Have you given up on your New Year’s resolutions yet? You will not be alone. Should you be one of the many who decided to get fit this year and are already making excuses as to why you cannot go to the gym, I have the perfect solution— belly dancing.
Hold up. Hear me through before you skip over this article. If you had mentioned belly dancing to me a few years ago when I was a personal trainer, I would have guffawed rudely. How wrong I would have been.
For women (or men) lacking in self-confidence, going through menopause, who want to shape up but detest gyms and running, or who need motivation and require a huge injection of self-esteem, this is undoubtedly the best activity you can take up. No joke, gentlemen can also benefit from this and they do not have to shake their booty like Shakira.
Belly dancing is becoming increasing popular with women in their 50s and 60s. Fitness, friendship and visibility are among the many reasons they are signing up to classes. And, they are not just noticing an improvement in physical health. Those going through menopause have seen a marked improvement in symptoms associated with the “change”, from a reduction in hot flashes to resurgence of self-confidence. All the organs affected by the hormonal changes of menopause are strengthened by increased blood circulation, thus many report an easier transit through this stage of their lives.
Fleur Estelle, whose belly-dancing academy in London is renowned, holds 36 classes a week in eight different locations. Fleur has made several appearances on television, been in a Bollywood-themed episode of BBC drama Hustle and was featured sword balancing in a music video for Kasabian. She has also performed with her company for Princess Eugenie and members of the United Arab Emirates and Jordanian royal families. I was therefore honored to participate in one of her classes to discover more about this activity.
Suffice it to say, I have endured some hard-core kickboxing, spinning, and boxercise classes in my time as an exercise-fiend but never before have I worked all my muscle groups so seemingly little with such huge rewards.
First impressions — the participants were amazingly friendly and encouraging. I am not usually accustomed to such comradery and excitement at the start of a class. Once the class began, it was impossible to not want to shake and wiggle with gusto. Fleur’s enthusiasm spread like contagion. She would be able to make Donald Trump shimmy and enjoy doing it. Moves were explained then the music began. Like a marionette being worked by unseen hands, I jigged into life and found it remarkably easy to follow Fleur and her entourage. It is less difficult than performing a grape vine followed by a box step to a modern fast beat. Somehow your natural reaction is to shake those hips, or shoulders.
Half an hour later and I felt like a new woman. I was no longer a menopausal 50-something-year-old. I was a beautiful 30-year-old who was no longer embarrassed by her wobbly belly — a girl can dream.
The following day, my stomach ached as if I had performed three hundred crunches but I felt taller, leaner, more poised and elegant. Dare I say it? I felt more feminine and sexy. It appeared I had caught the belly dancing bug.
Those who have been practicing it are effusive in their praise. I spoke to several groups of women all of whom were convinced belly dancing had improved their self-confidence, physical health and even sexuality:
“I think the major benefit has to be the confidence boost it has given me.”
“I am a children’s emergency nurse and the best way for me to wind down is belly dancing, it takes me an hour to get to class but I make an effort to travel that far because I love it so much.” Beena Dodia