is a surprisingly challenging abs and core workout that’s great for your body, amazing for your body image and good for the soul. More and more women are discovering the physical, mental and emotional benefits of this ancient dance and enjoying the camaraderie of other women of all ages.
In this two-part article, we’ll explore first the incredible physical wellbeing you will experience and next, the psychological benefits.
What is Belly Dance?
Today’s Belly Dance enthusiasts can be found in two broad camps. We’ll link to instructional videos in the resources, meanwhile here are some of the most popular types of belly dance.
Two Styles of Belly Dance
Oriental – Oriental belly dance, which includes:
- American Cabaret
American Tribal Style (ATS) belly dance which includes
- Improvisational Tribal Style
- Tribal Fusion style
The roots of both these forms of belly dancing can be found in women’s dances from a number of cultures across the globe. Belly dancing health benefits include cardio, toning and flexibility as well as certain unique benefits.
Health Benefits of Dance
Dance is unique because, by its very nature, it combines cardiovascular exercise, strength training and stretching, to help with weight loss, muscle strength and toning, skeletal health, improved heart and lung health and increased aerobic fitness. Besides this, because dance involves moves that are designed to tell a story, and choreographies that get memorized and performed, it helps with balance and coordination, spatial awareness, flexibility, mental function and even boosts your physical confidence.1)https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/dance-health-benefits
The Unique Benefits of Belly Dance
First, we love the costumes! Exotic, colorful, fun and feminine, belly dance costumes are beautiful and designed to enunciate feminine beauty. You can find an array on Amazon that go from simple hip scarves all the way to full-on harem costumes, or you can tie your own scarf for a quick-fix exotic look.
The easiest and least expensive way to look like a belly dancer is with a simple scarf tied around your hips.
Within the spheres of different dances there are unique benefits. Belly dance emphasizes fine articulation of the core, pelvis, and gluteal muscle groups. These are stimulated in several ways. Movements like shimmies utilize a rapid contraction and release mechanism, while circles and eights tend to elongate and strengthen muscles simultaneously. – 8 Benefits of Belly Dance You Didn’t Know About (AnankeDance.com)
Because the various folk dances that combined to give us the belly dance we know and love today were born among the women of the world’s peoples, there are a number of women-specific health benefits. The focused isolation patterns that teach intense muscular control and work on muscle groups used during pregnancy, childbirth and child-raising, women can enjoy these good health boosts:
Health Benefits of Belly Dancing
- Reduced menstrual cramps
- Easier pregnancy and childbirth
- Improved digestion
- Relief from back pain
- You can keep doing it for the rest of your life
With physical benefits like these, belly dance is among the top choices for women looking for a way to get fit and healthy, without going to the gym or taking up individual sports like running or cycling. But it doesn’t just give amazing health benefits, it’s good for the mind, spirit and feminine soul, too!
Belly Dance Weight Loss at 306 Calories per Hour
Oh! And by the way… when you’re having fun belly dancing for an hour, you’re burning ~306 calories. Or… 153 calories in 30 minutes.
In Part 2, that follows, we explore the other benefits of the beautiful dance that’s suitable for women of any age, size or shape.
Better Health – Dance – Health Benefits
AnankeDance.com – 8 Benefits of Belly Dance You Didn’t Know About
WorldBellyDance.com – Health Benefits of Belly Dance
InternationalBellyDancing.com – Health Benefits Digestion
Natural Pregnancy Midwife – Belly Dancing for Pregnancy
The Nest – Exercise During Menstruation
Shimmy.tv – Relieving Back Pain Through Belly Dance
Dailymotion.com – 100-year-old Belly Dancer from Florida Still Has the Moves
PART 2 – Belly Dancing – It’s About Mindset and a Journey to a Healthier Body Image
By Bronwen Bartlett
In part 1 of this article, we took a look at some of the physical benefits women around the world have experienced thanks to belly dance. But this modern version of an ancient art isn’t just good for your waistline, it has real emotional, mental and spiritual benefits, too. Let’s take a look at why belly dance is good for the soul.
Better Body Image
In 2014, Marika Tiggeman of Australia’s Flinders University conducted an in-depth study of 112 belly dancers of various ages and experience levels, as well as just over 100 college students with no experience of the dance. Her findings were astonishing. Regardless off their shape, size, age or weight, the belly dance students showed a convincingly positive attitude to body image.
“REGARDLESS OF SHAPE, SIZE, AGE OR WEIGHT, THE BELLY DANCE STUDENT SHOWED A CONVINCINGLY POSITIVE ATTITUDE TO BODY IMAGE.”
Considering that belly dancers come in every age. shape and size, it shows that body image isn’t connected to just how thin you’ve managed to get, how clear your skin is, or how many miles you can run. Belly dancing relies more on your relationship with yourself.
Through belly dance, you gain a feeling of respect for your body and an appreciation and understanding of its abilities and limitations, and on what constitutes beauty. Datura Online founder and tribal style teacher, Rachel Brice, has said this is what inspired her to take up this dance in the first place — watching a woman who, by modern standards, isn’t perfect, dance her heart out.
“I WAS INSPIRED TO START DANCING AFTER WATCHING A WOMAN WHO, BY MODERN STANDARDS, ISN’T PERFECT, DANCE HER HEART OUT.”
RACHEL BRICE, DATURAONLINE.COM
Speak to Your Spirit
There are many traditions of different forms of dance that link us to the spiritual. Dance has long been one of the ways used to celebrate and depict the spiritual side of humans. Is it any wonder then, that many belly dancers claim a deeper feeling of spirituality when dancing?
Some find it to be a calming meditation, while others (your writer included) find moments of overwhelming joy that transcend the bonds of the everyday grind, reminding you that there’s more to being human, being woman, than work, responsibilities and just getting through the day. Dance can be your link to the Divine in you, and for me, that’s belly dance.
Dance is mentally stimulating, as well. Having to synchronize the movements of different muscle groups improves motor skills. The aesthetics of the art are tied to spatial geometry, and the practitioner must be aware of and learn to create shapes and lines with their bodies. This is why it’s hard to be bored in dance class. – 8 Benefits of Belly Dance You Didn’t Know About (AnankeDance.com).
DANCE STIMULATES THE BRAIN’S COGNITIVE FUNCTIONS.
Because you’re not simply repeating a series of moves designed to exercise specific muscle groups, dance actually stimulates the brain’s cognitive functions. Learning how moves go together to tell a story, studying choreographies— and making up your own! — help improve your memory, creative processes and decision-making abilities. Whether it’s improving neural pathways through the repetitive reminder that this choreography needs you to turn left just before the dum tekka tek, or the creative stimulation that comes from telling a story to a 10/8 beat, or recognizing the difference between a classic Saidi rhythm and an improv drum solo, dance keeps your synapses firing while your body is exercising.
Heal Your Emotions
Dance therapy has a long history. Belly dance, in particular, has been shown to help women deal with numerous emotional issues, including eating disorders, sexual abuse or trauma, the emotional effects of illness such as breast cancer and many more. Speak to any belly dancer, whether she just goes to classes for the fun, or whether she makes a living performing, and she will tell you:
IN BELLY DANCE, THERE’S A SENSE OF CAMARADERIE, SUPPORT AND A LACK OF JUDGMENT FROM FELLOW DANCERS.
In a world where we can feel judged from every side for our weight, clothing, eating habits, parenting choices, career choices… the list goes on, it can do you the world of good to be in a space where judgment is virtually absent, and the only person pushing you is yourself. It’s a space where you can choose what you want – do you just want to have a bit of fun and get fit, or do you want to pursue a dance career, despite the fact that you’re pushing forty, or even fifty? It’s been done!
Give belly dance a try today — not only will you get fitter and healthier, you’ll have fun doing it, and you may even find a new sense of peace and love for yourself! Let us know if you do… send pics… we love to see them, and we can share them here too if you’d like!
Belly Dance Your Way to Health and Happiness Part 1 of 2
Scientists take a look at the feel-good benefits of belly dance
Middle Eastern Dance – The Spiritual Connection
Belly dancing heightens the sense of spirituality for women
8 Benefits of Belly Dance You Didn’t Know About
Belly Dance for Emotional Healing
Dance Therapy and Belly Dance
9 Reasons Every Woman Should Take Up Belly Dancing
Bronwen Bartlett is a freelance writer, children’s book author, virtual agency director and performing bellydancer from South Africa. When she isn’t bent over a keyboard, frantically crafting articles and stories, or touting the benefits of moving away from traditional offices into virtual spaces, she can usually be found hiking a mountain with her partner and their dogs, or trying to master rib-cage isolation patterns.
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