Many women and men have found themselves standing in a dance studio for the first time in search of healing. Exposing ourselves to our own reflection, becoming vulnerable to a room full of strangers and permitting time in our schedules to learn something as beautiful as belly dance is the perfect catalyst to positive change. As a student and performer of belly dance I can personally testify to its healing effects.
The first time I ever found myself in a dance studio learning to shimmy to a drum solo I was incredibly self-conscious and dealing with an eating disorder. I wore long sleeves shirts to cover my body which I believed unfit for the world but mostly myself to see. As time went on and as I continued challenging myself to learn all the movements associated with belly dance I began to see the curves in my body as tools of strength. With them I was able to weave a story of emotion. This led me to wearing things that complemented my shape instead of trying to hide it. I saw myself in a new light for the first time all due to dance and was able to kick my eating disorder to the curb. I became a more confident woman and by acquiring this tool was able to establish better friendships, make healthier life choices and keep in shape. Belly dancing for an hour can help you lose about three hundred calories. It’s an overall great way to keep your body fit and your inner shimmy goddess powerful.
As human beings it is also very easy to get caught up in everything but the present moment. This leads to scattered, unfocused energy and untapped potential waiting to be expressed. I was privy to this habit as is almost every person. Yet through dance, thoughts that plagued me outside of the studio became silent as I focused on the person I’d once been so terrified to love, myself. Dancing is a way of becoming mindful of the present. Being mindful is a skill every dancer must learn in order to grasp something as simple as a shimmy or as intricate as a prop heavy choreography. Honing into the present and not allowing thoughts of the future, which can lead to anxiety, or memories of the past, which can lead to stress, is a practice one comes into direct contact with while belly dancing.
The breathing all instructors remind their students to do while executing almost any isolation and move is similar to the same breathes one takes while in meditation. This helps promote oxygen flow to the brain while keeping a focused mind grounded to a positive outlet. Dance has also proven to help with stress, depression, posture, menstrual pain and loss. I know women who came looking for therapy in the form of this dance while grieving the loss of children, spouses, parents and friends. I’ve been through this myself and know how difficult it can be to gather enough strength to make it through the other side feeling whole. Yet as dancers, healing begins by allowing ourselves to be an outlet for emotion, for transmuting painful or hard experiences into a melody and movement. We make something beautiful out of something that was once anything but. When we are able to achieve that, we are able to mend ourselves from the inside out. Only then does the dance of life becomes a celebration of spiritual, physical and mental resilience. As Rumi once said, “Dance, when you’re broken open. Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance to be perfectly free.”