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Belly Dance

Belly Dance During and After Pregnancy

Dancing during pregnancy

In this page I will highlight the connections between belly dance and pregnancy, while reporting what some experts believe to be the benefits of belly dance for pregnant women. However, before doing any activities or physical exercises whilst pregnant, always seek your doctor’s or midwife’s advice.

Belly dance, or forms of dance that employed the same movements as modern belly dance, existed as dances of fertility since the dawn of human civilisation. Experts consider hip rolls and circles to be good for strengthening the pelvic and abdominal muscles, which are involved in childbirth, while relaxing them at the same time.

Hip circles are not only used in Middle Eastern dance, but also in Hawaiian, Maori and other indigenous forms of dance. All these forms of dance, which use circular hip movements, have been linked to child birth rituals.

Benefits During Pregnancy

Some doctors encourage the practice of dance during pregnancy, which they think provides the following benefits:

  • Strengthening pelvic and deep abdominal muscles and all those muscles specifically used for giving birth, thus facilitating the process of delivering and of recovery.
  • Relaxing the body.
  • Improving self esteem.
  • Promote good posture.
  • Help maintain general fitness.
  • Help maintain a god sense of balance.
  • Relieve back ache.
  • Promote socialisation, if performed in classes.

Most suitable Dance Movements

According to experts, the most suitable belly dance movements to be used by pregnant women are slow, undulating and rolling motions, such as hip circles and figures of eight. Sharp movements are not suitable and, similarly, many people think that shimmies should not be performed by pregnant women, especially if they are not used to exercising.

Many movements in modern prenatal exercise classes are very similar to belly dance movements, such as the ‘camel’ or the ‘belly flutter’. Some midwives believe that these last two movements, in particular, are useful to encourage optimal foetal position and during labour.

The process of muscles isolation, which is so important in belly dance, is also considered to be very helpful during child birth. According to experts, if a woman is capable of contracting some parts of her body, while at the same time relaxing all the other muscles, she will be able to feel more relaxed overall, while focusing only on the muscles involved in delivering the baby.

However, belly dancing in pregnancy is not only about strong pelvic floor and abdominal muscles. Some experts believe that some belly dance movements are good to relieve various symptoms. For example, they believe that belly rolls can help ease constipation; while heart shimmies can alleviate heartburn.

Rituals during Childbirth (Northern Africa)

The American belly dancer Morocco, in 1967, witnessed a child birth ritual in a Berber Tribe (probably nowadays these child birth rituals are less common). Morocco reports that the women gathered in a tent and danced around the mother to be, performing ‘camels’ and ‘belly flutters’.

The mother to be seemed relaxed and, while delivering her babies she was moving her body in a similar way to how the other women did. When Morocco asked if she did it on purpose or spontaneously, one of the women replied that it was natural and the only way in which she could have moved. For a full account of this interesting experience, you can check Morocco’s full article on her website.

Precautions and General Guidelines

  • Always seek your doctor’s advice before starting any exercise programme.
  • Avoid back bends.
  • Keep a natural pelvic tilt (that is, keep your bottom tucked under).
  • Be aware of the softening of ligaments in your body, therefore avoid jumps, hip twists and sharp movements.
  • Listen to your body and avoid movements that cause pain or discomfort.
  • Stop exercising altogether if you feel unwell or experience bleeding, dizziness and/or pain.
  • Do not overheat and avoid exercising on hot days.

Resources

There are not many belly dance DVDs available at the moment, which are directed at pregnant dancers.

However, two good DVDs for expectant belly dancers are ‘Belly Dance prenatal Fitness’ by Naia (belly dancer) and Katherine M. Contento (nurse practitioner and midwife) and ‘Dance of the womb. Belly dance for pregnancy and birth‘ by Maha.

This DVD, available on Amazon, will guide you through a series of movements and a routine, especially designed for the expectant mother belly dancer.

Disclaimer

This page has been written gathering information from various sources and it is only intended to give some general information on belly dance during pregnancy.

The content of the page does not provide exercises instructions for pregnant women. Every pregnancy is different and you need to make sure with your doctor that everything is ok before taking up physical activities during pregnancy. There are some belly dance teachers who are also qualified midwives and run belly dance classes for pregnant women or those who have recently given birth. My advice is to find a belly dance teacher in your area who is qualified for running this type of classes.

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