I took beginning belly dance classes in the basement of a woman’s house during my second pregnancy. She was the kind of woman I imagine would be my strong, strange aunt if I was of middle-eastern descent. We took off our shoes when we entered the dancing space, and my classmate took off her veil. I was very pregnant. We danced, it seemed, primarily for the beauty of it, for the way it made us feel beautiful in our varied bodies.
When I got pregnant again, I knew that I wanted to do more belly dancing. And I wanted to belly dance for birth, without so much emphasis on technique, and not just for ‘fun.’ I knew that keeping my belly and pelvic area toned was important to me, and that these movements would help position the baby optimally. I happened upon Dance of the Womb, this dvd set by Maha Al Musa.
I started using these movements as a form of exercise, but soon discovered that they were inexpensive and effective psychotherapy. One day at about 32 weeks, I was innocently going about some small hip circles, moving one slow step at a time across my yoga mat in the living room, when I felt a geyser of emotion inside me. I was acutely aware that the emotion came out of my body, from doing the movements. It felt good, like a release. This experience repeated itself, to a lesser extent, numerous times while doing the movements she recommends. I’ve come to believe it was a releasing of past emotional trauma stored in my pelvic area. Psychotherapy for the body.
I don’t expect everyone will have this same experience because we are all so different and bodies are so weird. But if you’re interested in exploring that, I expect this dvd will bring you to that place.
Unlike most exercise I’ve done, including my original experience with belly dancing, dancing with Maha felt like my body moving me rather than me exercising control over my body. A supple, rhythmic movement of my birthing muscles, this spiraling, circling, and rocking made me stronger. And it really works in labor!
When I was in labor with my third baby, I used the cervix spiral to jump-start labor. I’m not even sure this is possible, but I swear I actually felt my cervix opening. It felt a lot different than doing the exercise while not in labor, like it was causing the stretching of a big, fat rubber band. Intense, but good.
Belly dancing this way in pregnancy and during labor helped to slow and center and ground me. It helped me stay in the moment and just be with my body and my baby. I believe Maha Al Musa’s gentle, spiritual approach to the movements made all the difference.
I still do a lot of the circling and spiraling in my daily life. It helps with back pain, stresses in my pelvic area, and loosening up when I get tense. I’ve incorporated the movements into my everyday actions as well as my exercise routines.