When pregnant moving around becomes more difficult, and the farther along we get into our pregnancy the less we tend to exercise, which leads to us having a lower fitness level. The less fit you are by the time you go into the labor, the more difficulty you will have. The Pelvic Floor is the most important area of a woman's body to achieve optimal health whether you are pregnant or not, or have ever been. Many cultural dances work the pelvic floor including belly dancing, samba, flamenco, bachata, west coast swing, and salsa. Although all dancing has benefits for people of all ages, these dances work specific muscle groups without doing alot of harm to the body. Although all pregnancies and mom bodies experience pregnancy differently, and not all dances may work for a a pregnant woman, there are at least one contained in this list that will help strengthen your pelvic floor to prevent injury.
Before I go any further, I would like to note that this is NOT a scientific, medically endorsed personal article. This information I have gathered from personal experience as someone who has used dance to prevent my body from deteriorating from Patella Syndrome. As a pre teen I was always in severe pain in my joints which prevented me from being included in gym activities all the time. Dance, swimming, and yoga kept me in shape and helped lessen the pain I experienced. I have been dancing since, and even danced until I was 6 months pregnant, and started up again 6 months post-partum.
In terms of my professional experience, many of the women I have taught over the years in a variety of settings, have all informed me how much my Dance Fitness classes have dramatically improved their over-all fitness, and helped rehabilitate injured muscle groups they had. I was not at all surprised by this as in my late teens I had always struggled with high-impact aerobic classes such as Step classes, running, and bicycling because of the way they slammed my joints. Despite how many times I incorporated these activities into my daily fitness routine, they always did more harm than good, and usually within 3 months my body would have long-lasting joint pain especially in my knees and back. Now I am not trying to discredit these exercises, all I hope to do through out this article is to demonstrate how you can remain active and fit by using a consistent, regimented dance routine. Dance is like all exercises, in which if you do it consistently over time you will see results, usually people who have taken my classes see them in the first one in terms of how they feel, but after 6 to 8 weeks they report changes in their bodies they haven't seen in years.
As a "5,8" woman who is on the curvy side, cultural dance is the ONE place where your curves work for you and not against you. This is because thick muscles on the hips, glutes, and thighs are a great sign of health.
The vast majority of women who have taken my classes are usually aged 35 and up. Most of the time they have come to my classes after being injured while participating in a traditional cardio and aerobic class, or from their personal trainer who felt the only way to become fit was from heavy weight lifting. I will not discredit heavy weight lifting, as it is highly beneficial, but it must come after one has a solid foundation in over all body balance. Over-all body synergy exists when the muscles that should be toned and tight are, and the ones that are to remain loose for optimal movement and joint health are as well. This can be achieved through specific forms of Yoga, along side deep tissue block therapy, daily walking, and dance or resistance band training 3 to 5 days a week. Once this has been achieved, one can then look at adding a weight lifting regimen to their training plan 2 to 3 days a week to replace the resistance band training.
All cardio vascular exercises are not created equal, and have varying benefits, and even risks. Any exercise that involves poor technique, inadequate instruction, and lack of individual consultation and care for each participant will never achieve its potential. That being said, cardio vascular benefits in dance are at the same level of traditional aerobics such as running, bicycling, etc. Although you do not usually see instant weight loss when beginning to dance, that is OK, as if you do not develop the proper technique and form first, you may injury yourself, and not end up sticking with it anyway. The focus of dancing for the purpose of fitness should NOT be for superficial looks, but for a deeper purpose, with developing a healthy pelvic floor as top priority. All women at every age and stage of their life want to look fit and end up rushing the process. Dance welcomes you onto a journey that involves emotional, spiritual, mental and physical development, just like weight lifting. When you enjoy what you are doing, and keep your mind on that and the dance techniques you are learning, you allow your body to heal itself.
If done right, dance fitness will work all the deep core muscles, and rehabilitate a person's body over time. This is why I highly recommend taking a cultural dance class from someone who has a background in not just group fitness leadership, but also personal training. It is great to understand what each name of a muscle is in the body, but it is even more important to understand what muscle each dance move works in the body.
As a visual artist who has always loved to sketch and paint people I became fascinated at a young age of how a persons body composition is affected by the level of muscle they have. Being a sculpturist, costume designer, choreographer, and group fitness educator has really put all these different sciences together to help me truly understand how the body works. I then made it my mission for all my classes to have benefits that had a natural symptom of weight loss, but that was not the target goal. The goal was to help the body come into alignment starting with the muscles, then the bones, and finally the mind body connection.
Muscles wrap around the bones, and so if your muscles are weak in certain areas or imbalanced, then your whole body is off. Chiropractic care never worked for me, and despite my years training in body building it never helped my joint issues, in fact it aggravated them. That is when I became obsessed with the power of aquafit training (dance in water), yoga, and swimming to correct these issues. I knew that I could not ignore the issues I had and didnt want to rely on steroids and pain creams for the rest of my life. I had to work deep into the fascia of the muscle, and then go on to creating balance through stretching. Then I endeavored onto the next step of strengthening my body through resistance band exercises done correctly to reach the optimal range of motion.
Please remember that in order to excercise safely when pregnant and after you MUST consult with your health practitioner including your Midwife/ GMP/ Athletic Therapist, etc. Monitoring the babys health is very vital during your pregnancy, and ensuring you are not over-doing it for the sake of looking a certain way.
So to demonstrate how and what each muscle is worked when dancing I have decided to focus on 3 specific styles of dancing.Id like to start by technically laying out the different muscles each dancing style does, as I believe that any type of fitness you take on you should be empowered with CLEAR knowledge of what you are getting into, so you can be confident and relax in your fitness journey.
1. BELLY DANCE
Improved posture.Perhaps one of the greatest health benefits of belly dancing is improved posture and strengthening of back muscles. Due to the constant twisting and turning of the spine during the repetitive movements of the body, your body releases its own natural lubricant called synovial fluid. The muscles in the back are also constantly being used and thus toned which increases back strength, improves flexibility and improves posture.
Improved digestion.The gentle rolling and stretching movements of your abdominal muscles during a belly dancing class offers your body an “internal massage” which can lead to improved digestion. As you continue to attend belly dancing classes you will find that your circulation will improve, and thus so will your digestion. All of your body’s cells will be better nourished and your blood supply will increase, resulting in an overall sense of increased health and energy level
- Involves a lot of lateral motion and hip mobility, something especially needed in our culture, where so many of us tend to move mostly forward and backward and not so much from side to side.
- Engages the gluteal muscles, including the gluteus medius, which--though vitally important to so many kinds of natural movements--are underdeveloped or not engaged for alot of people around the world.
- Help keep the pelvis level on the hip joint of the weight-bearing leg. (Without the gluteus medius, we would take a step and your pelvis would sink to one side.)
- Are essential to holding the pelvis in the anteverted, or tipped forward, position. (This is essential because the pelvis serves as our architectural foundation; when it is inappropriately tucked in, the rest of the body cannot properly stack, and pain problems may ensue.)
- Are essential to gait and facilitate "soft landings" when we walk. (Unlike our hunter-gatherer ancestors who lightly, quietly tread when hunting prey, too many of us thump around causing damage to our structures.)
Flamenco is a solid cardio workout; it increases your heart rate and improves your endurance. The long, straight silhouette required in flamenco dancing works core-stability muscles. The dance encourages straight posture with an elongated spine, shoulders held back. Dancers keep their arms above their heads and move them in graceful twists and sweeps, which create long, lean muscles in their arms and shoulders. Calves and hamstrings also receive a workout from the almost constant stamping motions. But rather than bulk your muscles like cross fit, flamenco will instead tone and define them.
The signature stamping motions of flamenco gives lower-body muscles such as the calves, hamstrings and thighs a hearty workout. On a secondary level, flamenco works the upper body, as it tasks you with holding your arms above your head and performing sweeping motions with them. To maintain the elegant posture essential to flamenco, you'll need to engage your core muscles as well. While dance exercise won't bulk your muscles up to bodybuilder proportions, it does help tone and define them.
Because flamenco requires you to keep a straight-backed posture – specifically, an elongated spine with your shoulders held back and hips tucked in – it encourages healthy posture outside the dance floor. Flamenco's footwork puts a load on the bones of the lower-body, increasing bone density and helping stave off conditions such as osteoporosis. The complex footwork of flamenco encourages concentration, and its focus on expressing passionate emotions may even have a therapeutic effect.
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DISCLAIMER: Stephanie Strugar strongly recommends that you consult with your physician before beginning any exercise program. You should be in good physical condition and be able to participate in the exercise. You should understand that when participating in any exercise or exercise program, there is the possibility of physical injury. If you engage in this exercise or exercise program, you agree that you do so at your own risk, are voluntarily participating in these activities, assume all risk of injury to yourself, and agree to release and discharge Stephanie Strugar and all employees and/or successors. from any and all claims or causes of action, known or unknown, arising out of The Fitness Marshall’s negligence. Stephanie Strugar is the Founder & Artistic Director of Difinity Dance Studio and Productions. Difinity Dance was founded in 2008, and has been teaching multi cultural dance, music, fitness to all ages since. As a choreographer, dance & fitness educator, model, actress, R&B singer and songwriter and certified body painter, Stephanie lives and breathes the arts. She has entertained family and corporate audiences for over 10 years as a professional clown, mascot, celebrity impersonator, event comedian and Emcee. For the past 10 years she has been developing and facilitating custom therapeutic performance art and visual arts programs for not-for-profit organizations that serve at-risk youth, adults and children with learning or physical disabilities and health conditions, women with physical injuries, and adults recovering from addictions. She has facilitated dance and fitness programs in schools and daycares across Manitoba and she has also spearheaded several productions city wide. Currently her projects include her DIFINI DOLLS Multi-Cultural Dance Crew “Breaking Performer Stereotypes” and DIFINI MINIS “Anti-Bullying” Dance Crew that fundraise for several worthy causes and sponsor at-risk youth for free multi cultural dance classes.