I stress the importance of movement in my Essential Wellness Wheel:
Your body wants to move. Exercise simply. Keep your body limber and flexible.
And I also confess that this has been the most difficult of the 10 Steps in the wheel for me to implement. Of course it is rare that any of us are “workin’ it” from all angles all the time- you know, the whole mind, body, spirit thing…
For me movement has been the last of these steps to really place fully into my life. Mostly, I have struggled with an auto-immune disorder for a very long time, and frankly, exercise just doesn’t feel good. I am not talking about the “burn” we feel after a workout or not being at the gym for a while. Anyone who has experienced that all-over flu-like ache knows what I am talking about. I have a lung disorder (sarcoidosis) and primary lymphedema so exercise is truly unpleasant. And while I have managed my health holistically and I am doing much better than my prognosis, I needed to step up my game.
For the most part I have justified my lack of exercise with the fact that it makes me feel lousy- and, well, I just figured I wouldn’t do it until I had to. I had youth on my side. Now I have middle age. And if I don’t move I am going to get squishy. It’s that simple. I can’t stay limber and toned without exercise. Period.
I am not a gym kinda person. No way. I appreciate Yoga but that’s not it for me either- and because of my dis-ease, I need low-impact. Oh, and I sort of live in a bubble so walking outside in the elements doesn’t do much for me or my health either.
Are you getting the picture?
But I have been saying this for years- I should just dance. Dance is familiar to me.
With a Greek father, I was exposed to a deep heritage that included Greek folk dance and belly dance. From the time I can remember- maybe as young as five- my aunt would dance with me teaching me all those intricate moves of the Greek belly dance known as Tsifteteli. As I grew into an adult, I incorporated those moves into modern dance and I was never shy about going to dance clubs. I loved to dance.
And then with the onset of chronic illness, movement stopped- probably more than it needed to. And for a lot of reasons- not just that I didn’t feel good- but the dancing I did- well, that movement was sensual. Hospitals, medical specialists and meds took sensual away from me and even after I started managing my health holistically, it took me a long time to feel comfortable in my own skin again.
Benefits of Belly Dancing
Fast forward and I am ready- to do what I already know. I am lucky that I don’t have to be taught- in fact, several years ago I went to a belly dance class and it was an epic fail for me and the teacher. I could not deconstruct the movements I have done since childhood- I couldn’t re-learn a different version or style. I already knew how and now that I am doing it again- it is like riding a bike- it’s called “muscle memory” and it is real. It makes sense that I would go back to a tried and true method of movement for me- and my muscles remember.
So what are the benefits of belly dancing?
Overall Body Workout
Belly dancing is a full body workout. You’ll be working your entire core, which includes your abs and hips. Your arms, shoulders and chest will be engaged. As you learn more advanced moves, you’ll work on balance also. Your upper body will be utilized in the arms movements that come with belly dancing, as well as slow, deliberate movements that keep the arms engaged for a longer period of time than a single rep.
Small Muscle Concentration
Since belly dancing focuses on the hip and abs area with small movements, your smaller core muscles are better able to be engaged than if you were using traditional ab exercises. Utilizing the smaller core muscles allows for overall core strength building which brings better balance and better posture. As you move through the arm movements of belly dancing, you’ll also notice a fuller range of motion in your upper body than standard exercises. This full range of motion utilizes smaller muscles in your arms and back for better muscle toning all over.
Because belly dancing is such a controlled method movement, you’ll learn how to control every muscle, down to the small ones you didn’t know you had. You’ll learn about isolation and how controlling your separate core muscle groups will help stabilize the core leading to a stronger core. Your core strength aids in good posture, how you walk, the strength of your spine and can help prevent joint problems. Your core should always be engaged for proper movement and to maximize your results. “Engage” your core by keeping your belly button sucked into your spine.
Because a belly dance workout keeps you in constant motion, your heart rate stays up which puts you in a constant state of cardio burn. The longer a period of time your heart rate stays elevated, the longer you’ll burn calories even after the workout is over. When consistent cardio is combined with consistent muscle strengthening, your body continues to burn calories and fat long after the workout is over.
If belly dancing isn’t appealing to you, that’s okay. I bet though you have some movement that your muscles will remember. If you can, return to what your body knows and do a reenactment-see if you can get on that bike again!
Here are some other ways to get your body moving! 44 Quick Effective Weight Loss, Body Shape Exercises for Women. Plus Other Guides to Stay Fit, Healthy & Trim