Fitness

Middle Eastern Dance – or Belly Dancing

When I work the machines at the women’s gym in my neighborhood, I have a bird’s eye view of the floor where aerobic classes are held. One of those classes I’ve had the pleasure of watching was belly dancing. Some of the participants wore coin-rimmed hip scarves so their movements were enhanced both visually and auditorily.

Photo from bellybody.org

Since this was the gym and not a contest or performance, the women were of all shapes, sizes and abilities. And you know what? They looked gorgeous.

Now, I’m not one who normally gawks at other women, but this was different. Here was a group of women looking to keep their hearts healthy, to tone their muscles, learn something new and have some fun doing it. Some of the women on machine level with me, left their machines to try the moves along with the class. The sensuality of the moves and the music was compelling.

Exotic. Natural. Feminine.

Forbidden.

Because of all that, there’s an air mystery surrounding the dance. In fact, even the age and origin of belly dancing is a mystery. Some professional belly dancers, when viewing Egyptian hieroglyphs from 5,000 years ago, are able to “see the dance’ moves as they go from one image to another.

Though that is a matter of interpretation and not proof, there is evidence that the dance has been around for at least several hundred years. This evidence comes from Europeans of the time who traveled to Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, and other exotic locations, then described their experiences, including dance moves which we now recognize as belly dancing.

Originally a more traditional dance than it is today, belly dancing was taught by mothers to their daughters, generation after generation, and was used during birthing rituals In other words, it seems it was not originally meant to seduce men but to prepare women for the rigors of childbirth.

Consider it ancient Lamaze – only better.

Belly Dancing helps work muscles a woman uses to help nature along during the delivery of her child. It’s like getting ready for a marathon. You wouldn’t take on a 5K without some prep work would you? Neither would a woman from ancient times take on childbirth without prepping from child to adulthood in the form of Belly Dancing.

Belly Dancing embraces femininity, pays tribute to the feminine form, uniqueness and abilities.

Traditional belly dancers did not bare their midriffs. Instead, they wore long flowing, layered gowns with a hip scarf that accentuated the sensual movements there. It wasn’t until Belly Dancing was introduced to the West, that a more ‘burlesque’ style of belly dance was introduced. It is that form of belly dance – and all the sexual, arousing tension it brings – that has become the norm today.

And it’s the sensuality, the full body infusion with the dance that has made belly dancing one of the West’s newer fitness crazes. And not a bad one at that. The women who practice this feel beautiful. I happen to be of the belief that a woman who feels beautiful IS beautiful. I want that for every woman. Every girl. To embrace her body regardless of shape or size.

As long as she’s fit – read that, “healthy” – she should be proud of what and who she is. I think belly dancing gives a person confidence as well as a great workout.

If this has interested you as much as it has interested me, you might want to have a look at these Belly Dancing “lessons” I located on YouTube. I am convinced practicing along with these videos each day will provide not only fun but results in a heart health, muscle tone and flexibility. Try it out. I’m going to. I may even buy one of those stunning clinky hip scarves. 🙂

Belly dancing 1 of 4

Belly dancing 2 of 4

Belly Dancing 3 of 4

Belly Dancing 4 of 4

Obama – Fitness Guru?

Not only is the next president young as far as presidents go, but he has children young enough to still be in elementary school,  and a young and an enviably fit wife.

Barack and Michele Obama work out. Somehow, with their busier-than-we-can-imagine lives, they find the time for exercise. Cardio and weight training are part of their daily routines. She works out with a friend for 90 minutes, three times a week. He fits in forty-five minutes a day, six days a week. In this article, the president elect said, “There’s always a trade-off between sleep and working out. Usually I get in about 45 minutes, six days a week. I’ll lift one day, do cardio the next.”

I workout each day with Daughter. As a home schooler, we have a fairly flexible schedule. However, we do our best to maintain a routine when it comes to exercise. Our first “class” of the day is gym. Gym class is one of several different cardio workout tapes ranging from 30 – 45 minutes. We take a water break after that, then slice an apple or pear as a snack before getting to the next class. Between subjects, we use one of our 5-minute routines for a quick jolt and wake-me-up.

It feels good to work out – AFTER we’ve worked out. Sometimes, the thought of doing it and the actual doing of it, makes me cringe. But I wonder…

Our country has a diabetes and obesity problem. Will a healthy and fit first family help change that?

Like Jackie-O inspired fashion, can Michele-O inspire fitness? Will the Obama presidency change the way people look at themselves?

I hope this is the case. I hope one of our next first-lady’s projects is physical fitness for children and adults. I know toy manufacturers have come out with products to get kids up off the couch – like interactive video games where they have to stand and move to virtually play the game rather than simply use their thumbs on a joystick. Maybe the Obama lifestyle will inspire new toys or activities for kids. Maybe the Obama lifestyle will inspire pride and determination to overcome personal obstacles – like finding time to workout, making it a priority and seeing to it that our children stay active. Maybe, just maybe, we can look at exercise and not cringe but rather see it as a challenge we want to take on.

It’s a lot to ask of a first family when their focus will be on so many other pressing issues. But if THEY can fit exercise into their busy daily lives, surely we can as well, don’t you think?

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