Bellydancing and pregnancy

Important note: this is intended to be a description of my experience, not a recommendation to other dancers. I’ve seen a good number of my students dance through some, all or none of their pregnancies and in each case they made the choice that was right for them (and now more than ever I hope they felt supported in that choice!). Do what’s right for you.

As I enter my third trimester (where has the time gone?) I thought I’d write a little about how I’ve approached dance. I know there are plenty of other blogs out there but they tend to be a bit….woo….for my taste. Likewise instructional videos. If that’s your things, great, you do you, but it’s not my cup of tea. I don’t believe in mystikal wombyn bellydance power and I feel that one description of a childbirth ritual has been stretched an awfully long way. I wanted to read about a more down to earth experience and struggled to find it. So I’m writing my own.

I came back to bellydance after a long break, but even if that hadn’t been the case I still would have had time off from it because my first trimester was a write off as far as exercise was concerned. Amongst other things, relaxin and a job that required me to be on my feet eight hours a day gave me awful back pain. I used to carry around wheels of cheese and sacks of veggies with no problem; suddenly I couldn’t pick up an empty bag. I could just about manage walking and standing. I had no idea that relaxin could have such a large effect so early on. Happily after some time (and time off) it got better and I was ready to get moving again.

The approach I took was one I’ve used before after time away: slowly and surely. I started with fluid movements, reawakening the muscle memory, finding my range of motion, exploring the movement to find what felt good. Playing with it. There’s so much you can do with a circle! Whereas in the past I would have then made the movement harder, faster, more powerful, I stayed with that playful, soft intention. What felt good one day might not feel good the next (hello again relaxin!) so it was important to take things slowly every time and keep focused. It’s a very mindful way of dancing, something I hope I’ll be able to keep and develop.

Generalising: moves like backbends and drops have never been part of my repertoire so it was no effort to leave those out. My old ten minute shimmy practice will have to wait for now. Percussive movements feel awkward at the intensity I used to do them, but I’ll still throw one in now and again. Reverse camel feels very ungainly but on the other hand forwards camel feels great! Simple flat circles and eights have been a good way to incorporate pelvic floor exercises, which I find boring on their own. As my bump gets bigger I have to change things again, especially when stretching, because it just gets in the way.

Bonus: dancing seems to encourage the baby to take a break from kicking me :)

Of course you’ll have to take my word for this because I’m still mostly dancing on my own. I went out to a baladi workshop and had a lovely time, I was able to enjoy some fabulous music and dance at the right sort of intensity for me with no pressure to remember choreography or put on some kind of show.

As a low impact, low intensity workout dance has been good for me so far. Like I said before, I don’t believe it has any kind of inherant feminine power which is brought out by pregnancy BUT I do think it is a good way of paying attention to areas of the body which are changing weekly, if not daily, and the familiar way of moving helps me acknowledge and accept those changes. I’ve had a similar sense of groundedness when returning to dance after other big life changes.

Now onto the third trimester and *gulp* the birth!

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