At the end of 2016, in an attempt to find community and start dancing again, I took a 4-week long belly dance crash course. And I fell head over heels in love with it.
There was something about women gathering together to unapologetically shimmy their tummies and hips, areas many of us don't exactly love to flaunt, that just made my heart sing. This was body positivity at its finest.
The whole time I was taking classes, I kept thinking, "this would be such a great workout for pregnant women." So being the google nerd I am, I searched "pregnancy belly dance" and found some things that confirmed my original suspicions. Belly dance is, without question, one of the best forms of movement for pregnant ladies.
Not pregnant, no worries. It's still a great way for any and all women to get moving. I'll be doing a post about belly dance and fertility in the near future, so keep your eyes peeled for that. Hopefully, I can get my new instructor for an interview. She's amazing!
Ten Reasons Pregnant Women Should Give Belly Dance a Go
#1 - The Amazing Community
Belly dance seems to attract the most supportive, kind, and encouraging women. Many are working to love and accept their bodies or are already smitten with themselves (as they should be.) The ones who have already made peace with their bodies serve as a great example if you're still working towards self-love.
Added bonus, belly dance classes are usually filled with women of a range of ages and life experiences. Without fail, you'll find at least one woman who has had a child. Since she's been there and done that, you can bounce ideas off her and ask her questions about pregnancy and beyond.
And quiet as it's kept, building a supportive community is one of the most powerful things you can do to improve and maintain your health. Just as important as healthy eating, exercise, and sleep.
#2 - It Strengthens Your Pelvis Like Nobody's Business
If you're anything like a lot of pregnant women, there are parts of your body that you only recently became aware of. Your pelvic floor is likely one of those areas. Most of us have no reason to think about it until, well, we have a reason to think about it.
The pelvic floor is a network of muscles, ligaments, and connective tissue that gird up your bladder, uterus, vagina, and GI tract. Keeping it strong and supple during pregnancy can help you avoid incontinence during and after your pregnancy.
Fortunately, belly dance does just that, in a fun way. Those pelvic tilts, circles, and shimmies strengthen and stretch those ever important muscles.
#3 - Can Help to Relieve Back Pain
Your growing belly can put pressure on your back. Movements that stretch and strengthen your core can help alleviate that pain. You may find the figure eight movements, circles, and tilts that are an integral part of belly dance provide relief from your discomfort.
Of course, if a move causes more pain or requires a deep back bend, then you should stop, let your instructor know, and ask if there is an alternative move you can do.
#4 - Prepares Your Body for Labor
There are some sources that say belly dance was originally done, in part, to prepare pregnant ladies for the work of giving birth. Whether or not that is completely true, I can't say. What I do know is, you're going to need a great deal of endurance during your labor. Physical activity in all its forms can help you develop stamina.
There's also some research out there that suggests being more physically fit can result in a shorter labor with fewer complications during the labor. If you're looking for a fun way to stay physically strong during your pregnancy in preparation for labor, belly dance just might be the way to go.
#5 - Increases Body Awareness
All forms of dance increase body awareness but not all forms do so in a way that celebrates the feminine frame. Body awareness is the recognition of your body parts, how they feel, and what they're capable of. During pregnancy and labor being more in tune with your body can only help you.
You'll also became more aware of all the things your body can. You may be surprised by all that you're really capable of. That new knowledge and ability will help you feel more confident as your body and role as a mother change.
#6 - Teaches You How to Celebrate Your Womanly Curves
Whether you had curves or you were rail thin before your pregnancy, you now have more curves than you did previously. And for many women, that comes with mixed emotions. Especially in a culture that tends to focus on keeping women as small as possible.
Belly dance, on the other hand, doesn't shy away from or denounce a woman's widening hips and the soft jiggle we women collect on the lower part of our tummies in preparation for nurturing a child. Learning to love and enjoy the changes happening to your bodies is one way belly dance benefits you during and after your pregnancy.
#7 - Improve Balance and Coordination
Pregnancy affects your balance in a number of ways:
- change in weight,
- change in center of gravity,
- change in spinal curvature, and
- loosening ligaments and joints
All of this can leave you feeling a little wobbly. Dance can improve your balance and coordination by improving your body awareness (there it is again), strengthening your muscles, and giving you the opportunity to practice shifting your weight properly.
#8 - Puts a Damper on Stress
Change ain't easy. And you're going through a lot of change right now. No matter how happy the event, a major life change causes stress. Finding ways to manage stress is super important.
Movement, of all kinds, improves your response to stress. Belly dance has the added bonus of community, which for women is incredibly important for emotional and mental health.
#9 - Strengthens Core Muscles
I do not enjoy crunches. Maybe you do. But if you're pregnant, they're likely not the most comfortable thing to do right now. And then there's the concern about lying on your back cutting off the blood flow (only temporarily, though) to your baby. So besides being uncomfortable, many say they're not safest option for pregnant women.
But keeping your core strong and toned is crucial right now. Belly dance offers a way to do that sans crunches or sit ups. Tucking and untucking your pelvis and moving your hips works a number of the muscles of your core.
#10 - Promotes Circulation
Belly dance gets your heart pumping and encourages blood to circulate around body and to your baby. Getting blood flowing is a great way to nourish your baby. After all, that blood carries the nutrients your baby needs to flourish and develop. It also carries away waste from your baby's body.
Getting your blood flowing helps you out, too. By promoting circulation, belly dance can help reduce fluid retention and swelling.
Belly dance really does have the potential to benefit you and your baby during this time. Consider trying it out for a fun way to stay fit, meet amazing women, and show your body some love.