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Belly Dancing for Exercise
It is really only popular for women (not too many male belly dancers out there...), but it is a really engaging way to exercise and build up your core / abdominal muscles.
Indeed, belly dancing can help you lose weight and burn as many calories as more strenuous exercises like cycling or running, as long as the workouts are consistently challenging and you are moving around a lot. Thus belly dancing can make for a really intense workout if you have the energy to try it and stick with it. Thankfully it is also fun, so your lack of skill at the beginning doesn't really matter as you will quickly get better at it as you progress.
If you think that you would like to try belly dancing as a form of exercise, don't be intimidated. Look for a good instructor who will keep you moving and having a good time.
#1. Dress the Part
The lavish Eastern costumes are part of the authenticity of belly dance classes. You may feel weird wearing them at first, but its part of the fun too if you get a chance to perform. Call the studio or instructor ahead of time to see what patrons usually wear to class. You may just wear regular workout/yoga gear, but some instructors may ask you to come in costume. A basic costume could include yoga pants, a hip scarf for emphasis, and a midriff-baring choli so that your instructor can see and help you with the movement of your hips and posture.
You'll get more out of your belly dance exercise classes if you release your inhibitions and get in character. The more movement you get through your hips and thighs, the more beneficial the class will be. Think of your class as a performance and just have a good time. Don't worry about how you look or if you're making a fool of yourself - part of the appeal of belly dancing is how exotic it looks anyway, so its bound to look weird. Belly dancing is more beneficial when you are giving it your total effort without being self-conscious.
Side Benefit - Belly Dancing boosts your confidence and decreases shyness.
Belly dancing focuses on the abdominal and hip region, so when you begin to learn to belly dance, it may seem strange to you to move those areas so freely. Keep your joints soft so that they can flow freely, while keeping your spine straight and your head up. Keep your shoulders back at all times, with your tailbone dropped to the floor. Over time if you practice proper form this will become easier and second nature for you, but in the beginning you will need to pay attention to your form.
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