Belly dancing has been a favourite past time for many dancers who prefer the more relaxed and calming nature of dance. The physically holistic exercise helps to promote positive energy and tone up that annoying wobbly belly at the same time.
This dance style has been developed over thousands of years and is originally thought to have been a birth dance.
Ishtar explains the roots of the dance: “North African desert women use dance when women are in labour. Dance anthropologist Morocco, observed belly dance moves being performed by the birthing mother and the women around her. These act to make the process of childbirth easier. Watching the other women dance seemed to have a hypnotic and relaxing effect on the experience of the labour.”
The dance itself can be seen as sensual and seductive, but holds a number of secret body toning techniques. Ishtar says: “Belly dance has lots of health benefits. It tones up the pelvic floor and I have personally witnessed back problems disappear, skin conditions clear up and many other maladies eradicate or diminish.“
Ishtar who teaches in the North West and has done for many years adds; “It could be the movements are physically curative; the stimulation of energy or perhaps it is the feeling good that is the great panacea. It is probably a synergetic mixture of the three.
“The style I teach, Arabesque, involves breathing and energy building exercise, stretches and moves virtually every part of your body. Belly dance is meditative and requires the mind to engage with the body, this gives the dancer a break from the nagging mind in the same way as yoga or tai chi does.”
The health benefits after are easy to see, as Ishtar explains; “Belly dance improves muscle tone in a low impact way. Belly dance provides an increase in core strength, which provides stability in your body and improves posture. As you shimmy across the floor, you'll be burning calories: in a half-hour dance session, an average 60kg person will burn about 150 calories.”
The benefits however are not just for the body they
also reach out to the mind. Ishtar says:
“In a Belly dance class we are in a group interacting
in a positive and supportive way this can create
a feel of acceptance. Laughing is something that
happens a lot in my belly dance classes and
laughing has been shown in clinical tests to create
big improvements in the body’s immune system.
Arabesque style belly dance, can keep your mind
active as well as your body.
“The body is frequently the vehicle that stores
emotional pain. When a woman has bad body
language which gives victim signals she is more
likely to suffer abuse. The Arab dance is taught
with this in mind and powerful positive postural
changes can be the result. The effect of this is that it
promotes positive feed-back from others, and this feed-back can only enhance self esteem. There has been much research suggests that the way we view our selves is affected by others perceptions of us.”
Belly dancing classes also have the added extra protection of helping your bones stay healthy and strong. “Dancing helps to reduce the risk of osteoporosis, because the steps put a strain on your bones, helping them to stay strong. Also the dips, turns and side-to-side movements in belly dance make good use of your muscles and joints, helping to delay the progression of osteoarthritis” says Ishtar
The classes which are held four times a week throughout various locations in Liverpool city centre and also in the Wirral and are for women only, with the added option of personal classes for those feeling a little intimidated at the prospect of the class atmosphere.
By Laura Davies
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Pictures courtesy of Flickr.com