I’ve always hated working out, but I love to dance, so dancing has been my go-to for cardio and toning. I remember being about 16-years-old when I saw my first belly dance show. I was totally mezmerized, and found it to be not only a beautiful show of the female body but a great way to workout.
I later started taking belly dance classes here and there, especially focusing on it in during college. With my dormitory, I had membership to a seriously expensive gym—one of those crazy ones with heated towels—including all of its classes. I bellydanced for three days per week, and definitely noticed a change in my body. Something I also noticed was that belly dance classes emphasized and used the female form, unlike ballet, which, to me, seemed to work against my body (I was perpetually told that I had to push my butt in—not possible.) Belly dancers and belly dance class members were all shapes and sizes, and everyone was encouraged to shake, shimmy and move every body part. In my experience at belly dance classes since, this has been the case.
If you can find a belly dance class in your area, do it. It’s completely worth it, not only because the music is awesome, but the classes are super fun. You don’t need spectacular rhythem or ability—but you will use pretty much every part of your body, burn calories and tap into your sexuality (at first you’re going to feel a little silly, but then you’ll feel like you’re in a Shakira video.) The classes also really push focus on posture, so slumping isn’t allowed. This, I found, seriously helped my back problems (I’m a writer, so hunching creepily over my computer is my default position).
Belly dance is basically a grouping of repetitive, gentle movements that utilize what feels natural: hip drops and hip raises and circle eights. As women, rolling the hips gracefully feels natural. Try keeping your arms out, your abs tight, you back straight and head up while you’re doing these movements and you’ll see—you’ll feel like you’re really isolating certain muscle groups while feeling kinda sexy.
I witnessed a noticeable change to my arms after doing snake-arms and arm circles week after week. And because keeping your arms up during most belly dance moves is pretty basic, you get to really see the benefits at the beginning.
If you don’t have a belly dance class near you or don’t want to pay big bucks for a local belly dance class (they can be a little ridiculous), YouTube is pretty key. You can watch pretty much any kind of video and do it all alone, in your apartment, before showing the world your sexy jiggle and roll. I try to take a few belly dance courses per month, but I’ve also used videos for a long time. Now that I know which moves work, I can usually put on some music and go for it on my own. The key to belly dance is to be really aware of what each body part is doing, keeping everything tight and fluid at once.
I can’t lie: it’s pretty magical stuff, and everyone always seems to be so mystified when you tell them you’re “a belly dancer.”