Most of us share a similar story when it comes to workouts—you subscribe to a gym with gusto and, as the days progress, make all sorts of excuses to not go: You’re tired. You have your period. You broke up and got drunk in a gutter. Your ex made a movie plan. It’s your birthday so you’re (literally!) stuffing your face with cake. You started flirting with someone at the gym and the guy is now stalking you. Talk about focus!
After being there and doing that, I realised that the reason I’ve been bunking gym is because it gets extremely mundane over a period of time. The weights sitting on the rack seem like a burden and the walk on the treadmill is never-ending, unless of course there’s a hot guy walking beside you. In most cases, it’s your mother’s acquaintance—a colossal aunty who wants to trade small talk only to know when you’re getting married or having babies.
So I decided to take up belly dancing—a dance form that not only makes me feel happy in my own skin, but also helps me de-stress after a long day. The memory of my first class with belly dancing instructor Megha at the Arts in Motion academy in Mumbai is still vivid. I might not recollect the steps she taught, but I do remember that that was the day I started loving my body. As soon as she played the Arabic tune, my body gave in and began to shake and wiggle, in an almost natural manner.
Fortunate as I am, I have recently started training with belly dance instructor Chaitali Kohli. Watching Chaitali dance is like a dream: you could observe her move gracefully for hours, like a breeze creating ripples over the surface of water. What’s more, she has pioneered the Bellyfit® movement in India. Bellyfit® is a holistic fitness system for women with dance cardio moves inspired by belly dancing, Bollywood and African dance with Pilates, and yoga based stretch. With Chaitali’s inputs on the art and my experience, I’ve put together eight reasons why every woman should take to belly dancing.
Size, shape, age no bar: Belly dancing is one of the most accommodating forms of dancing. “Belly dancing, unlike other dance forms, doesn’t require you to become thin. In fact, you need that fat on your stomach to balance swords and coins. You might not lose your belly, but you’ll begin to love it,” says Chaitali. In the Indian culture, we are often taught to cover our voluptuous bodies with dupattas and stoles. Belly dancing is the opposite: it requires you to roll up your tee and embrace your sensual side.
It’s empowering: Reveal your midriff, tuck in your pelvis, roll your shoulders, take a long look at yourself in the mirror and begin. Belly dance doesn’t require a partner to lead you. When you’re on your own, you’re bound to feel free and liberated.
Be beautiful: Belly dance gives you a clear, healthy and younger-looking complexion. It also helps you sleep better and stick to your body’s natural cycles. The fluid, dramatic movements trigger the production of endorphins, or happy hormones, which help you de-stress in no time.
‘Me’ time: That one hour belongs to you, my love. It’s important to distance yourself physically from home or your office at least three hours a week. This will certainly improve your level of tolerance and beat the stress.
Better posture: Belly dancing creates a better body awareness and significantly improves your balance, co-ordination, posture and flexibility. It is also low impact, which means you can practice it even in case of injuries, when you’re not allowed to do intensive workouts. Nevertheless, it tones your obliques, giving you a well-defined waist.
The sparkly costumes: Those jingling coin belts, harem pants and sequinned crop tops will transport you into the magical Egyptian world. But if you don’t like dressing up too much, even a normal tee and track pant works well. The dance is done barefoot, so you don’t have to worry about buying the right shoes and carrying them around all the time.
Girl gang: The minute you enter the class, you start feeling more confident about yourself. You are warmly welcomed by women of all shapes and sizes. There’s no one judging you there. And before you know, you make a wonderful gang of girls who’ll stand by each other, no matter what.
Works well during pregnancy: When done during pregnancy or labour, belly dancing helps the baby move into an optimal position for birth. “Belly dance has been used in Arabic cultures to condition women for child birth for hundreds of years. Also known as the dance of birthing, it helps create cradle-like movements for the baby. The dance activates your pelvic muscles and relieves back pain during pregnancy. But it must be noted that there are certain moves that can be done and certain moves that you need to steer clear of,” says Chaitali. Women who are pregnant, or who plan to become pregnant, should consult their doctor first to make sure belly dance as a prenatal exercise is appropriate for their body.
Ready to feel younger, healthier and sexier, yet?
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