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Bellydance and Pregnancy

Do you know the real origins of bellydance ?

Bellydance, legacy of a very ancient female dance, dates back to the Neolithic Era, time in which patriarchy hadn't yet established its male god and there was a feminine and maternal goddess. The origins of bellydance are still uncertain, but it seems that it caught on mainly in India and then the gypsies spread it in Persia and Egypt and safeguarded it from the following repressions. At the beginning bellydance was a sacred kind of dance connected to the worship of Mother Earth practiced by the ancient peoples of Mesopotamia.
However, the archaeological findings found in wider geographical areas show that bellydance belongs to the whole feminine universe and, as such, it is its archetypal expression (thus, the expression "bellydance" seems restrictive for geographical and physical reasons: it generally indicates the Middle Eastern dance, while, as it has already been said above, evidence of its existence has been found in wider areas. Moreover, when dancing, the whole body is involved and not only the belly. However, the belly moves impressed the European travellers of the end of the 17th century who were introduced to this sensual dance for the first time).

Besides being a propitiatory ritual to assure fertility and to ask gods for a rich harvest, it was also used to prepare women to childbirth because it made their abdomen and hips stronger and more agile. It is a dance performed by women and for women, a way of telling their experiences, of expressing the power of female sexiness thus opening a communicative channel with the sacred dimension.
Bellydance tells of their body, of the union with men and with gods, of the sexual pleasure and of childbirth, of pain, of anger, of the various human feelings. Some moves are symbolically common to archaic female dances and are symbolically very evocative. Thus, it can be considered a kind of archaic cure, a primitive feminine therapy which involves different dimensions: physical, psychological and spiritual.
More and more workers in this field suggest bellydance also to pregnant women. Its success is due to the fact that this dance speaks to the heart of women.
Once she has learnt the correct positions of the body and the more useful exercises, the pregnant woman can move freely, finding its spontaneity, joy and freedom of expression. These elements probably characterised the dance in its first manifestations. In fact, the word "dance" comes from the Sanskrit word tanha and it means "joy to live."

Bellydance as a pre-childbirth exercise

Bellydance is the most ancient preparation to childbirth both for its origins and for its main moves. The attention to isolating muscles, for instance, which is a peculiarity of this dance, allows to detect one part of the body and to work only with that part, while not moving the others. This exercise can be very useful for the expectant mother: concentrating on particularly important muscle fasciae allows her to deepen the awareness of her body, enhancing the relationship with the intrauterine baby that can thus be perceived with more sensitiveness. Moreover, the relaxing phases taking place before and after a bellydance lesson can contribute to prepare the woman to listening and conversing with her baby. These first communication moments lay the bases for the development of a good maternal reverie. Many gynaecologists and psychologists practicing this dance could personally experiment and confirm the therapeutical importance, in many aspects, for the expectant mother, who can count on a better physical flexibility thanks to the hormonal transformations taking place during pregnancy.
For example, some exercises are particularly indicated for the rehabilitation of the perineum, which is important to deal with urinary disorders such as incontinence during and after pregnancy. Moreover: some slow moves, such as the circular ones involving the pelvis like the "eights" and the "waves," the fluid and sinuous ones of the "camel" and the "snake," are a great training to tone up the abdomen and to maintain the dorsal muscles flexible. Both of them are involved in holding up the baby before and after delivery.
The exercises relating to the pelvic floor or "diaphragm" are good for women's health and its allies are precious for the expulsive stage of labour because they ease the birth of the baby.

Benefits of dancing during pregnancy

During some childbirth education classes in which bellydance is used for psychocorporal exercises, it is possible to experiment the intimacy of the emotional dialogue generating from the chorality of dance, the feeling of sharing with others, to sink into the evocative magic of music, to recognise the sacrality of this experience.
All this happens while every mother creates a unique and special alchemical dance with her baby. Both mother and child are choreographers, and they move their first steps of building their relationship.
The beneficial effects are different: the psychophysical tension loosens, the oxygenation is favoured thanks to a rhythmic breathing, the production of endorphins increases, the tone of humour gets better. The image of oneself enhances and smoothens, while the complex experience of motherhood is integrated in the woman's identity and she can open to the various hormonal, physical, relationship-wise changes.
Exercises for the upper part of the body, for the muscles of neck, shoulders and arms will help the mother to hold her child easily during breast feeding and to maintain the breast toned. Moreover, certain moves of the dance that involve the breast favour breast feeding because they relax that area.

Benefits of bellydance as postnatal exercise

Bellydance can be good during the postnatal phase: thanks to it, women can easily regain their physical shape through a good variety of moves and using vibrations together with slow moves.
Deeply experiencing it as a kind of meditation on the move, bellydance can become an experience of research and cure of your own femininity, assistance during the different phases of life, a time to cheer, a space where to nurture your ever-changing soul!
The course can be followed from the 4th month of pregnancy, if it goes on regularly and without any complication. However, it is better to consult your doctor and to receive a medical certificate.
It is not necessary to have studied some kind of dance before.

All the basic moves you will learn are done respecting the female anatomy. Together with breathing, pregnant women will be taught to move and control their pelvis, setting the most important joints free. This form of exercise through dance, with its peculiarity of controlling muscles, not only facilitates the natural childbirth, but it is also a good postnatal exercise that helps easily regain the tone of the abdomen and of the pelvic floor.
Lessons are divided into an initial phase of relaxation and breathing, a central phase focused on the learning of the dance and its moves, and a final phase of relaxation.

In ancient times, a woman in labour was put in the centre of a circle of women who made rotatory movements with their pelvis, clapping and using their voice, in order to spur the woman to imitate them. Doing so, they accompanied her during labour and delivery (it seems that this ritual is still practiced today by some Arab peoples). What is interesting is that the circle, as an expression of the feminine principle, is represented by the fullness of the pregnant belly and by the circular movement. In Hebrew, cholelthi means "moving in circle" and also "labour," and the word chola means "dancing in a circle" and also "giving birth." These double meanings show the strong relationship between bellydance and birth ritual.
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