Benefits of Belly Dancing

Raks Sharki, also called belly dance, is a form of dance that many are familiar with. But few understand the effects it has on the human body. The graceful hip drops, rolls, and pivots of this dance form utilize muscle groups in the abdomen, pelvis, trunk, spine, and neck, working with the body instead of against it. Unlike ballet, which can potentially alter and deform the skeleton, or other dance forms that work against rather than with the body's physical inclinations, belly dance is based on movements that come naturally to the female form. There is a wealth of health benefits awaiting those who practice this form of dance.

Improved posture and muscle toning
Our spinal column contains more bones and ligaments than any other part of the body. Its 33 vertebrae are stacked together in a column joined together by cartilage and ligaments, and almost every movement of the torso depends upon its flexibility and function. Muscle groups that attach to the ligaments and vertebrae create movement in the trunk and pelvis areas. Belly dance tones these muscles and maintains flexibility in a safe and effective manner.

During the dance, the movements of hip drops, circles, figure eights, and shimmies put the joints and ligaments in the lower back and hip through a full range of gentle, repetitive motion. This movement helps increase the flow of synovial fluid (nature's lubricant) in these joints. When movements are done properly, the pelvis is tipped forward, or tucked somewhat; a neutral position that can help prevent lower back problems. Belly dance can help relieve stress to the back, counteracting the almost constant compression of the disks that occurs from sitting and a sedentary lifestyle.

These toned muscles improve posture and help prevent back pain that can be caused by the unnatural curving forward of the spine that occurs when muscle groups are weak (lordosis). Small muscle groups deep in the back that are normally under-exercised are used and strengthened. The muscles surrounding the hip, the largest joint in the body, are used and exercised during hip drops, and figure eights, enhancing flexibility and suppleness. Improved hip flexibility can lead to improved balance when walking as well.

Arms and Shoulders are exercised when doing lifts, circles, or the rippling motions of snake arms, toning muscle. This toning effect is often evident early on, since holding the arms aloft are an important element of the dance, even for beginners.

Because a woman is on her feet, moving during the dance, it is considered a weight-bearing exercise. Weight-bearing exercise can prevent osteoporosis and strengthen bones, and the overall toning can lead to an improved self-image, as the dancer becomes more balanced and poised. Belly dance is considered a low-impact exercise, meaning the risk of injury is minimal when movements are done correctly. The benefits of belly dance can be enjoyed by women of all ages; men and children are participating in the dance as well, and reaping the same benefits.

Weight loss
According to Dr. Carolle Jean-Murat, M.D., belly dance can burn up to 300 calories per hour. This estimate will vary, of course, depending on the intensity of your dancing. Combined with a healthy diet that involves sensible eating, belly dance can without a doubt be part of a sound weight loss program.

Many dance classes take place only once or twice a week. For even better results and enhanced cardiovascular benefits, try combining the flexibility and muscle strengthening of belly dance with an aerobic routine, such as swimming or bike riding, on the days you don't have class. Your entire body will feel the benefits as the aerobic exercise works large muscle groups, and the dance enhances strength and coordination of small muscle groups in the trunk, hips, and arms. Also, many exercise physiologists recommend doing just such a routine: alternating one form of exercise with another, for maximum benefits.

Preparation for childbirth
The movements of belly dance make an excellent prenatal exercise regimen that strengthens the muscles used during the childbirth process. The toned abdominal muscles and natural hip tucks, which are similar to the "pelvic rocking" taught during prenatal classes, teach the expectant mother how to move her pelvis. For women who desire natural childbirth, this form of exercise through dance, with its emphasis on muscle control not only facilitates natural childbirth, but also makes an excellent post-natal exercise that helps encourage abdominal tone. During those first weeks after giving birth, when caution is needed while healing from the birth process, these movements work the muscles gently and effectively, if done very gradually.

Stress reduction
In this day and age of almost continuous stress, the subtle rhythms of belly dance and the traditional movements are calming. The repetitive movements of the dance and the concentration needed to do them can help a mind filled with daily stress to "let go" for a while and relax. It's hard to worry about deadlines at work when you are thinking about getting that next drop just right, or while making sure that you are in time with the music.

One effect of stress is that our bodies tense up, causing contractions or spasms in muscle groups, such as those in the neck, shoulders, or back. When a muscle is contracted, lactic acid builds up, causing the "soreness" or pain that occurs. Blood flow to the affected muscles decreases as well.

Belly dance, on the other hand, gently stretches and uses these vulnerable muscle groups, and as they are utilized, blood flow increases and lactic acid is flushed away. Stressed muscles relax as they are gently exercised, relieving the "clenched" muscles often seen in our society. The body becomes supple and limber, and practitioners frequently report that pain diminishes in the back and neck areas.

Belly dance is a fun, healthy way to exercise. It can be a creative outlet that conditions, tones, and allows a woman to tune into the natural movements of her body. It can refresh, relax, and/or exhilarate. So why wait?

Advisory: Many doctors have suggested belly dancing classes as part of rehabilitation from injury; it is, however, important to check with your own medical provider before starting any new form of exercise, especially if you are over 40, pregnant or have medical problems. Most injuries related to "overdoing" for the beginner can be avoided by warming the muscles first and by remembering to do some basic stretching afterward. Listen to your body's signals. Belly dance, is a wonderful and gentle way to begin to condition your body.

* Belly dancing burns over 380+ calories during an hour workout

Inspirational Dance Quotes
The truest expression of a people is in its dances and its music. Bodies never lie. ~ Agnes de Mille ~
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance, How can we know the dancer from the dance? ~ William Butler Yeats ~
The curve is more dangerous than the sword. ~ Mae West ~When I dance, I cannot judge, I cannot hate, I cannot separate myself from life. I can only be joyful and whole, that is why I dance. ~ Hans Bos ~I told you to sell it, not give it away.~ Jerome Robbins ~To dance is to be out of yourself, larger, more powerful, more beautiful. This is power, it is glory on earth and it is yours for the taking. ~ Agnes de Mille ~
The dance is over, the applause subsided but the joy and feeling will stay with you forever.~ W. M. Tory ~

When it comes to the requirements for pleasing an audience, all the knowledge and instruction and apparatus in the world is worth less than one ounce of soul.~ Ottawa Keyes ~
In life, as in art, the beautiful moves in curves.~ Bulwer-Lytton ~ Don't be afraid to be amazing.~ Andy Offutt Irwin ~
Those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who could not hear the music.~ Angela Monet ~Get your body out of the way and let your spirit soar!~ Ibrahim Farrah ~

To understand the culture, study the dance. To understand the dance, study the people. ~ Chuck Davis ~Whosoever knoweth the power of the dance, dwelleth in God. ~ Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi ~
The audience's ears hear the music, and their eyes see you being that music. Dance is the music made visible. You ARE the music! ~ Morocco ~ I get up. I walk. I fall down. Meanwhile, I keep dancing. ~ Hillel ~
I explained it when I danced it. ~ Dame Margot Fonteyn ~
(when asked to explain a performance)
1. Beginning dancer. Knows nothing.
2. Intermediate dancer. Knows everything. Too good to dance with beginners.
3. Hotshot dancer. Too good to dance with anyone.
4. Advanced dancer. Dances everything. Especially with beginners. ~ Attributed to Dick Crum, a folk dance teacher ~ Do it big, do it right, and do it with style. ~ Fred Astaire ~
Dance is bigger than the physical body. Think bigger than that. When you extend your arm, it doesn't stop at the end of your fingers, because you're dancing bigger than that: you're dancing spirit. ~ Judith Jamison ~
On with the dance! Let joy be unconfined.
~ Lord George Gordon Byron ~Long experience has taught me that the crux of my fortunes is whether I can radiate good will toward my audience. There is only one way to do it and that is to feel it. You can fool the eyes and minds of the audience, but you cannot fool their hearts. ~ Howard Thurston ~The more you understand the music, the easier you can dance.~ Orlando Gutinez ~ Locked in this dance is a secret language that tells the story of women's lives... their passions and their spirituality, their sacrifices, their joys, their intuitions, their emotional life drama. ~ Delilah ~

Listen to the music. ~ Hossam Ramzy ~
Please send me your last pair of shoes, worn out with dancing as you mentioned in your letter, so that I might have something to press against my heart. ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe ~If I can not dance, I shall die!
~ Anna Pavlova ~

The more you lose yourself in something bigger than yourself, the more energy you will have. ~ Norman Vincent Peale ~

It is never too late to be what you might have been. ~ George Eliot ~
Freedom to a dancer means discipline. That is what technique is for -- liberation.~ Martha Graham ~
To watch us dance is to hear our hearts speak.~ Hopi Indian Saying ~
The only reason for mastering technique is to make sure the body does not prevent the soul from expressing itself.~ La Meri ~When I give, I give myself.~ Walt Whitman ~Many other women have kicked higher, balanced longer, or turned faster. These are poor substitutes for passion.
~ Agnes De Mille ~Everything in the universe has rhythm. Everything dances. ~ Maya Angelou ~
There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, and becuase there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.~ Martha Graham ~Don't dream it, BE it! ~ Tim Curry (in the Rocky Horror Picture Show) ~
Remember that dance has a dimension beyond the physical. The body-as imperfect as it always is-is only part of the picture. Your energy, the quality of your movement, your feeling about the world, your dance spirit-that is what we see under the lights~ Dance Magazine 3/05 ~Dance is the only art of which we ourselves are the stuff of which it is made.~Ted Shawn ~Keep away from people who belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great, make you feel that you too can become great.~ Mark Twain ~The dancer cannot be separated from the dance, she also cannot be separated from the history of dancing, from the line of dancers and teachers leading to her. ~ The Dancer and the Dance (film) ~Where there is no heart there is no art.~ Anna Pavlova ~
Dancing is not getting up any time painlessly like a speck of dust blown around in the wind. Dancing is when you rise above both worlds, tearing your heart to pieces and giving up your soul. ~ Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi ~
Dance is the hidden language of the soul.~ Martha Graham ~
No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.~ Eleanor Roosevelt ~
The Dance instills in you something that sets you apart. Something heroic and remote.
~ Edgar Degas ~

If God has given you a talent, it is a sin to waste it.~ Sister Francis Therese, St. Benedict Joseph Labre Catholic School, Queens, New York ~
If you can't be a good example -- then you'll just have to be a horrible warning. ~ Unknown ~Thank God that you are able to dance...Remember there are those who cannot even walk.~ Unknown ~
But oh, she dances in such a way!
No sun upon an Easter-day
Is half so fine a sight. ~ Sir John Suckling ~
In your light I learn how to love.
In your beauty, how to make poems.
You dance inside my chest, where no one sees you, but sometimes I do, and that sight becomes this art. ~ Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi ~
Someone once said that dancers work just as hard as policemen, always alert, always tense, but see policemen don't have to be beautiful at the same time.~ George Balanchine ~ If you can talk, you can sing. If you can walk, you can dance.
~ African Proverb ~
Keep away from people who belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great, make you feel that you too can become great.~ Mark Twain ~We're fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance.~ Japanese Proverb ~
Lose yourself in the music, the moment - you own it. ~ Eminem ~Your body is the voice that sings what there are no words for, the instrument that plays the music of your soul. ~ Katisha ~
Listen to the silence as it echoes around you. Ancient spirits dance to it. ~ Amber Coverdale Sumrall ~
Even the ears must dance.
~ Natalia Makarova ~The body is a sacred garment.~ Martha Graham ~
A dancer, if she is great, can give to the people something that they can carry with them forever. They can never forget it, and it has changed them, though they may never know it.
~ Isadora DuncanWhen you fall, try it again... everyone falls the first time! ~ Dave Dodson ~Dance every performance as if it were your last. ~ Erik Bruhn ~
Success will win you false friends and true enemies - succeed anyway.
~ Mother Teresa ~He who cannot dance puts the blame on the floor. ~ Hindu proverb ~
I do not try to dance better than anyone else. I only try to dance better than myself.~ Mihkail Baryshnikov ~
What do you dance?~ Bantu greeting to a member of another Bantu tribe ~People come to see beauty, and I dance to give it to them.~ Judith Jamison ~You are unique, and if that is not fulfilled, then something has been lost. ~ Martha Graham ~I am a cloud – in trousers. ~ George Balanchine ~
I have performed for thousands when they found me exotic, the vogue, daring, but I have danced, at any given time, for about ten people... They were the ones that left the theater forever different from the way they were when they came in. All of my long, long life, I have danced for those ten. ~ Ruth St. Denis ~To touch, to move, to inspire. This is the true gift of dance. ~ Aubrey Lynch ~
After I perform, I hope the audience is excited, inspired, and taken away from their everyday grind or work. Perhaps even inspired enough to get up and dance themselves. ~ Lenore Pavlakos ~Those who dance are considered insane by those who can't hear the music. ~ George Carlin ~
Every day I count wasted in which there has been no dancing.~ Friederich Nietzsche ~
Dancing with the feet is one thing, but dancing with the heart is another. ~ Unknown~'The Dance' is what we are all here to serve. ~ Maestro Hector Zaraspe ~
I have no desire to prove anything by my work. I have never used it as an outlet or as a means of expressing myself. I just dance.~ Fred Astaire ~
I dance with the dancers. ~ Walt Whitman ~When you are on stage you are having an affair with three thousand people. ~ Gelsey Kirkland ~Strong and convincing art has never arisen from theories. ~ Mary Wigman ~
There's no thinking involved in my choreography... I don't work through images or ideas. I work through the body... If the dancer dances, which is not the same as having theories about dancing or wishing to dance or trying to dance, everything is there. When I dance, it means: this is what I am doing.~ Merce Cunningham ~
Being a dancer is just an extension of being a human being. ~ Tovaris Wilson ~The good Lord gave you a body that can stand most anything. It's your mind you have to convince.~ Vincent Lombardi ~
Every day brings a chance for you to draw in a breath, kick off your shoes, and dance. ~ Oprah Winfrey ~

I'm dancing to the music of the madness inside me.~ George C. Wolfe ~Let us read and let us dance - two amusements that will never do any harm to the world.~ Voltaire ~Dance is like wine it matures with every performance.~ Alarmel Valli ~It's extremely arrogant and foolish to think you can ever outwit your audience.~ Twyla Tharp ~The spine is the tree of life. Respect it.~ Martha Graham ~
Technical perfection is insufficient. It is an orphan without the true soul of the dancer.~ Sylvie Guillem ~When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor. It's to enjoy each step along the way.~ Wayne Dyer ~
So I am happy with what I did.  And I tell you something, when an artist does something, he doesn’t have at the beginning, big goals and objectives, you do the thing because you love it.~Mahmoud Reda~

We should realize in a vivid and revolutionary sense that we are not in our bodies but our bodies are in us.~ Ruth St. Denis ~No artist is ahead of his time. He is his time; it is just that others are behind the times.~ Martha Graham ~The dance is the mother of the arts. Music and poetry exist in time; painting and architecture in space. But the dance lives at once in time and space. ~ Curt Sachs ~It's what I always wanted to do, to show the laughter, the fun, the joy of dance.~ Martha Graham ~The dance goes on forever. So shall I. So shall we.~ Gelsey Kirkland~Without love, all worship is a burden, all dancing is a chore, all music is mere noise. ~ Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi ~She danced the dance of flames and fire,
and the dance of swords and spears; she danced the dance of stars and the dance of space,
and then she danced the dance of flowers in the wind. ~ Khalil Gibran, “The Wanderer”~There is only the dance. ~ T. S. Eliot ~
To dance, put your hand on your heart and listen to the sound of your soul. ~ Eugene Louis (Luigi) Faccuito ~

1 comment:

  1. really awesome info to knew with Unlike ballet, which can potentially alter and deform the skeleton, or other dance forms that work against rather than with the body's physical inclinations, belly dance is based on movements. nice article to know.

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