“Conducive or Favorable to Health or Wellbeing!”
(note this article was contributed by an Australian Belly Dancer by the name of Zai’da whose website has gone off line)
A popular and respected Television program in Australia, named “Good Medicineti showcased Belly Dancing as an effective and enjoyable fitness regimen. This program went to air in March 2001 and has stimulated a good deal of interest in Belly Dancing.
You will find yourself moving more fluidly when you walk, and the stiffness which was hampering your life, will be gone.
All the movements used in Belly Dancing are designed to strengthen muscle. In doing these movements, the muscles work on the internal organs of the body and improve their performance. The spine is given greater flexibility as strengthening the abdominal and side muscles protects the back, where the muscles in the small of the back are particularly thin and weak.
Sessions start with deep breathing and stretching the body upwards to give the lungs greater capacity. Arm and leg muscles are stretched and relaxed to improve flexibility and the neck is flexed in every direction except backwards; never backwards, as this can be very dangerous.
Over a period of time, the weight of the head tends to drag the neck muscles forward and without constant flexing these muscles weaken – thus the ‘dowager’s hump’ makes an appearance.
Balance is improved as the leg muscles strengthen and knee, hip and ankle flexibility improves. Hip flexibility is the main contributor to stability. Hips act in a similar manner to shock absorbers in motor vehicles; they help to even out the rough patches. If hips are truly flexible, they automatically adjust to different surfaces or levels, underfoot. Flexible hips allow you to descend stairs without concern for your safety.
Shoulders are stretched and flexed until the shoulders are completely free and can move independently through a wide arc of movement.
The rib cage is moved sideways, forwards, backwards and in diamond and circle configurations whilst keeping the remainder of the body completely stationary.
Then the hips are moved through the same movements whilst keeping the rib cage stationary. Hip movements cover an extremely wide range and incorporate flicks and drops and sits and figure eights [which can be. horizontal, vertical or forward and back).
Circles are drawn with the hips without moving the rest of the torso, and there are little circles and big circles. Circles can also involve moving the rib cage in an opposing circle to the hips.
Abdominal muscles are flexed in circular movements upwards, sideways and obliquely, creating abdominal rolls, flutters and waves,
All these movements are performed whilst moving the arms, feet, neck, shoulders, even eyes and eyelids.
When muscles stretch and contract they stimulate the many vital organs within the torso as well as the lymph system. Elimination of toxic substances within the body will be markedly enhanced by the stimulation of the lymph system. The manipulation of the abdominal muscles creates a massage effect on the major lymph tract, which runs up the center of the torso to the top of the rib cage, where toxic lymph is discharged into the venous system and thus eliminated from the body.
Exercise decreases blood volumes in venous reservoirs such as the spleen. The shifts in reservoirs make more blood available to the heart, arteries and exercising muscle; and respiration more efficient. The body learns to mobilize sources of nutrients rapidly for energy production.
21 st Century scientific observations of Astronauts, who have spent extended periods of time in Space, have shown that there is considerable loss of calcium, bone density and muscle mass, in a gravity-free environment.
Astronauts may take several years to recover their pre-flight health status.
The conclusion is that it is vital to constantly ‘resist’ gravity, in order to remain healthy. Therefore, it is better for you to climb those stairs, resisting gravity all the way, than to use the lift. It is better for you to get up out of that chair instead of asking the children to bring you cups of tea.
Resisting gravity is the best way to keep your body healthy, and negate the expected effects of ageing.
There are two general types of muscle in the body – cardiac and skeletal.
Skeletal muscles fall into two general types, commonly known as ‘fast twitch’ or white muscle and ‘slow twitch” or red muscle. ‘Fast twitch’ are responsible for rapid, sudden movements, whilst ‘slow twitch’ maintain slower, sustained movements. Individuals are born with a set ratio of ‘fast twitch’ muscles to ‘slow twitch’ muscles and this ratio in unchangeable. However, the ratio of these muscles in individual body parts does vary from person to person.
Thus athletes with a higher ratio of ‘fast twitch’ muscles in their legs will make good sprinters, whereas those athletes with a higher ratio of ‘slow twitch’ muscles in their legs will make good marathon runners.
For this reason dancers will perform movements totally differently each from the other. This makes the individualistic style of belly dancing most appealing; there is no demand to conform to a rigid structure.
To become a classical ballet dancer, you would need to have a specific build, with a specific balance of ‘fast twitch’ and ‘slow twitch’ muscles in a specific area of the body.
To become a belly dancer, there is no limit on body weight, height, and age or eye color. Dancers progress at their own speed and ability and are not pressured into performing at a level of activity beyond their comfort zone.
Doctors are now recommending belly dancing as a pain management system for women suffering from Endometriosis.
Blood pressure is stabilized; the heart muscle is strengthened and lung capacity increased, and the whole body is left with a feeling of well-being.
Dancers find that heel or spinal vertebrae spurs cease to be troublesome, and arthritis symptoms are noticeably improved.
Fertility is enhanced and a dancer can expect a trouble free pregnancy and birthing. One lady, a midwife, suffering from agoraphobia after the birth of her son, found that belly dancing helped her to regain her self-confidence, as her ability improved.
Dancers find that they feel more confident and worthwhile. They also become much more sensual women. Dancers’ spouses are the most enthusiastic supporters of this form of dance. After a Belly Dance session, dancers are on a ‘high’ and ready to ‘party.
A dancer will probably take about 6 months to reach a good standard of flexibility, muscle power and balance; but even the first lesson will be fun, with much laughter and happy feelings.
Western dancers have to overcome their rigid upbringing, but once they learn that there is no embarrassment in moving the body, and come to love the driving music, they will become enthusiasts.
Zai’da (reprinted with permission)
PS: I love the very last sentence in this article where she talks about not having any embarrassment in moving the body. I think it says so much because this element of embarrassment is something I’ve seen over and over again during my years of teaching Belly Dancing. Maybe you feel the same. One of the best ways to overcome this sense of embarrassment is to just get out there and do it and do it over and over and over again until it becomes 2nd nature and no big deal to you.
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