We mostly think of belly dancers as entertainers but this ancient practice of fluid body movement is quickly becoming the latest rage when it comes to fitness. If you’ve exhausted your regular workout tapes, don’t have time to hit the gym, or are simply looking for a new and interesting fitness routine, belly dancing can add just the excitement you need in your workout regimen.
Belly dancing is an old practice that has been shown to go all the way back to Egypt. Archaeologists have found tomb paintings as old as the 14th century BC containing dancers in positions similar to today’s belly dancers. The history of belly dancing can be traced back to the Mediterranean, Africa and the Middle East, although no one quite knows exactly where the dance originated from.
Contrary to popular belief, belly dancing was not used or originally intended to entertain men. Instead, the dance form was utilized by women as a way to prepare the body for childbirth. The emphasis of the movements on the abdominal muscles and the body overall made for easier labor and during the childbirth, the surrounding women would belly dance in celebration. The art of belly dancing first made itself known in the West during the Chicago World`s Fair of 1893.
This type of dance is specifically for the female body, and commonly targeted areas of movement include the hips, chest and abdominal muscles. All belly dancers excel in creating smooth, fluid, complex and sensual movements with their torsos alone, along with a combination of shaking and shimmy movements.
When used in fitness, belly dancing has a handful of positive benefits for the female body. For one thing, the intense movement of the torso is great for improving posture and creating more muscle tone. The repeated use of figure eights, shimmies, circles, and hip drops allow the joints and ligaments in the hips and lower back to be exercised, resulting in more muscle tone and flexibility.
When your back and abdominal muscles are toned, you instantly gain better posture. This also prevents back pain. But it isn’t all about the torso. During belly dancing the arms and shoulders are also involved with circles, lifts and rippling motions, also allowing muscle toning in these areas. Belly dancing is performed barefoot, which causes it to be a weight-bearing exercise, which is ideal in strengthening the bones and can effectively prevent the onset of osteoporosis.
If you’re interested in learning how to belly dance as a way to get in shape, you can find belly dancing instructional tapes and DVDs in stores and online, as well as a number of websites dedicated to the art. Many of these sites give step-by-step instructions for performing basic belly dancing moves. However, if you want to really master this type of dance, it’s best to work with a video that actively shows how to move your body.
While belly dancing can be intimidating, once you get the basic moves down, you won’t have a problem with progressing on to more challenging movements. Because this dance is intricate and involved, you won’t have to do much for very long before you find yourself sweating. First timers shouldn’t overdo it and be sure to treat your body to a warm shower or bath to soothe aching muscles and joints.