I’ve practiced bellydance on and off over the last several years, but in the last 12 months I’ve given it a break for… well, various reasons. However, I find myself in need of a hobby that doesn’t necessarily relate to make up right now (as much as a love makeup, and love blogging about it), so I’ve deemed May the month of bellydance.

Not to say that I’m going to give it up after May, it’s just the type of fitness routine I’m planning to blog about this month =).

The thing that I really love about bellydance is the way it is welcoming to people of all walks of life, and all levels of fitness.  It seems that a lot of different kinds of exercises, specifically in the dance category, can be kind of intimidating, but bellydance is very approachable (if you will allow yourself to get past feeling silly for shaking your wobbly bits).

Anyone can practice and benefit from bellydance, no matter your size, level of fitness, knowledge of dance. Bellydance is low-impact (not to be confused with “does nothing for you” as my running friends might be tempted to believe), what low-impact means in terms of your health is that when you’re 80, you’ll still have functioning hips, knees, and ankles.  Not only is bellydance a great low-impact cardiovascular workout, it’s also great strength training as well, all those undulations are strengthening your core muscles, which in turn will help with your posture as well.

Several other things I find really appealing about bellydance is that, first, it’s amazingly flattering to the female form. If you’re goal is weight loss and you want to give bellydance a try, I strongly recommend it, but when you do, try to pay specific attention to the shape of your body (and how bellydance impacts it) rather than simply keeping an eye on the scale. The movements in bellydance sculpt the female form in such a way that you look healthy, strong, but not hard. You still curve where you’re meant to curve and soft where you should be soft.

Second, it makes you feel amazing about yourself. I’m not exactly sure what it is that doing bellydance connects you to inside, but it honestly makes you feel more confident about yourself! At least for me, it also makes me feel more graceful, I feel like all movement on my part, becomes more fluid and seamless.

Last, bellydance is easy to follow. Now, before you go arguing me on that point, let me explain. One of the things that makes bellydance interesting as an art form is that, the movements are not so much a rule as they are a guide to follow. What I mean by that is, bellydance teaches you the basics of how to move your body, but how your body makes the movement unique and personalized, therefore no two dancers ever dance exactly the same. Also, because the dance moves are all very natural to the body, trying to do them is almost (if not more) effective than being able to do them perfectly.  Learning bellydance really does just require patience and practice, and as I heard one instructor say, “when in doubt, just shake something.”

The last thing I want to mention is about classes… for a long time bellydance classes were almost unheard of, but at this point have gained a lot of popularity. Bellydance classes are really relaxed, and often have more of a community feel to them, than a class feel. That can either feel really welcoming at first, or really intimidating (most people don’t want to be the new kid), try to see it as really welcoming, because chances are the group is going to welcome you right in, but if you can’t bring yourself to go to a class, or can’t afford one, there are lots of options for learning at home without compromising the quality of teaching. Here are a few of my favorite options:

  • I think Jillina is one of the best bellydancers I’ve ever seen and I’ve enjoyed learning from her instructional videos (there are a lot to choose from). The important thing for me about her instruction is that it’s not a “bellydance workout”, which is to say her videos teach you actual choreography and not just an aerobic routine based on bellydance movement.
  • This website has an extremely detailed list of bellydance movements and you can type just about any one of them into youtube and find tons of videos that break each movement down and help you learn them.
  • Speaking of youtube, there actually are a lot of great instructional dance videos on youtube, this woman has a lot of extremely helpful ones up… on of which I will leave you with today.

In closing, the basic shimmy, the trade mark move of bellydance… enjoy!