Learn to Love Your Body – When you walk into your first belly dance class you'll notice the variety of shapes and sizes of the women in the room. You'll soon realize that every body shape and size moves differently and that’s what makes each person beautiful. We do not require anyone to show their belly in class. It’s a personal choice. But, somewhere around the fifth class something magical happens. Women begin to lift up their tank tops and adorn their hips with scarfs. They learn to love and appreciate their body instead of feeling embarrassed. The self-confidence that is built in just a few weeks and the feeling of letting go and dancing in a safe, encouraging environment is something of beauty, just like you.
Strengthen and Tone – Every major muscle group is used throughout a belly dance class. Arm undulations, otherwise known as snake arms, tone every part of your upper back, should and arms. Shimmies and hip bumps tone thighs, calves, glutes and obliques. Any kind of dance will offer a great cardio workout and belly dance enhances your workout by using body weight exercises as well as and slow, controlled, muscle movements.
Improve Coordination – Belly dancing teaches muscle control and isolation. These isolations are layered in different combinations throughout our body. For instance, our arms may move in a lateral snake like motion while our hips move in a circular motion. Learning how to isolate different parts of your body, while dancing, smiling, breathing and playing finger cymbals definitely helps develop body awareness and coordination.
Increased Flexibility – Upper body undulations, head slides and hip circles are just a few examples of belly dance movements that help increase flexibility. People hold a lot of stress in their shoulders and hips. Imagine a class where you move your hips and shoulders in every direction including literally shaking it out with shimmies.
Suitable For All Ages – Belly dance is a tradition that was passed on through each generation. Even today you'll find mother and daughter teams performing and teaching all around the world. Contrary to popular belief, it's not just for skinny, young ladies. Most belly dance classes have a wide range of ages, body types and ethnicities. I've taught students as young as twelve and as mature as seventy.
Meet New People - I started bellydance so I could meet new people, specifically women who were my own friends, not just the wives of my husband's friends. You can't really meet people at a gym. Each person it working in their own space, on their own goals. Bellydance is fun and interactive! You meet new people who you know you already share at least one thing in common!
Great Exercise During Pregnancy – Many sources say belly dance was actually created as a way to prepare a woman's body for childbirth. The abdominal wall muscles built during different belly dance movements are the same muscles used during childbirth. The circular movements we make with our hips help move and keep the baby into an optimal position in the uterus and pelvis. The no-impact dance movements improve circulation in your legs and allow you to stay physically active during the entire length of your pregnancy. Of course, this is all subject to a letter by your doctor. Many students dance until just a few days before birth and use abdominal exercises while in labor. I have personally heard the nurses and doctor comment on the benefits of belly dance at the birth of my godchild. His mother has been belly dancing for several years and she was even doing belly rolls while in labor!
Celebrate Femininity - One of my favorite quotes is by a famous dancer named Carolena Nericcio-Bohlman, “There is a time in history, a long time ago, when the bounce and sway of a woman's hips were considered so beautiful that they set it to music and made a dance out of it”
Being a woman is something to celebrate! These days, women rarely have the opportunity to feel feminine. We’re so busy being mothers, employees, wives, homemakers, etc that we rarely get the opportunity to be WOMEN or to feel feminine and beautiful.
Costumes – Pants and tank tops are the normal class attire but, before long, many students start wearing hip scarfs, coin bras, fluffy skirts or pantaloons (harem pants). While costuming definitely isn’t a requirement, it certainly adds to the fun and it definitely gives a new meaning to the term gym clothes!