Belly dancing

Explore health benefits of belly dancing

Note: Sarah Harmon tried belly dancing with Laura. They were featured on Fox17.

By Sarah Harmon

EW writer

EW writer Sarah Harmon

EW writer Sarah Harmon

Belly dance is a centuries old art form that has been practiced throughout the Middle East, Asia, and parts of Europe. Depending on the region, styles can vary considerably. For instance, in parts of Spain, the typical movements take on a distinctly flamenco inspired flair.

Often women look at professional dancers and think “I wish I could do that, but I would have to be in better shape first.” What they don’t realize is that the reason the dancers look so great is because of their time spent practicing and performing. Belly dance, often called Oriental dance to downplay negative connotations associated with the name belly dance, is an excellent workout for the entire body. The torso isolations work the abdominals and obliques and there’s nothing like a good hip shimmy to tone your thighs and booty while having fun and, if you’re wearing a hip scarf, making a lot of noise. That being said, the benefits of belly dance go far beyond weight loss and improving muscle tone.
Psychotherapists have recommended exercise as a natural way to combat stress and depression for years. As your dancing skills improve, it leads to having a more positive body image and higher self-esteem both in and out of the dance studio. An added bonus is that practicing the choreography will aid overall memory. If you can manage to do  arm movements and torso movements while gliding across the dance floor, remembering that shopping list will be a piece of cake!
Due to the specific types of movement used in Oriental dance, there are a few key benefits for women who practice it. First of all, the movement of the abdominal region leads to better digestion by essentially massaging the internal organs. This reduces the severity of menstrual cramps as well, and many women who have practiced Oriental dance while pregnant have reported it significantly decreased their discomfort in pregnancy and labor. While strengthening the abdominal muscles, the muscles of the back get quite a workout in the process. The effect of this is potentially decreased back pain and generally better posture.
For those in the Grand Rapids area who are interested in giving it a try, Armentality Dance and Yoga Eduction on East Fulton Street has beginner classes on Wednesday nights. The classes are primarily composed of women, although men are welcome to participate as well. If you want to have fun and improve your mind and body, Oriental dance may be exactly what you’ve been looking for.
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