Some of the common conceptions of belly dancers are of temptation, seduction, and entertainment. Little do people know that the art of belly dance contains much more history and meaning than what the typical media often portrays. Believe it or not, along with having cultural richness, belly dance can be very healthy and beneficial for both men and women of all ages. As someone who practices this art, I want to share with you 10 beautiful health benefits of belly dancing.
Belly dance involves complex movements and the isolation of various muscles in the body, such as in the torso and abdomen. The practice is ancient and its beginning unknown, although its earliest recorded roots are in the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and Northeastern Africa. During these ancient times, it was used for such purposes as blessing, fertility and pre-marital ceremonies. Later around the 18th and 19th centuries, it gained popularity in North America, mostly due to the entertainment industry. There are so many various kinds of belly dance, each of them being used for various purposes or types of ceremonies. The costumes often depend on the form or belly dance style. Costumes could range anywhere from wearing something that is less revealing to wearing very minimal. Honestly, it really depends on your style and culture, as well as your level of comfort.
Now that you know a little about the history of belly dance, let’s talk about those health benefits!
1. Core Strength
Various moves and exercises regularly used for belly dance can help strengthen and build your core muscles. A common exercise I have seen used for core strengthening in belly dance classes is the “shimmy plank.” Strengthening the core is important for belly dancing because it helps dancers to have better posture and controlled muscle isolations.
2. Digestive Health
Most of the motion in belly dance happens in the abdominal or torso area, which is like a nice massage for those internal organs. Certain belly dance movements, such as shimmies of swaying-hip circles, can help stimulate digestion flow and assist in the digestive process.
3. Reducing Stress
Some of the main reasons I do belly dance are because it’s enjoyable, it’s energetic and it greatly reduces stress levels. It’s a fun way to meditate and get in touch with inner feminine energy. Belly dancing also provides a way for you to connect and develop meaningful friendships with other expressive people.
4. Improving Posture
One of the most important aspects of belly dancing is having good posture. It is something you focus on probably the most when you are a belly dancer. Having good posture can save you from having a lot of back pain or problems in the future. Some forms of belly dance require flexibility in the spine for moves like the back bend.
5. Opening the Hips
Movements such as hip circles and the hip-figure-eight have often been used for helping pregnant women prepare for natural birth by opening their hips. There is a lot of hip and joint action, which is great for loosening them up.
6. Mood Boosting
I first started attending belly dance classes several years back to help boost the mood of a close friend and get her mind off some events that were bringing her down. It worked wonders for boosting both of our moods! Ever since then, it has been one of my favorite activities for lifting my spirits.
7. Weight Loss
Belly dance is a great form of exercise, and just like any exercise it can certainly be used for shedding weight. There are different levels and intensities, so plan accordingly for your weightless goals. If you’re bored of your normal workout routine, throw in some belly dancing to spice it up. It can also assist in toning-up muscles.
8. Memory and Brain Function
Much of belly dance and its choreography require focus and concentration, which is perfect if you desire to strengthen those areas. I once had an amazing Egyptian Cabaret belly dance teacher who was in her early 60s who shared with me one of her reasons for continuing to belly dance: It was to prevent brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia.
9. Increasing Self-Confidence
One of the first things I noticed about belly dance is that it requires confidence, and I have yet to meet a belly dance instructor who is lacking in self-esteem. Belly dancing takes you out of your comfort zone in many ways, while helping you to embrace and celebrate the beauty of the body. Some people think you must be a certain body type to belly dance, but this is not true. Belly dancing can be practiced by people of almost any age, shape, and size.
10. Improving Sex Health
To put it bluntly, belly dancing is sexy. A lot of the movements involve motions that strengthen muscles used in the bedroom and for having better orgasms. It’s sensual and passionate, which is why many men and women often feel enchanted when watching belly dancers perform.
Belly dance is truly an art of movement, grace and rhythm. Although it can be beneficial and healthy for most people, it is not made for everyone. If you are interested in trying belly dance, the good news is that classes are not usually hard to find in most urban areas.