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Did you know that belly dance originated as a sacred ritual to assist women during labor and childbirth? The rhythmical and repetitive abdomino-pelvic movements naturally mimic and support the birth process, while simultaneously reducing pain, releasing muscle tension, and increasing the mobility of the pelvic joints to assist baby to “slide” down the birth canal. Women feel a heightened sense of joy in their bodies from moving their hips and pelvis in circles and figure eights. The dance is also a form of creatively expressing one’s Divine “Feminine” Power and practicing mindfulness (non-judgmental awareness in the present moment). Done at a higher rate and frequency, the movements become a form of cardiovascular exercise which assist in activating healthy recruitment patterns of the deep abdomino-pelvic floor muscles which tend to weaken and over stretch during pregnancy. The hypnotic nature of the dance assists women with cultivating a deeper mind-body state of self-awareness and inner peace, which is ideal for birthing and new motherhood. Women learn to consciously surrender to the moment through the practice of belly dance.
Though the health benefits of prenatal exercise have been well documented, belly dance for birth only until recently has been receiving more and more attention. Belly Dance For Birth is the first book of it’s kind, which was written by doula and belly dance teacher Maha Al Musa. The book demonstrates in great detail the different “dances of the womb” that are recommended during pregnancy, labor, and childbirth. Belly Dance is a natural form of spiritual fitness and cardiovascular exercise which also trains the specific muscles used during labor and childbirth and that weaken or tighten during pregnancy and postpartum. The abdominal movements mirror the movements the uterus uses during labor contractions and the expulsion phases of birth. Michelle Alva, Pre/Postnatal and Pediatric Physical Therapist, Yoga Therapist, and Belly Dance Teacher has created Nurturing Moves, a wellness, birthing, and healing approach that blends traditional with complementary and alternative medicine approaches. The combination of belly dance and yoga based movement practices with evidence-based scientific movement principles, mindfulness meditation, and massage make for a fun, educational, effective, empowering, and safe approach. Michelle educates women on how to isolate and coordinate specific respiratory and core muscles to prevent injury and promote optimal wellness for both mother and baby. Women dance with veils and hip scarves in a celebratory and nurturing atmosphere. Belly dance combines isolated movements of the rib cage, pelvis, and head/neck with arm movements which makes for a great brain-body exercise. Nurturing Moves Classes teach women on an experiential level how to assist the uterus in “sliding” baby out of their bodies. The practice of consciously surrendering to the moment and birth process is encouraged and to avoid injury during childbirth by adopting safest positions such as side lying for birth, or birthing in an upright position. Contraindications for belly dance during pregnancy: Avoid rapid and ballistic movements, jumping, sudden hip drops and lifts. It is highly recommended to practice belly dance under the direction of a trained pre/postnatal professional as some movements may lead to injury or overuse.
Recommended belly dance movements: Hip and Pelvic Circles, Hip Figure Eights, and Shimmies. Rotate clockwise for a minimum of 10 to 20 times, then counterclockwise. Close your eyes to focus inward and allow the diaphragm to induce a calm mental state. Shimmies: Gentle, vibratory hip movements done at a rapid rate assist in softening and opening the pelvic floor and inner thighs. Women who have experienced the dance report perceiving their bodies as lighter and learn to move with ease rather than holding their breath and hardening/contracting the body to resist pain. Michelle reports that her student’s have reported birth experiences with “unusually shortened labors” and an increased ability to labor without the need of pain, an increased sense of calmness and self-confidence in their birth experience which may be attributed to the use of belly dance based movements during labor and the Nurturing Moves approach.
Regardless of a woman’s birth preference, belly dance is fun, a great cardiovascular form of fitness, and a wonderful way to feel beautiful and feminine. The movements support a healthy birth experience, reduce back pain, reduce muscle tension, and tone core muscles, while also lifting one’s mood and exercising the brain.
For More Information On Belly Dance For Pregnancy, Birth, and Postpartum Recovery contact Michelle Alva at
or 305-206-2229. Visit her at www.michellealva.com or www.birthdanceyoga.blogspot.com.