are some articles and resources I have come across during my research
on the web:
Dancing" and Childbirth
A Labor of Love By
of the Great Mothers By
Benefits of Belly Dance As a Prenatal Exercise By Sheri
Waldrop, RN, BSN
- from Discover Belly Dance Journal Vol. 18, No. 2
Dancing" and Childbirth published first in 1964 in "Sexology"
& numerous other magazines & papers over the years By Morocco
du ventre, or belly dancing, is not at all what Western society
thinks it to be, i.e. a dance of sex and seduction. This is an erroneous
and ignorant belief, reinforced and perpetrated by stage and movie
writers too lazy to do research. Neither is it a 'belly' dance,
since much more is involved than just the stomach muscles.
dancing, as the Arabs themselves call it, is one of the oldest forms
of dance, originating with pre-Biblical religious rites worshiping
motherhood and having as its practical side the preparation of females
for the stresses of childbirth. Thus it is the oldest form of natural
to Farab Firdoz, a dancer from Bahrein, Saudi Arabia, the dance
was still performed in the less Westernized parts of her country
in the '50s, around the bedside of a woman in childbirth, by a circle
of her fellow tribeswomen. In this ritualistic form men are not
allowed to watch it. The purpose here is to hypnotize the woman
in labor into an imitation of the movements with her own body. This
greatly facilitates the birth and reduces pain from womb contractions.
It helps the mother to move with instead of against the contractions.
Western civilization brought a sick eroticism to the Middle East
along with its technical advances. In The Dancer of Shamahka, Armen
in Cairo one evening I saw, with sick incredulous eyes, one of our
most sacred dances degraded into a bestiality horrible and revolting.
It is our poem of the mystery and pain of motherhood, which all
true Asiatic men watch with reverence and humility, in the faraway
corners of Asia, where the destructive breath of the Occident has
not yet penetrated. In this olden Asia, which has kept the dance
in its primitive purity, it represents maternity, the mysterious
conception of life, the suffering and the joy with which a new soul
is brought into the world.
any man born of woman contemplate this most holy subject, expressed
in an art so pure and so ritualistic as our Eastern dance with less
than profound reverence? Such is our Asiatic veneration of motherhood,
that there are countries and tribes whose most binding oath is sworn
upon the stomach, because it is from this sacred cup that humanity
the spirit of the Occident had touched this holy dance and it became
the horrible danse du ventre, the hoochie-koochie. To
me, a nauseating revelation of unsuspected depths of human bestiality,
to others it was -- amusing. I heard the lean Europeans chuckling.
I saw lascivious smiles upon even the lips of Asiatics, and I fled."
of Bedouin and Berber mothers may have to bear their young not only
without benefit of hospitals and modern antiseptic methods, but
also without the comfort and muscular aid of what is definitely
an ancient folk ritual. This is because even some Arabic people
are now beginning to see sex in what is simply a gymnastic exercise
for a natural function. As a result, the ritual is slowly dying
peoples, among them the Hawaiians and Maoris of New Zealand, have
had their own chidlbirth preparation dances involving pelvic and
abdominal muscles. The Hawaiians used to have a hula called "Ohelo",
that was done in a reclining position, by both sexes, every morning.
As late as 1936, the Maoris still practiced their form if this exercise.
small subsect of the Allaoui Moslems believe that the Messiah will
be born to a man, since woman is unworthy of such a high honor.
Under this supposition, the men in that sect practice Oriental dancing
in preparation for the honor to be awarded them someday, that of
giving birth to their Deliverer.
idea that children must be brought forth in pain is a religious
one, based on the Christian concept of original sin and the penance
to be exacted for it. The Bible states, "In sorrow thou shalt
bring forth children". Nothing is said about undue or excruciating
pain, and yet the thought of agonizing birth pangs is pounded into
our heads from the earliest age of understanding. Thus, childbirth
is approached with bodies & muscles tensed in fear and anticipation.
Instead of relaxing and helping nature along, we put stumbling blocks
in her way.
newest idea in obstetrics today is to prepare pregnant women for
the coming ordeal either through hypnotism or special training classes.
They can now be ultra-modern and still give birth the "natural
childbirth" way. Doctors have recently found that babies born
in this manner come into the world more alert and without the common
hypnotism accomplishes, although temporarily, is the gradual removal
through post-hypnotic suggestion of the whole mental concept of
painful childbirth. The relaxed woman can now concentrate only on
helping nature by moving with the contractions of labor.
self-same thing is accomplished by the circle of dancing Arab tribes
women who hypnotize the woman in labor into imitating their rolling
pelvic motions. Their task is far easier though, since there is
no unfounded and exaggerated fear of childirths pains in primitive
would think of sending a man who has a sedentary job to run in Olympic
races? Why then does Western society expect a woman, who has never
used her pelvic muscles for more than just holding up her garter
belt, to give birth easily, a feat more taxing for the muscles than
any athletic competition?
must be prepared for. Dormant muscles must be built up little by
little, step by step. All it takes is a little work, which certainly
would never harm the mother or the unborn child. Strengthening the
muscles also helps in carrying the child through pregnancy and greatly
reduces stretch marks on the abdomen.
classes, such as Education for Childbirth courses given at one of
the major hospitals in New York City, try to accomplish in a few
short months or weeks what should have been started in childhood:
namely the shaping-up of pelvic muscles used in pregnancy and childbirth
and to regain shape and muscle tone after birth.
first lesson in the Exercise Review Sheet of that hospital says:
"Concentration Exercises -- Object: to learn muscular control
of muscle groups. Particular attention is paid to strong contraction
and absolute relaxation of the rest of the body."
technique of Oriental dancing is one of contractions and releases
while all other muscles not involved in the movemen are relaxed.
2 goes on: "Stand with knees easy, feet parallel and with the
weight of the body well over the arches of your feet. Rock your
pelvis upward, Tighten slowly your buttocks and lower abdominal
muscles. . . Lying on your back, with legs bent, press back firmly
on floor, contracting abdominal muscles at the same time -- release."
is a position assumed in almost every Oriental dance at one point
or another, where the head reaches the floor from a backbend and
the body relaxes untill the spine rests on the floor. The knees
are sharply bent and the feet outside of and close to the thighs.
Slow rhythmic breathing is followed by fast shallow breathing, acceleration
of which increases with contractions, producing a variety of abdominal
of the women, who attended classes of this sort, was the wife of
a prominent lawyer of Turkish background and mother of twins. She
told me that one of the movements her obstetrician stressed was
a rippling movement of the abdomen, the old Arabic "belly roll"
- what we now refer to as the "camel".
was explained that the upper part of the wave, as her doctor termed
the movement, was to be done between the contractions of the womb,
and the lower part of the wave, or bearing down, was to be done
as the womb contracted. This would aid the mother considerably in
expelling the baby with minimal wear and tear on all the internal
organs and muscles involved. Fighting the contractions through fear
and preoccupation with the thought of pain would only tense the
muscles and tear them rather than allow them to stretch gently during
the uterine contractions and relaxations.
rolling movement itself is no childs play to learn, for when
done wrong it only serves to stetch the stomach muscles. The lower
spine, pelvis, diaphragm and abdomen are involved. This is extremely
difficult to describe in writing & must be demonstrated, explained
step by step, felt gradually muscle by muscle.
little muscle must be found and developed in turn, before the whole
can be manipulated to the extent that each split second can be perfectly
controlled. Rather than sharpness and angularity, there must be
a smooth, circular, undulating motion.
the Turkish backround of the woman I mentioned gave her more than
just a laywoman's knowledge of Oriental dancing and therefore a
greater knowledge of and control over her pelvic muscles. Subsequently,
she learned all the exercises with greater speed and facility than
the average female produced by a society that is just discovering
its hips via some of the newer social and Latin dances.
are muscles that have been used by almost every Arabic and Turkish
- speaker (and many others) from childhood on up, in the execution
of some of their indigenous folk dances: vulgarly and wrongly referred
to in Western society as the danse du ventre or, worse yet, belly
as Birth Dance - A Labor of Love by Delilah
title for this article isn't mine; it's the working title for an
unpublished and in-the-works manuscript by Suzanne McNeil. She sent
it to me a few years back in exchange for some video tapes she wanted
to purchase from me. During the late 80's in the Los Angeles area
she had been pioneering classes that involved teaching pregnant
women to use bellydance as a therapeutic aid throughout their pregnancy.
She refers to the body of her work as simply Birthdance.
was a great trade. Inside the blue binder were the lesson plans,
copious notes of her actual class progress, her findings including
the case notes on the actual birthing progress and experience of
some of her students. There was a collection of reference articles
on oriental dance and it's connection to birthing rituals. Most
famous and fascinating was the article entitled "Roots"
by Morroco (firstname.lastname@example.org). There were references from yoga journals,
personal profiles from bellydancers outside of her classes, medical
and midwifery notes, recommended reading lists, excerpts from published
works on sacred dance, myth, rites, symbols and goddesses.
the material focused on how the movements of bellydance can aid
throughout a womens' pregnancy and in the actual birthing process.
By documenting her work and findings, her larger goal involved teaching
teachers to work with Birthdance as a viable practice for expectant
women. In these classes Suzanne worked exclusively with pregnant
women. She would have loved to have worked with professional bellydancers
and documented their birthing progress, but (we are pregnant such
a small percentage of time in our lives) that wasn't in the cards,
and none of the case notes involved professional bellydancers who
knew the movements prior to their pregnancy. The movements used
were basic and carefully initiated, combining relaxation and breathing
techniques, yoga, meditation and the basic hip circle, figure eight,
camel walk, bellyroll, and diaphragm flutter.
did not know Suzanne before this time but she was familiar with
the video I produced called "Dance
to the Great Mother," a video of a dance work I did while
8 months pregnant. Suzanne wanted me to have this manuscript even
though it was unfinished because she felt since I produced this
video, that I would be one archival depository source for her researching
efforts if she did not go on with this labor of love. I've lost
contact with her so I'm not sure what the status of her work is
at the moment. I choose to bring this to light because I think this
very important work she and others are doing in the field needs
to be continued.
I feel I could add to the unfolding picture of this subject is in
the realm of the psychological benefits that I discovered during
the Dance to the Great Mother Project. Professionally performing
while pregnant was the most transforming experience of my life.
It opened me to realizing the range of hurtful and unfair psychological
conditioning we women undergo.
performed Dance to the Great Mother during my second pregnancy.
During my first I danced in clubs until 3 months, retired for a
while, taught a little and basically hid out and waited. I returned
to dancing 6 months after Laura Rose was born. I put dancing on
hold psychologically during that time.
day during the 4th month of my second pregnancy I got a phone call
to do a private party for an organization. Before hearing very much
more I told the women I was on sabbatical due to my pregnancy; she
got very excited and requested that I hear her out. I did, and in
January 1980 I was commissioned by her regional group of family
planners to perform a Birthdance. I went on to perform the dance
work at various workshops across the states, and then as part of
a larger concert piece called "Phases of the Moon, Faces of
the Mother" with Laurel Gray, Kathy Balducci and Tahia Alibec.
experience was profound for me and for many women in the audience.
After the performances they would seek me out with tears in their
eyes and comments such as, "If I had only seen this dance before
or during my pregnancy I would have enjoyed being pregnant instead
I felt fat, ugly, I wanted to lock myself away in a closet I want
my daughters to see something like this so that they will enjoy
that special time in a womens' life..."
knew what they meant. I myself had hid a way to a certain extent
during my first pregnancy. This marked contrast in my activities
taught me something important. I was a darn good dancer, expectant
or not why should I stop if there wasn't a health hazard? Both my
pregnancies were wonderful, but there was a psychological advantage
with the second one. My entire pregnancy with my second daughter
Victoria, was spent masquerading around the country as Isis the
Great Mother, doing what I was meant to do my entire life, celebrate
life and dance! I felt fantastic! I felt like a Goddess!
deep question that arose for me was why had I not felt free to dance
in a professional capacity during my first pregnancy? Not that I
wanted to be in a night club while I was pregnant, but there are
other venues. What was this invisible social pressure upon us as
women to hide away during the most creative and glorious position
of our lives? What damage is being done to a society which hasn't
any images of pregnant women doing anything powerful, creative,
or physical? Couldn't our world benefit from such healthy images
of beauty and strength of Motherhood?
combination with Suzanne's work and others in the field, I thoroughly
encourage women to practice the dance as long as and whenever they
are able. Encourage your fellow dancers to blossom to the fullness
of their expression, to feel proud to display their pregnant countenance
and share the special roots of our dance.
research discoveries according to Suzanne McNeil:
easier for women to learn bellyroll movements when they are pregnant.
This was amazing!
The undulation or camel walk felt uncomfortable during labor for
all the subjects. The motion made it feel like there was pressure
downward on the cervix. After discovering this we did not use it
during labor. It did not effect anyone in class except occasionally
someone in their 8th or 9th month.
The movements most useful during labour were in relation to the
hips and lower back, i.e., the figure 8, the hip circle and the
pelvic thrust (not from bellydance)
All the students wanted to learn these movements in their dance
form because it's more fun. A teacher could teach them separately
as a technique without the bellydance name attached to it if she
was hampered by a conservative community.
The circular movements of the pelvis could be done during labor
standing, leaning on a bed or table an on hands and knees.
Pregnant women learned better when I placed my hand on the area
of the body where the movement needed to be corrected. I would stand
next to them- touching- to have them mimic the undulation. This
seemed to accelerate learning.
Physical balance and energy increased.
Attitude about their body improved.
Indigestion during pregnancy (a common occurrence) was almost always
One woman reported that her baby would kick a lot when she lay down
to go to sleep. She tried using bellyrolls during the night and
it did quiet the kicking.
Note: A version of this article appeared in Habibi Magazine
Habibi Magazine Volume 15 No 1 ; Habibipub@aol.com or (805) 962-9639
Single issue$11 or $32 subscription rate per year
"Earth Dance", Daniella Gioseffi.
"Sacred Dance: A Study of Comparative Folklore," W.O.E.
Oesterly, DD, Cambridge Press.
"Serpent and the Wave," Jalaja Bonheim, Celestial Arts
"Myths, Rites, Symbol: A Mircea Eliade Reader," Harper
& Row 1975.
"The Great Mother," Erich Newmann translated by Ralph
Manhiem, Princeton University Press.
"Spiritual Midwifery," Ina May Gaskin, The Book Publishing
"The Cultural Warping of Childbirth," in Environmental
Child Health, Vol. 19, June 1973.
"Callanetics: For the Pelvis," Callan Pinckney, Avon Books
"Good Birth Guide," S. Kitzinger, Fontana 1979.
"The Indian Mother Goddess," Nerendra Nath Bhallachayya,
"The Triple Goddess," Adam Mcleans.
the Great Mothers - A Pharaonic Style Belly Dancing by Delilah
propose that the original Bellydancer was the great Goddess Gaia
herself. Her body rolled and undulated the topography with which
she would rock and cradle all the new life forms and prepare the
way for the coming of humankind. Her watery, sun-lit womb was alive
with the glistening of seeds, and fish, and fowl. A vital whirling
dance began to the heartbeat of the pounding rains and drumming
surf. A dance for the celebration of life!
came the potential in every woman who heard the stories of creation
moving through her own body, since our time began. With each birth
her belly's dance gave honor to the sacred with gratitude and the
spirit behind the miracle of creativity!
that came the midwives who studied the wisdom of the earthdance,
who learned the ways of herbs, rhythms and drum, who guide the birthing
Mothers through the thresholds of transition with their own sympathetic
ancient Egyptian birthing dance of wisdom.
I get phone calls and email every month from women wanting to know
more about the connection between birth and bellydance. "Where
can I find more information?" they ask. Sometimes the women
have just discovered they are with child. Sometimes a teacher has
an expectant student in her classroom. Sometimes it's an expectant
Father or Mother in law who wants to give the gift of Dance
to the Great Mother (a performance video) to a loved one who
is pregnant for positive inspiration.
are some of the basic physical benefits as I see them:
mind/body connection as developed in the art of bellydance is very
much in tune with Hatha Yoga principles. The energetics involved
in focus and concentration bring the dancer into full body awareness.
This is important in feeling a greater sense of control physically,
emotionally and mentally in one's everyday life experience. It is
also an important factor in birthing whether it's a baby or an idea!
All healing processes are strengthened. Concentration in the pelvic
and lower abdominal areas send additional blood flow to female organs
allowing more oxygenation to take place and thus enhancing proper
growth and healthy functioning of the body. Physical competence
leads to emotional well-being.
veil dance, characteristic of bellydance, involves large extended
arm movements which when combined with the fast paced-aspects of
the dance provides an aerobic work-out strengthening the heart and
in a local bellydance class or association can contribute greatly
to a woman's self-esteem and sense of community with other women.
It is a dance which has been enjoyed by women for centuries that
celebrates life and the stories of our lives remembered and expressed
wordlessly through our bodies.
I could tell you what I mean, I wouldn't need to dance" -Isadora
idea that bellydance was used as prenatal conditioning for women
in ancient times is not a new one; I've heard it since the day my
bellydance career began twenty five years ago. Anyone familiar with
the true art would come to this conclusion intuitively. However
there isn't a definitive body of information out there yet. The
connection has a ways to go yet. Information is not obvious and
out front to the greater public. Susanne McNeil did some important
research in the 80's on "Birthdance" as she called it.
Currently (to my knowledge) the person doing the most with researching,
documenting, and pursuing the reclamation of this bellydance/birth
connection is Gaby Oeftering from Freiberg, Germany. Her work has
culminated in a quality video release a few years ago in Germany
and recently has been re-mixed in English for American audiences.
It's entitled Belly
Dance During Pregnancy. It is a must-have, and not just for
bellydancers. It is an excellent resource for three important interest
Bellydancers, and most importantly Instructors
* Midwives, doctors and childbirth educators
* Pregnant women or mothers-to-be
are basically 8 parts to the video. It is a mix of lovely performances
by Sabine and Havva during their pregnancies. There are lectures
by Gaby and Dr Liseiotte Kuntner, doctor of ethnic Medicine on the
research, regarding the birth dance connection, through art and
manuscript they chart the herstory, as prenatal child birth preparation.
Irmtraud Scnieder, a physiotherapist, discusses tools and therapies
currently being employed in child birth education classes for women.
They talk about safe practices, and give us inspirational words.
The rest of the video is an actual real time bellydance class with
Gaby. It's great for all women pregnant or not!
The reconnection of midwifery and bellydance is an emerging field
of study right now. Here is a list of articles and resources in
regards to Bellydance/Birthdance.
following articles appeared as a theme collection in the Winter
1996, Volume 15, No. 1 of Habibi Magazine: A Journal for Lovers
of Middle Eastern Dance & Arts, published by Habibi Publications,
P.O. Box 90936, Santa Barbara, CA 93190-0936: ph. # (805) 962-9639:
Dance by Elizabeth Clark: A true story of a troupe of bellydancers
who performed their dance all through the birthing process as a
therapeutic aid to the birthing mother.
Labor of Love by Delilah Flynn: This article briefly describes
how Delilah, a professional bellydancer, continues to dance professionally
throughout her pregnancy, and in so doing opens women's eyes as
well as her own eyes, to the sad fact that our society has few powerful
and radiant images of pregnant women doing anything representative
of themselves. To capture the image, a video tape was released of
the herstoric performance, "Dance To The Great Mother",
which has become, in certain capacities, a focal point for midwives,
birth educators, dancers and pregnant women to network through.The
article focuses on one such connection, describing the findings
of Susanne McNeil, a yoga and dance instructor who taught a curriculum
called Birthdance. McNeil taught Birthdance to pregnant women who
had not previously known bellydance. She researched individual case
studies through to birthing, and documented the findings.
Expectant Dancer by Jawahare: A professional bellydancer's profile
of her experience throughout her pregnancy.
to Light: Dancing the Baby into the World by Morocco AKA Carolina
Varga Dinicu: This article sums up countless articles she's published
on the subject of bellydance and childbirth since the early 60's.
In 1967, Morocco witnessed a birth ritual in a small village in
Morocco where the women all did a softly undulating dance circled
around a birthing woman who delivered twins in a hollow in the earth.
Honoring the Belly by Lisa Sarasohn:Yoga Journal July/ August
1993; A look at how the western world views our belly compared to
Yoga and Hara Training . Many detailed belly centered exercises
are explained with photos.
Bellydance Workshops Volumes I, II, III: Complete home instruction
in the art of bellydance; techniques, conditioning, performance,
and philosophy. Available From Visionary Dance Productions.
to the Great Mother: features an inspirational Ancient Egyptian
style bellydance performance by Delilah in her third trimester of
pregnancy. An account of the artist's experience follows relaying
the obstacles and revelations she personally encountered that shine
light on many realizations for women of today. Beautiful, powerful,
and creative, this video provides a sacred and positive image of
a pregnant women in her power. This image is rare in our society
at present. This video is a wonderful tool for image empowerment
for expectant mothers. Available from Visionary Dance Productions.
Dancing During Pregnancy: A video with Gaby Oeftering, a leading
dancer and birth educator in Germany. She has produced an outstanding
video on bellydance in connection with birth education. It is available
in German with a recent translation into English. She has studied
with one of the leading authorities of "ethno medicine"
(drawing healing techniques from tribal cultures) in Switzerland.
Ms. Oeftering has pursued one of the most thorough studies so far
and teaches courses to pregnant women, dance teachers and midwives
in Germany. She does give extended workshops to dancers and Birth/Life
educators in the states from time to time. You may call or fax Gaby
Oeftering directly in Germany for more information 49-7665-40782.
The video is available from Visionary Dance Productions: (206) 632-2353;
P.O. Box 30797, Seattle, WA 98103; email: email@example.com;
Benefits of Belly Dance As a Prenatal Exercise
- By Sheri Waldrop, RN, BSN
exercise is becoming increasingly advertised for its benefits during
pregnancy and childbirth. Some studies show that a woman who exercises
regularly can enjoy a shorter labor. But what about belly dance
(also known as Raks Sharqi or Middle Eastern Dance)? If you are
a dancer and are pregnant, or considering becoming pregnant, how
could it affect you?
asked four women whom we believe are highly qualified to discuss
this topic. All four are dancers in the United States. One is an
experienced OB nurse, YaShara (Cleveland, OH), one a medical doctor
in her third year as an OB/GYN resident, Keisha Loftin (Tampa, FL).
Two of the women we interviewed danced throughout their pregnancies,
TerriAnne (Healdsburg, CA) who is a doula, or labor companion, and
Kameal (Corvallis, OR) who is a professional dancer and dance teacher.
All four share their perspectives on belly dance and health, and
its effects on the pregnant woman
Benefits of Belly Dance During Pregnancy
emphasizing the need for pregnant women to check with their doctors
before dancing, all four women shared that belly dance has especially
beneficial effects during pregnancy. This includes strengthening
muscles that normally could be weak, and those that help with childbirth.
"The snaky smooth aspects of the dance help the body practice
the natural motions associated with childbirth", YaShara states.
"Although it seems the abdomen is the main focus, the birth
canal and pelvic floor get a workout as well. All of these areas
combined support the birthing process."
isn't only the pregnant mother who benefits, she adds. "The
baby benefits from the rocking of the pelvis and the soothing tones
of the music. Studies have shown that the fetus can hear while still
of the beneficial benefits of belly dance include benefits for the
back and center of balance, notes Loftin: "During pregnancy,
a woman's center of gravity is shifted and the lordotic curve of
the lumbar spine is accentuated - causing a significant amount of
tension and strain on the lower back. The basic starting position
in belly dance - knees slightly bent, shoulders back, hips tucked
under - teaches us and trains us to be aware of our body position.
This helps to prevent excessive swaying of the back, and it also
helps with maintaining our balance and center of gravity."
has been well shown in research studies that women who exercise
regularly have shorter, less painful labors," Loftin adds.
And dance can help with toning up and feeling better postnatally:
"Using those 'hip and pelvic' movements as a form of exercise
can help to return these muscles to pre-pregnancy levels of strength
and tone in the postnatal period. It will also improve energy levels,
increase mood, and increase self- esteem - things that are known
to at times to be decreased in that time period."
dance is also an excellent form of low-impact exercise that can
help a pregnant mother maintain her cardiovascular and muscle strength.
Loftin shares that the alternating contraction and relaxation of
muscles while dancing is especially good as a preparation for childbirth.
"Practicing or using the basic hip, chest, and especially abdominal
movements can be helpful to decrease muscle tension, anxiety, and
pain during labor. The principles of contracting one set of muscles
while keeping others is used in the dance, and can be used during
the delivery process as well."
shares from her perspective as a professional dancer who danced
while pregnant: "I believe that belly dance has a beneficial
effect during pregnancy for most women. However, it depends on the
pregnancy. A woman experiencing a difficult pregnancy, physically,
is not going to have the same experience as the woman who is gliding
through with ease. My advice is, that if you are belly dancing,
and can continue to dance through your pregnancy, do it."
believes that belly dance can increase body awareness for pregnant
women: "By becoming aware of our basic life force, rhythm,
we help strengthen ourselves for our body's most powerful, natural
function - giving birth. I believe we can use all the help we can
get, and if a woman enters pregnancy and labor with the strength
of body and mind, she will do, and be, all the better for it."
Muscles that Belly Dance Helps
dancing can be especially good for muscles that are used during
labor and delivery, and of particular benefit for the pregnant woman.
Loftin lists some of the muscles that are specifically strengthened
during Middle Eastern dance, which can benefit the pregnant woman:
muscles of the abdominal wall (rectus abdominus, obliques): these
are used in performing chest circles, undulations, belly flutters
and rolls, and are the same muscles that come into play when the
woman is pushing during delivery.
gluteal muscles (the bottom): These are used when doing hip lifts,
drops, and locks.
quadriceps (the thighs): these are used to support the body during
dance, and with traveling movements.
floor muscles: these are indirectly exercised when doing pelvic
rolls and tucks. These muscles are directly involved in the birthing
also mentions specific muscle groups that are strengthened by belly
abdominus muscles (long front belly muscles) used in combination
with the pyramidalis (just above the pubic bone);
(wrap around from the back to the waist in front) are also strengthened;
muscles: are strengthened when performing pelvic omi circles slowly,
with tightening of the vaginal muscles. This can help with pushing
during labor, and strengthens the support for the base of the bladder
and the uterus;"
to YaShara, strong leg and calf muscles can prevent other complications
as well. "The large muscle groups of the legs, in combination
with the calf muscles, are used for power when dancing. Keeping
these strong and healthy can help prevent blood clots by preventing
venous stasis (pooling of blood) in the lower legs."
general consensus is that once you have your doctor's okay (and
there are no complications or contraindications), keep on dancing,
even while pregnant, and enjoy the muscle strengthening and befits
that belly dance can bring. By exercising simple precautions that
have been shared here, there is no reason to stop dancing-and in
fact, there are many reasons to continue. Take Kameal's word for
it: "With my second birth, I danced right up until labor. I
used the muscles that I used in undulations to help push my babies
out. It was a bonus. After having my first child before I learned
to belly dance, I could definitely notice the difference with my
be careful, follow your doctor's advice, and keep enjoying this
healthful and beneficial exercise!
More articles like this one:
Belly Dance Journal Vol. 19, #1, July 2002
Precautions for Dancing when Pregnant
Belly Dance Journal Vol. 19, #2, July 2002
In Class and Pregnant! Teaching the Expectant Dancer
Belly Dance Journal Vol. 20, #1, August 2002
What are readers saying about dance during pregnancy?