What do you think of when you think of belly dance? A celebratory dance? A sensual experience? ….Childbirth? There are many who believe that the origin of bellydance is linked to childbirth rituals of centuries ago. While these theories are controversial, it is easy to argue that many of the movements of bellydance mimic movements of a labouring woman. And, more importantly, many of the movements of bellydance use the same muscles used by a labouring woman.
Bellydance to Prepare for and Recover from Birth
Pregnancy can wreak havoc on a woman’s body, but exercise, especially core and pelvic-floor strengthening exercise can help to minimize damage and expedite the healing process. Due to the wild changes in a woman’s body, many conventional abdominal & core exercises can cause more harm or exacerbate conditions such as diastasis recti – a gap of roughly 2.7 cm or greater between the two sides of the rectus abdominis muscle. This can cause a woman to appear pregnant months or even years post-birth. Many pregnancy fitness programs, including the Dia Method – which was featured in the “American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology” – modify abdominal exercises involving contracting and releasing abs from a standing, seated, or side-plank position, to prevent or reverse diastasis recti, to stay healthy and to prepare for or recover from childbirth.
Bellydance in My Pregnancy
As I researched these programs for my own pregnancy, I noticed that these are the exact movements I use in my belly dance teaching and practice. Except, of course, the belly dance version is much more fun! I have been recommending this beautiful art form and exercise to women, and sometimes men, since I took my first class nearly two decades ago.
Benefits of Bellydance
The benefits of practicing this dance are relevant to all women, and, I believe, especially important for women preparing for or recovering from child bearing. To name a few:
- Gentle strengthening of core
- Increasing ability to isolate and control muscle groups
- Helping prepare the body for birth and preventing diastasis recti
- Recovery after birth
- An emphasis on body positivity and acceptance and the feminine form in all its diverse representations
- Improving posture
- Stress relief
- Development of rhythm and some cool party moves!
I truly believe belly dance is for everyone, regardless of age, size, shape! If you are pregnant and concerned, check with a medical professional before engaging in any exercise.