Belly dancing isn’t the first physical activity that comes to mind when one becomes pregnant, but it makes total sense. Intrigued by the movements, the technique and the physical attributes belly dancing has on the body I asked Maternal Dance founder Suzanne Caesar how belly dancing can positively enhance pregnancy and labor.
Caesar was always a lover of dance history and discovered during her own pregnancy that before belly dance was called just that, it was called the ‘womb’ dance. This was because women would dance with and around the pregnant woman to celebrate new life and help ease contractions with hip swaying. “My prenatal classes naturally and organically progressed into what they are today – belly dance with yoga.”
Caesar doesn’t teach traditional belly dancing, instead she incorporates moves that you would normally see in a typical belly dance class: “There are many different forms of belly dance. These movements are not necessarily the seductive dance most people think of when they hear belly dance, though the movements I incorporate when teaching women, pregnant or not, are very sensual and meant for the women dancing to feel their sensuality as they move in this way, even pregnant women!”
So what’s in a typical routine? Caesar works down from head and shoulder rolls to rib cage (modified) and hip swaying/rolls/figure eights – “All to loosen up; wrist and ankle rolls, snake arms and shimmies – shoulders and hips, but not so jerky and abrupt.”
Caesar modifies the moves so you can dance the "belly" at any stage of pregnancy. “Most of the moves I have developed in my class “warm up” women who are just weeks or days from delivery. They enjoy it very much, because the lower back is stretched. These muscles shorten as the belly grows and pulls the weight forward, hence the shift in a pregnant woman’s center of gravity. Hip rocking and pelvic swivels are also excellent right until the end because they work with the pregnant body by opening the pelvis and stretching muscles and ligaments that can cause discomfort.”
The use of hip swaying and figure eight movements helps the baby work its way down the birth canal. Preparing for labor includes physical, emotional, mental and spiritual changes. Exercising during pregnancy enriches the placenta and amniotic fluid, and can result in a shorter labor and fewer Cesarean births. As with any exercise, please check with your caregiver before attempting a new form of exertion.
Caesars final words of wisdom: It’s important for pregnant women to have all the information they can get their hands on to empower them, so they feel confident to go through the labor process. At the same time, enjoy this very special time in their lives, remember to “squeeze” in 50 kegels a day and take the time to rest.
Suzanne Caesar is a movement educator, certified perinatal fitness trainer, prenatal yoga instructor, and longtime student of Pilates.
For more information or to purchase her DVD, “Rhythm For Life – The Prenatal Belly Dance Workout” please visit: maternaldance.com