Let's Get Physical
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Bellydance is more than artistic expression by offering health benefits.
On the cover:
Sufi whirling (or Sufi spinning) is a form of Sama or physically active meditation which originated among Sufis, and which is still practiced by the Sufi Dervishes of the Mevlevi order. It is a customary dance performed within the Sema, or worship ceremony, through which dervishes (also called semazens, from Persian سماعزن) aim to reach the source of all perfection, or kemal. This is sought through abandoning one's nafs, egos or personal desires, by listening to the music, focusing on God, and spinning one's body in repetitive circles, which has been seen as a symbolic imitation of planets in the Solar System orbiting the sun.
Bellydance for fitness
Let's not forget that belly dance is a reproduction and birth dance. Many of the movements are incorporated safely during labor and delivery, aiding in the birth process. The undulating movements control muscles during contractions. The Wall Street Journal, in the August 10, 2007 issue, featured an article on belly dance and other "alternative techniques" during childbirth. Dr. James Greenberg, Chair of Obstetrics at Brigham and Women's Hospital was quoted that there is "certainly no scientific reason to think it's bad" and "if it makes (pregnant women) feel good, and it's safe... do it." Some belly dance classes are held just for pregnant women to help ease labor, delivery and recovery. Some midwifes recommend it.
The Australian Nursing Journal reported that belly dancing toned the body in readiness for childbirth. Girls in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, it stated, are taught childbirth dances from the age of puberty in preparation for future childbirth. The hip movements, abdominal contractions and shimmies help the baby down the birth canal, alleviate the pain of labor and assist with breastfeeding. The movements also aid in firming up muscles after delivery.
Belly dance offers both isometric and cardio fitness benefits. It has been determined that vigorous dancing can get your heart rate up to 120 beats or minute or more, a level that strengthens the heart and builds stamina and endurance. Dance increases blood circulation and oxygen levels. It improves the condition of the lungs. Incorporating natural movement, it is safe and low-impact. People of all ages, shapes and sizes can benefit. Movements can be adapted and modified for those with health concerns.
The dance tones the abdominals, oblique, legs, hips, thighs and arms. As one replaces fat with muscle, cellulite decreases. Strong abdominal muscles help support and strengthen the back. Muscles, some rarely used are isolated, strengthened and stretched. Posture is improved and strength and balance improved. Loss of balance is a major cause of falls in the elderly.
The skeletal system is strengthened and becomes flexible. Joints are lubricated. According to the American Journal of Medicine, the best way to avoid arthritis and to remedy current joint discomfort is to continue to use the joints in a controlled manner. This also aids in preventing osteoporosis.
Calories are burned while endurance and stamina are gained. Dr. Edward R. Laskowski, co-director of the Sports Medicine Center at the Mayo Clinic, says that belly dancing and other dances burn as many calories as other aerobic activities such as swimming, walking and cycling. Depending on the intensity of your dancing, you can burn 300-400 calories per hour. There's nothing wrong with that!
Nancy Loyan schuemann, Contributor: Nancy Loyan Schuemann (aka: Nailah) is a multi published writer and author by day and a Middle Eastern belly dance instructor and performer by night. For nearly ten years she was the Cleveland, Ohio and national belly dance examiner at the recently closed www.Examiner.com. Through the years, she has written for other dance publications, including Bellydance Chronicles. With a BSBA in Marketing, she has had careers in retail management, marketing, public relations and outside sales. All roads... (more...)