My friend Esperanzita sent me this article from Pregnancy Today several months ago, explaining some of the benefits and history of prenatal belly dance.
I started belly dancing about one year before I conceived Nux Gallica. I have not been able to find a teacher or class I feel comfortable with in my city, but I learned some moves from instructional DVDs, free lessons on YouTube, and free lessons (from various teachers--a great resource) on www.bellydanceboulevard.com. Because I have not taken any formal lessons, my dancing is not what I would consider "show quality." If I ever wanted to give performances, I feel I would need to spend a considerable amount of time with an experienced teacher. But just practicing along to videos, sometimes in the company of other amateur belly dancing friends, has been an effective and fun workout routine. The practice certainly increased strength in my core--back and abdomen--and toned and stretched muscles and ligaments from my shoulders to my hips. I found my posture and energy levels improved, and my occasional back pain from scoliosis all but disappeared. I felt more than ready, physically, to enter into my first pregnancy.
After conception, I did some research to learn which movements are not recommended for pregnant women. My body felt different right away; even before I missed my first period, I noticed that my lower abdomen felt firm and a little distended, with a sensation like fizzing bubbles deep inside, and I could no longer execute the deep belly rolls that I had been perfecting. (And I was days away from filming my new trick, too!) I believe that the practice of dancing made me much more in tune with my body than I had been before.
I bought a prenatal belly dance DVD and gave up shimmies, deep belly rolls, back bends, and other techniques which were either not recommended for a pregnant woman at all or designed to stimulate labor. My energy level and range of motion decreased as my torso ballooned and my ligaments and muscles stretched around my new shape. It was frustrating at first, but I quickly found that nothing made my pregnant body feel as good as a weekly routine of gentle prenatal yoga and belly dance.
I have had to decrease my workout time dramatically so I don't get overtired. I went from practicing several hours each weekend to doing only one half-hour session of belly dance per week. Meanwhile, my belly kept growing, stretching my abdominals and shifting my balance a little more day by day, so that the same dance routine felt different every time. Yesterday, at 37 weeks of pregnancy, I recorded this dance to the song Inanna by The Tea Party. It's not performance quality, and there are no fancy tricks, but this is a sort of prayer to the Goddess to help me through labor and delivery. And for just plain silliness, I play some pretend zills at the end!
If you can't view this video, sorry! We are experiencing fluctuations in Facebook privacy practices.
But you can watch my one-year postpartum dance here.
Baby Bump in Bedlah!
It's interesting to look back at when I first started dancing. The video below was filmed the summer after I started practicing, after I had learned pretty good muscle control but still didn't know any exciting steps or shimmies. Sorry it's sideways... Mr. G and I aren't the greatest videographers! The song is Habibi Ya Hour el Ein, which is pretty much the best belly dance song EVER. Esperanzita is currently learning a choreography for this song from an excellent teacher in Mexico, and she has promised to teach it to me when she comes to visit in July. That will be even better!
Bear with me here... There is a long intro before the song gets going, and then the song is super long. You can skip forward a few times and get the idea. I don't know what I'm doing in this recording, but I hope you can see how fun it is anyway. And that my stomach looks effin' FAB. I'll own that. And I'll shamelessly show it off, as it is possible that my stomach will never look quite like that again once Nux Gallica is done with me.
Later this January, if Nux Gallica is delayed in making her appearance, I may try some more upbeat dancing with shimmies to help stimulate labor. And this summer, when Tia Esperanza comes to visit, I look forward to learning more from a semi-pro and getting back into practice postpartum.