Bellydance is a non-impact, weight-bearing exercise and is suitable for all ages. Oslo Tribal Bellydance School have participants from 18 to 70 years old. Unlike ballet, which can potentially alter and deform the skeleton, bellydance is based on movements that come naturally. The positive effects on your body and psyche are numerous.
Clalit Health Services study under the direction of Dr. Clara Friedman at the Lichtenstein clinic in Kfar Saba, examined the effect of bellydancing on women’s health. The study included 129 participants, whose average age was 49, from bellydancing workshops in central Israel. At the end of the year-long workshop, where the women bellydanced for two hours a week, their general health assessment rose by an average of 5.54 points to a total 9.09 points, on a scale of 1-10. Read more about the research here.
Many utilize bellydancing as an outlet and see it as a form of self care. The repetitive movements of the dance and the concentration needed to do them can help a mind filled with daily stress to “let go” for a while and relax. As busy as many are today, having a consistent outlet for stress reduction is a necessity. The occurrence of daily stress can wreak havoc on your body over time. It’s hard to worry about deadlines at work when you are thinking about getting that next drop just right, or while making sure that you are in time with the music.
An increase in the feeling of joy is almost akin to a side effect, but a very positive side effect. When you have more joy in your life, you are more equipped to handle the stress that often comes up. Because physical activity reduces stress and tension, regular dancing gives an overall sense of well-being. Stressed muscles relax as they are gently exercised, relieving the “clenched” muscles often seen in our society. The body becomes supple and limber.
A less often thought about benefit of bellydancing is the increase in self esteem that will happen as you gain more confidence and become more agile. Dancing provides many opportunities to meet other people. Joining a dance class can increase self-confidence and build social skills since bellydancing, American Tribal Style® bellydance in particularly, is a social activity. As you learn the graceful and flowing movements of bellydance you may develop a more positive presence and feel good about yourself and your ability. Strong social ties and socializing with friends contribute to higher self-esteem and a positive outlook.
Let’s start with the upper body. Arms and shoulders are exercised when doing lifts, circles, or the rippling motions of snake arms. New bellydance students are always surprised by how much they have to use their arm muscles. Bellydancers have to hold their arms up for long periods of time, and it takes quite a lot of strength to perform arm movements slowly and gracefully. This toning effect is often evident early on, since holding the arms aloft are an important element of the dance, even for beginners. Dancing with a veil or a sword can help build strength in the upper body, arms and shoulders. Playing the zills train fingers to work independently and builds strength.
Bellydancers use their torso a lot, too. Many of the moves involve isolations, which improves flexibility of the torso, and your core muscles get quite a good workout. The full-body undulation moves lengthens (decompress) and strengthens the entire column of spinal and abdominal muscles in a gentle way. These movements, coupled with shoulder movements, exercise the back muscles. The type of movement that occurs with bellydancing creates a strong core which is beneficial to the spine. Strong back muscles prevent back injuries, and they promote good posture. Our spinal column contains more bones and ligaments than any other part of the body. Its 33 vertebrae are stacked together in a column joined together by cartilage and ligaments, and almost every movement of the torso depends upon its flexibility and function. Muscle groups that attach to the ligaments and vertebrae create movement in the trunk and pelvis areas. Bellydance tones these muscles and should maintain flexibility in a safe and effective manner. This may improve your mobility and posture as you age.
The hip movements are essential for bellydance. Bellydancing may help relieve stress to the back, counteracting the almost constant compression of the disks that occur from sitting and a sedentary lifestyle. During the dance, the movements of hip drops, circles, figure eights and shimmies put the joints and ligaments in the lower back and hip through a full range of gentle, repetitive motion. This movement helps increase the flow of synovial fluid in these joints. The graceful hip drops, rolls, and pivots of this dance form utilize muscle groups in the abdomen, pelvis, trunk, spine, and neck, working with the body instead of against it. These toned muscles improve posture and help prevent back pain that can be caused by the unnatural curving forward of the spine that occurs when muscle groups are weak (lordosis). Small muscle groups deep in the back that are normally under-exercised are used and strengthened. The muscles surrounding the hip, the largest joint in the body, are used and exercised during hip drops and figure eights, enhancing flexibility and suppleness.
When movements are done properly, the pelvis is tipped forward, or tucked somewhat; a neutral position that can help prevent lower back problems.
The legs and long muscles of the back are strengthened by hip movements. Because we dance on our feet and moving during the dance, it is considered a weight-bearing exercise. Weight-bearing exercises strengthen bones, and the dancer becomes more balanced and poised. A bellydancer uses the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes to hold her steady as she performs hip movements or travels smoothly across the floor. Bellydancers get a great lower-body workout, but the amount of impact to the knees and ankles is minimal. Impact is measured not only by how hard our feet strike the ground, but by how much stress is placed on our joints. Using this measure, most of Middle-Eastern dance is considered non-impact; some tribal and folk dances are low-impact.
General health benefits
Exercise increases endurance. Endurance is the ability of muscles to work hard for increasingly longer periods of time without fatigue. Regular dancing is great for improving endurance. Elevating the heart rate can increase stamina. Regular dancing will build endurance.
Dancing builds strength by forcing the muscles to resist against a dancer’s own body weight. Strength is defined as the ability of a muscle to exert a force against resistance.
Another benefit to bellydancing, particularly as the body ages, is the increased flexibility that naturally occurs. Increasing your body’s flexibility means fewer injuries in general and easier movement for other daily activities. Dance requires a great amount of flexibility. The greater the range of motion, the more muscles can flex and extend.
Like anything else, learning how to bellydance takes time and practice. We think that you will find the effort to be well worth it. Welcome to dance classes and worshops at Oslo Tribal Bellydance School!
For further reading on this topic, check out the articles below.