Wednesday, June 24, 2009

belly dance as traditional birth dance

In ancient times, belly dance was commonly used as prenatal conditioning for women, and was performed by a birthing mother during labor and the birthing process as a therapeutic aid. The rhythmic movements of belly dance actually mimic the physical changes a woman's body goes through during all stages of labor. Once you begin to study belly dance, the correlation between belly dance and natural stages of childbirth is evident.

During the beginning stage of labor, rhythmc movements, similar to the movements made in bellydance, help the birthing mother to relieve pain and shift tension, as well as to move the baby down the birth canal.

As labor shifts and becomes more active, the birthing mother also shifts in to a more emotional state, which employs the more spiritual aspects of bellydance. As a drummer, I always think of the Arabic rhythm, Chiftitelli, a long, slow, and dramatic rhythm, which is often reflected in long, slow, dramatic movements of the birthing mother.

When the intense transitional stage comes on, the birthing mother's abdomen, and often her entire body, begin to reflexively tremble and undulate. This movement is recreated in belly dance, and is referred to as a shimmy. While challenging to get the hang of when learning to belly dance, it is a movement the body makes when the muscles of the pelvis and abdomen are completely relaxed and loose. In childbirth, the natural shimmy that occurs indicates that it is time to push.

During my birth experiences, I remember finding undulations helpful in the beginning stages of labor, and as contractions became more intense, hip circles helped me to find a rhythm and concentrate on something other than the pain in order to progress, allowing gravity to take its course.

It is absolutely amazing to me that of childbirth is represented and recreated in such a dedicated way by the ancient art of belly dance.

The following are a list of videos that show prenatal belly dance. The first one reminds me of the rhythmic movements of the first stage of labor:

Very rhythmic and reflexive (active labor, going into transition). She makes the hip roll look easy, and it's easier to learn when you have a pregnant belly. This it to Chiftitelli:

I love*love*love American Tribal. It's so dramatic. They show the shimmy of the pregnant belly up close in this one:

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