Egyptian women used belly dancing as an internal massage; preparing the female body for childbirth. Today, it’s seen as one of the trendiest exotic exercises to hit the gym. Belly dancer Arina Djakova, from the London Dance Academy, tells Metro how to turn the dance into a full body workout, from the shoulder shimmy to the snake arms.
FULL BODY WORKOUT:
“Wach and every muscle is worked on in isolation and the end result is a feminine body, with everything in the right place- not too skinny and with the most wonderful hips and waistline,” exclaims belly dancer Djakova,
“As you hold one particular pose on one hip, you are maintaining this because of the extra weight you are applying on the opposite side. This is what allows you to build up strength and resistance,” says Djakova.
This is really the crunch of the exercise; being able to perfect a belly roll; which requires you to roll your belly up and down without engaging any muscle other than your abdominals.
One of the moves the body finds most natural in belly dancing is the figure of eight, which is a complete rotation of the hips. “Every time you do the figure, you are emphasising and enhancing the beauty and natural curb of your waist.” explains Djakova.
The ‘snake arm’ is when you lift the arm up and down from your shoulder and elbow. The effort required to lift the arm in the air without support helps tone this particularly difficult area.
NECK & SHOULDER:
The shoulder shimmy, a backwards and forwards shaking movement, simultaneously works the shoulders and the hips. It’s a cardio vascular exercise requiring deep breathing and that will make you out break into sweat.
Grace and posture is a key factor to the perfect belly dance. Postures are similar to those used in Yoga and Pilates, whereby keeping in line with your spine will relieve tension form the lower back and you build up strength.
“It’s a low impact and relaxing exercise,” says Djakova. “Moves are fluid, the mind relaxes and this helps improve self image and body confidence as you become more engaged with every single muscle. … You become more in touch with it as a whole.”