August 31, 2020
Mind and Body in the Spirit
of Belly Dance
Words / Yulia Kapranova
When we dance, we create divine energy from our Universe,
manifesting the bridge between our mind, body, and soul.
Miami is a multicultural city full of brightness and challenges consisting of people from all around the world from various cultures and lifestyles. However, there is one thing that brings us together: music and the love of dance.
I am thrilled to share my knowledge about the history and the health benefits of Art of Belly Dance. As a professional belly dancer I have studied various styles of dance such as, Bollywood, salsa, waltz, samba, cha-cha, cumbia and others. While dancing, I fly with a love that creates a miraculous energy deep within my soul that develops my femininity and beauty. In my opinion, belly dance acts as the rejuvenating variable that revives our lives every day.
Belly dance is a harmony of body and soul movements, combined together with melody, rhythm, and feeling. It is the child of music and love. Belly dance is the miracle language of my soul.
Belly dancing descended from religious dancing performed during fertility rituals by priestesses of the temple in 1000 B.C. in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Greece. The concept of dance originated in India over 5000 years ago, and spread throughout the Middle East due to the migration of the Gypsy tribes (also through Roma in Europe). The Gypsies eventually reached Europe where one of the most famous Gypsy dance styles was born - Flamenco.
Many modern-day moves derived from Flamenco are still very similar to belly dance. Historically, dance has always been an important part of the Arabic culture. One of the oldest social dances that people of all ages and sexes from the Middle East and North Africa enjoy, are festive occasions called Raks Beledi. In Arabic this means “folk dance” or “dance of the country.” In the ancient times, men and women did not dance together in pairs, or mixed gender groups. Today, gender segregation is not as strictly practiced in many urban areas, and occasionally men and women dance socially during family and community events.
Belly dancing eases the pain of childbirth through its strengthening and lengthening of the pelvic floor muscles; by increasing blood circulation to these regions to deliver more oxygen to the developing fetus. They are also great prenatal and postnatal exercises. Figure eights and rolling circular movements are especially good preparation for birth, during childbirth, and helps firm the post-pregnancy recovery parts of the body.
Belly dancing played a major role in fertility ceremonies thousands of years ago, where the movements celebrated the birth process in the form of mimicry. Many of these circular hip moves can be seen in other dances that evolved from birth-ceremonies and celebrations of sexuality and fertility such as African dance, the Hawaiian hula, Polynesian dances, and Brazilian samba.
In the Middle East Bedouin women birthed babies in a ceremonial way, where in a tent with the elders, several women play tabla (a musical instrument) and breathe in unison with the mother. The communal drumbeat and vocal breathing became part of the dance-birth process. The mother, supported by two other women, did not lie down, but used hip circles and rolling motions to ease the baby into the world. Many pregnant mothers find that belly dancing not only helps relieve their back pain, but offers them universal and inspirational support by dancing. A baby born in this ceremony is called a “belly dance baby.” Babies often enjoy swaying in their mother's arms while she moves in figure eights, dancing with melodic music!
Belly dance should be viewed as a spiritual and sensual aerobic activity, which is great for burning calories and toning muscles. Dancers work on balance, coordination, and flexibility. These forms of conditioning are essential to creating better body awareness, and improving posture. This powerful fitness combination is an effective cocktail for the body, for cardiovascular and immune system response, and hormone regulation.
Belly dancers feel the benefits as the exercise works their large muscle groups, and enhances strength and coordination of the small muscle groups in the trunk, hips, and arms. Belly dancing can also improve self-esteem in a gentle yet powerful way. The women who dance become artistic and feminine, creating a positive feeling of sensual expression and freedom. It helps to
open Chakras and fills the stream of Chi energy. The dancer feels safe to explore the soft, beautiful ways of movement, and a heightened sense of awareness and poise, to create a delightful glow of confidence, that remains long after a class or performance.
Another benefit of dancing is better sleep. The movements of the abdominal and the pelvis massage deeper internal organs helping to improve digestion and metabolism. Strengthening the deep core muscles improves the blood circulation in the back and makes the spine stronger and healthy. Belly dancing also allows a woman to relieve stress and depression by using the natural movements of her body. Belly dancing brings a creative feeling during choreography, increases the memory. The mental alertness is stimulated during dancing when increased oxygen is being delivered to brain cells allowing them to refresh, relax, and exhilarate the mind, body and soul. Be sure to challenge yourself both physically and mentally with your dance practice and change up your routine as often as you can. If you normally improvise, try create a choreography. Dance is a well recognized form of psychotherapy used primarily for its ability to promote healthy body image, positive social interactions, and confidence. The stress reduction benefits are especially important to the modern woman, who is involved by unrealistic standards of female beauty by mainstream media. Healthy mind person is better able to weigh the facts and consequences, and make better decisions with long-term benefit.
Dance therapy can help with many disorders of the mind and body, from anxiety to dementia and Parkinson`s disease. Music has also been found to reduce blood pressure as well as changes in the autonomic nervous system, such as breathing and heart rate – which also supports better health.
There are many options for dancing workouts. I would like to share the healthy tips for beginners. Drink plenty of water before, during and after class, perform warm-up exercises, wear professional shoes and clothing, consult with your doctor before starting a dance and enjoy the dancing.
You could find more information in my book "Longevity & Belly Dance", that is currently available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback.
MD, PhD, Author of book “Longevity & Belly Dance”, Professional Belly Dancer and Yoga Instructor,
Mrs. South Florida, Mrs. Universe