Health and belly dancing
The benefits of belly dance are both mental and physical. Dancing is a good cardiovascular workout and helps increase both flexibility and strength, focusing on the torso or “core muscles”, although it also builds leg strength. Many belly dance styles emphasize muscular “isolations”, which teach the ability to move various muscles independently. In addition, veil work can build arm, shoulder, and general upper-body strength, and playing zills can build strength and independence of the fingers. It is suitable for all ages and body types and can be as physical as the participant chooses to make it. Individuals would be wise to consult a doctor before starting belly dance, just as with starting any new exercise routine. It is also advisable that one talk with the instructor to see to what level his or her classes are geared. Mental health benefits, for many belly dancers, include an improved sense of well being, elevated body image and self-esteem as well as a generally positive outlook that comes with regular, enjoyable exercise.
There may also be some benefit from belly dancing for women when the time comes for childbirth, as the movements strengthen and tone the pelvic floor muscles and the woman becomes more familiar with the way her muscles work. The hip circling movements used in the dance may relieve some of the discomforts of labour.
Is belly dancing good exercise?
Belly dance is based on natural body movement. It is thorough and effective exercise for every part of the body. Because of this, it’s great for all ages, sizes, and body types.
What other health benefits are there?
Belly dance is truly holistic – a mind, body, and spiritual practice. It calms the mind and can transport us to a higher level of consciousness at the same time we are getting excellent physical exercise. This contributes positively to our over-all well being.
Is it hard to learn?
The basic foundation movements are not too difficult for most people. The majority can get the hang of it within a few lessons. Getting to the point of comfortably doing a simple dance usually takes a month or two of lessons and practice. Getting good enough to perform publicly is another story. It’s harder and takes much longer to achieve, but it’s sure fun along the way.
Are there different styles of belly dancing?
Yes! But they all have far more similarities than differences. All true belly dance styles are based on the same dozen or so classic “foundation” movements. What determines style more than anything is the type of music that’s danced to. The three most commonly performed styles around the world today are based on Egyptian/Arabic, Turkish, or modern fusion/world beat music.
Is belly dancing degrading to women?
In ancient matriarchal and partnership cultures (where men and women are equals), women and the dance were highly respected (they worshipped the Goddess, after all!). In more recent cultures, with their patriarchal views, women and belly dancing have often been trivialized and exploited. Now that attitudes towards women are changing again, it’s easier for dancers to receive respect. It really depends on the individual dancer and how she presents herself.
Danielle is a psychiatric nurse and in this article she gives her opinions on the relationship between exercise and good mental health, and how this connection works specifically with regard to Belly Dancing.
How does exercise positively affect mental health?
Good mental health is reliant on many things. Looking after yourself, doing things you enjoy, feeling good about yourself and relieving stress are all ways to positively affect your mental health.
Exercise has quite an impact on all aspects of health, even your mental health. It can:
· Increase feelings of well being through the release of endorphins
· Refresh your mind and body
· Help to decrease stress, or is a useful way to manage stress (as stress relief)
· Increase self confidence and self esteem
· Relax the body and mind
· Help you sleep better, and get into regular sleeping patterns
· Increase social skills by being with other people
· Help build group skills
· Increase muscle tone, assist with posture, and lead to improved body image
· Increase lymphatic draining, decreasing toxins in the body
In what ways does Belly Dancing positively affect mental health?
Belly Dancing can have the same impact on mental health as mentioned in the previous question but some benefits specific to it include:
· Mixing with other women of all shapes and sizes
· A non-threatening environment allows you to be able to relax and feel comfortable
· Promotes positive self image and increases self confidence
· Lots of fun.
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