Belly dance is a wonderful all round activity, pastime and hobby for keeping fit. There are some ways though that you can also protect yourself against injury and also to improve your balance, both of which will give you a better chance to get the most out of your time on the dance floor.
If you have taken up dancing having never done it before, you will find yourself using muscles you are unaccustomed to. These will ache at first, however after time and exercise, you will grow used to using them and build them up over time. Here are four exercises designed to strengthen these muscles and which will help you improve your fitness for dance:
Weight training – Dancers are incredibly strong and they need to be to be able to perform all the moves they do. Ballerinas, for example, need strong arms and legs in order to be able to hold positions and poses for long periods of time. In order to build up your limb strength, it is an idea to do some basic weight training. Now, we’re not talking about massive dumb bells here, but light weights that will gradually tones your legs, arms and back.
Yoga/Pilates – Your muscular core is used extensively in dance and as such, many dancers do pilates and/or yoga to strengthen these muscles. By doing so, dancers are able to hold their body in positions for longer as well as minimising risk of injury. Yoga and pilates also allows you to build up muscles you might not otherwise use. (Learn more on yoga and relaxation).
Go swimming – Dancing not only works your muscles, but also your cardio-vascular system. It is therefore important to make sure you regularly work your heart. Jogging or running are good options, but swimming is probably the best as it not only exercises every muscle, but is an excellent way of keeping fit.
Stretching – Once you have worked all these muscles, the only way to improve your flexibility is to stretch your muscles. You can do this in everyday life by taking longer strides, holding your stomach in and reaching out your arms as far as they go. By doing a series of stretching exercises before and after dance, you will reduce the chance of injury.
If you study dance or martial arts or any form of sport, then balance is key. Starting off, you may find your balance is all over the place, but there are several exercises you can do to improve it. This way, you will build up your core muscles, improve your leg strength and not fall over as much!
Standing on one leg – This is as simple as it sounds, but helps improve your balance. Stand and hold a chair or table and then stand on one leg. You can then alternate legs as you go. As your balance improves, you will no longer need to hold on to the chair or table and do it just standing up straight.
Walk heel-to-toe – You may have seen ballet dancers doing this as part of their warm-up. Simply walk by placing the heel of one foot in front of the toes of your other foot. Depending on your balance, this can be done using a chair or table to steady yourself.
Knee bends – Using a chair for balance, stand up and bend your knee slowly towards your chest. Hold in for a second and then lower your leg to the ground, before switching and raising your other knee. Try to do at least 10 bends with each leg.
Leg raises – Again using a chair for balance, stand with your legs shoulder-width apart. Then lift a leg out to the side by about 30cm. Hold it for several seconds, before returning it to position and then doing the same with the other leg. Repeat the exercise until you have done it 10 times with each leg. By doing these exercises regularly, you should begin to build up your balance.