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Belly Dance Therapy - what is it ? Is it just belly dance ? Don't you have to wear skimpy, sparkly clothes, showing your navel ? Don't you have to have a pierced navel ? Isn't it just a dance to perform in front of men ? It is just sexual, isn't it ?

These are some of the questions I have been asked. In reality Belly Dance has been very popular for some years now, and there are many different types of Belly Dance classes out there.  Some are called Egyptian Dance; Middle Eastern Dance; or Oriental Dance.  Some focus on wearing elaborate costumes and learning a cabaret style dance, learning tips to titillate and lure members of the audience; some give much attention to the music; some focus on the physical technique and posture...and so it goes on...

I call what I do, 'Belly Dance Therapy' so that people know roughly what I am talking about.  I founded this way of working in 2004.  It does include learning some belly dance movements, dancing together and having fun, but it also is about feeling what is within the body.  As a trained, accredited integrative body psychotherapist, I can help you to reconnect with feelings, emotions and memories stored in the body, so that you can feel more embodied and present.  I teach fluid and staccato movements, isolating the pelvis and the shoulders, whilst staying grounded in the legs and feet, and centred in the belly.  It is about dancing to some evocative and beautiful Middle Eastern music.  It can be experienced as a sense of freedom in your body.  It can bring up memories or stories from your past.  This is an inner dance that connects you to your feminine core - whatever that means to you.

For example, what does it feel like inside to move your hips and pelvis in a fluid fashion, or in a sharp, staccato rhythm ? How does it feel to move like a camel ? What is it like to let go and shake your bottom ? I teach in a slow, meditative way in order for you to feel what is happening in your body  It can connect you to your feelings and past experiences that have affected your pelvis or womanhood or identity as a woman.  It can feel sensual.  It can feel very unfamiliar and awkward.  It can feel embarrassing and shameful.  It can be many things, each unique to each woman.  Of course, there are some common themes that the dance brings to us as women universally.  It can be bonding and a satisfying way to be with other women.  In each group session there is time and space to share your experience.  It is about reclaiming your body for yourself in a supportive environment.  It can empower you in your life and encourage you to feel proud of your body exactly as it is right now.

The ancient roots of belly dance - a term coined by Hollywood, lie in the Middle Eastern tradition.  It was part of the culture to use movement in rituals, either in celebration, or to revere the feminine.  The feminine was thought of as sacred because of the ability woman has to create new life in her womb. It is from her womb  that the movements originate.

It was danced in the harems amongst other women, and in sacred ritual and ceremony in the temples.  In some places it was used as public entertainment for men. It is danced and still is today, to prepare the body for childbirth and aid labour. In the ten years I have been teaching Belly Dance Therapy, it has been successful in aiding fertility and conception, and has been helpful in treating vaginismus and other psychosexual issues. (Paper soon to be published.) It can heal and knit the muscles after childbirth too. 

The form of the dance using softly bent knees and flat feet, allows the dancer's energy to be grounded into the earth, whilst the arms are taken above the head to be in touch with the heavens, or 'higher energies'.  This combination of uniting heaven with earth is thought of as the ultimate in allowing us to reach our highest wisdom and healthiest potential on earth.  The movements of the arms and hands represent the snake, or serpent.  The pelvis can move in an undulating, snake-like way.  It is believed in the ancient world that snakes do not die of old age, but shed their skins and emerge renewed and reborn into a new life every seven years.  They symbolise the mystery of renewal and transformation.  It is also thought these movements awaken the Kundalini energy that lies at the base of the spine.  It's symbol is a snake. It rises up the spine in response to Belly Dance Therapy movements focussing on the pelvis, connecting the self with the infinite.

Belly Dance Therapy when practiced mindfully, can have a deep impact on the mind, body and spirit, and can allow you to connect with your core sense of safety and wellbeing.

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