"It is the darkness that is the light, and the stillness that is the dancing"
Belly dancing exercise
All belly dancing exercise should start with correct body warm up and that is the focus of this page.
The following guideline is taken from my experience and training. If you are aware of any injury you have or other health problem please consult a physiotherapist or chiropractor or other such professional for appropriate warm up techniques that will work best for your body. As belly dancing exercise involves a variety of movement its best also to find out which should be avoided due to any physical condition.
Start by standing in basic dance posture, your knees are soft and slightly bent with your feet parallel and hip distance apart, your pelvis is tucked gently under you, straightening the spine and lifting off your hips, feel space between the vertebrae.
Your shoulders are relaxed, not scrunched up to your ears and your neck is lifted off your shoulders.
Your chest is open and lifted gently.
Rub your palms together and place them over your central energy point - your lower belly.
Standing in this posture close your eyes and breathe deeply down into your centre point, allowing your breath to bring your awareness into your body, follow your breath and release your thoughts and any tension you sense in your body on the out breath.
A good visualisation to centre yourself is to go inside your womb and see your breath expanding and contracting this space.
Become aware of the alignment from your crown to your perineum.
When you feel centred lift your arms to the sky and stretch off your hips, exhale and come back to basic posture.
There are many ways to warm up for belly dancing exercise so combine the suggestions outlined below into a form that flows for you, or use your own techniques.
Yoga is a very good combination if you want to practice something else along with the dance and certain postures, used dynamically or static are a good warm up. You may find that you need to engage in other practices such as yoga or pilates in order to help with your posture, strength and suppleness.
The following are body part specific warm up excerises...
Belly dancing exercise 1 - Warming the neck
Take your right ear to your right shoulder, keeping the shoulders down and relaxed. Extend the left arm away from your side at 35/45 degrees.
Relax the arm to your side and roll your head across your chest so that your left ear now lies on your left shoulder and extend your right arm away from your body.
Returning to centre, turn your head and look down at your right foot, gently apply pressure with your hand to the back of your head to increase the stretch.
Now repeat on the left.
Then roll your head cross your chest a few times, return to centre and look up.
Belly dancing exercise 2 - The spine, back and shoulders
From basic stance, your knees bent, slowly, slowly, start rolling down to the floor, curling the spine starting from your coccyx, vertebrae by vertebrae curl your spine, lastly letting your head and shoulders hang your hands should be at or just below knee level.
Hang here for a while and when you feel ready increase the bend in your knees and slowly, slowly role up starting from the base of your spine again, lastly bringing your head up and relaxing your shoulders back.
Taking your hands, clasp them together, tuck your pelvis under you and push away from you with your hands, keeping your head between your arms, you should be looking at the floor, stretching out the upper back between the shoulder blades.
When you feel ready, release the clasp, let your arms hang, bend your knees more and slowly role up, back into basic posture.
Bend your knees and place your hands on them. From here, contract your abdominal muscles to bring your back into a curl, your chin rolls into your chest, hold for a moment and then release, uncurling your spine and arch your back, your hands are still on your knees, extending your abdomen and looking up.
Repeat this curling and arching sequence, working with your breath, inhale as you arch, exhale as you curl and tuck.
Then staying in the same position, hands resting on knees, supporting your upper body, move into a hip circles, contracting your abdominal muscles to bring your pelvis in, your back curls, and then releasing your hip to the right and back, relaxing the abdominal muscles, start contracting the oblique (abdominal side) muscles on the left, then the central abdominal muscles to bring the pelvis in and curl through and out to the right again.
Just think of doing hip circles with your hands holding your bent knees, and you are engaging your tummy muscles to bring the pelvis round in front and releasing the muscle tension when you take the pelvis out to the back.
Repeat this motion in both directions.
When releasing from this posture, bend the knees and slowly uncurl the spine to upright position.
Belly dancing exercise 3 - The trapezius muscle and shoulders
Engage shoulder rolls, bringing your shoulders up to your ears, pushing them back and down, bringing them forward and up to the ears again, in a circular motion.
Repeat this motion in both directions.
Belly dancing exercise 4 - The sides of the torso, oblique muscles
Lift your right arm to the ceiling, stretching up as far as you can go, drop the right hip as you bend the right knee, keeping your fingertips as high as can be, extending the stretch, lengthening your side.
Repeat on the left.
Belly dancing exercise 5 - The Legs
From basic stance, place one foot behind you, bend the front knee and push your weight into the front bend. Your feet should both be facing forward and the distance between the front and back foot depends on when you feel a good stretch in the back of your lower leg.
From here role on to the ball of the back foot, hold for a moment and then role the foot flat to the floor again. Repeat this a couple of times.
To come out of this posture put all your weight into the front foot and bring your leg from behind to meet the one in front.
Repeat on other leg.
From basic stance, focus on a point in front of you, raise your right arm so that you form a 90 degree angle to your torso and catch the left foot with the left hand and hold it to your buttock. Now tuck your pelvis under to increase the stretch.
When you are ready, release the foot, then the arm and repeat on the other side.
To balance in this posture be aware of and take your breath down into your centre, to your womb, or pelvic region.
Belly dancing exercise 6 - The hips
Sitting on the floor, bend one leg back so that your legs form half a swastika, creating right angles at your joints: your knees and between your hips.
Gently rocking on one bum cheek whilst you lift and lower the other, then sit into the posture, getting both bum bones to the floor, hold this posture and breathe deeply and rhythmically.
Then bring the leg that is bent to your back to the front and cross it over the leg in front so that your ankle rests on the opposite knee, or bring your knees to rest on each other.
Inhale stretching up with your torso and on the exhale bend from below the belly button and lie forward over your legs, breathing rhythmically and deeply, hold this posture until you feel a deepening in the stretch and then gently come out of it.
Belly dancing exercise 7 - The ankles
With your weight on one foot, rotate the ankle by rolling the foot on the floor from ball to heel, repeat on the other.
Belly dancing exercise 8 - The wrists and hands
Curl your wrists in a circular motion in both directions. Then stretch out your palm, extending the stretch into your fingers, then, curl your fingers into your palm, one by one ending in a fist. Now bend your wrists up towards you to feel the stretch down the back of the hand and wrist
A note on the Shimmy as a belly dancing exercise...
Either small or big, the shimmy is a fast vibrating of the body. Its generated by the knees and provides a great cardiovascular work out when done for long periods of time. This is especially so when done along with fast travel movements involving hip lifts, twists and drops.
Like any movement it can be done slowly, for a relaxing effect, or fast for a fat burning and cardiovascular work out, whilst strengthening and toning the body you are also building up stamina. Its hard to beat the shimmy!
For more on fitness and exercise see Personal Training With A Twist