The smooth undulating movements of Bellydancebirth® aid a woman’s ability to deal with her labour in an opening rather than restrictive fashion. The soothing rocking motions of the circular and figure eight movements set the scene for a birthing woman to flow with the natural rhythms of her labouring body and become connected to Nature and the Universe.
Emotionally the birth dance opens up a well of feelings that cannot be easily locked away in pregnancy. A woman’s birthing heart centre resides within the pelvis and hip area. This region is often fraught with locked up painful, sexual memory. Many women find that they are very tight and rigid here and when they begin to bellydance they may find it difficult to loosen up the area or even to make connection with this part of their body. It is as though the dance beckons a woman to stand in the light of her truth and feel her conscious presence within her birthing body. It is a wonderfully relevant birth preparation because of this dual acceptance of emotion and physicality.
‘Arab women, Tahitians and Maoris knew instinctively that they would help themselves if they kept moving through childbirth..they swayed their bodies and swung their hips and pelvis in large circular rotations’ – Wendy Buonaventura2
Belly dancing can be especially good for muscles that are used during labor and delivery, and of particular benefit for the pregnant woman. Some of the muscles that are specifically strengthened during Middle Eastern dance, which can benefit the pregnant woman:
- The muscles of the abdominal wall (rectus abdominus, obliques): These muscles are used in performing chest circles, undulations, belly flutters and rolls, and are the same muscles that come into play when the woman is pushing during delivery.
- The gluteal muscles (the bottom): These are used when doing hip lifts, drops, and locks.
- The quadriceps (the thighs): these are used to support the body during dance, and with traveling movements.
- Pelvic floor muscles: These are indirectly exercised when doing pelvic rolls and tucks. These muscles are directly involved in the birthing process.
Other muscle groups that are strengthened by belly dance:
Rectus abdominus muscles (long front belly muscles) used in combination with the pyramidalis (just above the pubic bone).
Obliques/transversalis (muscles that wrap around from the back to the waist in front) are also strengthened.
Vaginal muscles: strengthened when performing pelvic omi circles slowly, with tightening of the vaginal muscles. This exercise can help with pushing during labor, and strengthens the support for the base of the bladder and the uterus.
- Improves body image and self esteem
- Improves posture and core stability
- Movements promote optimal position of the baby in the uterus/pelvis during pregnancy
- Learn to recognize tense muscles
- Increases breathing capacity, rib cage mobility, and space for stomach to function optimally (prevents gas & constipation)
- Improves circulation
- Reduces symptoms of fatigue
- Conditions the mind to focus on moment to moment awareness, which is a great tool for labor
- Belly dance movements are nurturing for the baby
- Babies at 20 weeks and beyond can enjoy music played (which has been found to calm and relax newborns when hearing the same song from when in utero)
In our twenty- first century world, many women have become estranged from their primal birthing brain and the knowledge that lies within it. An empowered birthing journey asks us as women to get back to a sense of life basics where intuition and instinct are normal. Women too often hand their power over to the medical world long before they enter labour and have the idea that someone else will do it for them. I strongly encourage women to take birth into their own hands by becoming informed of their choices and by finding out as much as they can about what will be happening to their body and mind during the pregnancy and childbirth journey.
I was really surprised to learn that belly dancing was never intended to be the sort of dance we all immediately think of when we hear the words ‘Belly Dance’.
In fact, women who are still a part of the heritage of Belly Dancing for Birth are heartbroken at the idea of belly dance being on display like this. Men were forbidden from seeing these dances in the birth process, it was not a dance of seduction. (They, the men, have their own dances—from which women were likewise excluded—that they do during their child’s birth.)
Ethiopian Belly Dance by talented dancer Saba
Different cultures have had their own very similar takes on this idea of dancing the baby into the world. Childbirth is something that must be prepared for. Dormant muscles must be built up little by little, step by step. All it takes is a little work. Strengthening the muscles also helps in carrying the child through pregnancy. Belly Dancing was intended for all of these things. In a way, belly dancing is the oldest form of natural childbirth instruction!
(If you are interested in reading a bit more on the subject here is a really cool account from the 1960’s of a New York dancer faking her identity to witness a Moroccan woman in Casablanca give birth to twins using ancient traditional dance.)
Watch This Woman Bust Out The ‘Tootsie Roll’ To Battle Back Labor Pains
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