Belly Dancing for the Pelvic Floor
You might think of belly dance as a fun performance to watch, but originally, belly dance was NOT about performing for others! Historically, belly dance techniques were passed down from grandmothers and mothers to young women who were preparing for pregnancy and childbirth. Today, those who are "in the know" about pelvic health realize that belly dancing is a WONDERFUL workout for the entire core, including the pelvic floor. In this blog, I'm going to share a research article about belly dance for bladder leaks, free belly dance videos for you to start with, and 10 reasons why hip circles (one of my favorite belly dance techniques) rock!
Belly Dancing for Pelvic Strength
When I found this research article about belly dancing for pelvic health, I was so excited to see "living proof" that belly dance WORKS! Although the study had a small sample size of 24 subjects (12 in the experimental group and 12 in the control), the results were clear: the women who participated in 12 weeks of a belly dancing program experienced a significant increase in pelvic floor muscle strength and endurance. The researchers concluded that since these are the muscles that help prevent urinary incontinence, belly dance may be an effective prescription for women with bladder leakage.
While more high-quality research studies are needed, anecdotally, I know many women who've experienced better bladder health, less back pain, and better sex after adding belly dance and hip circles to their lives. Keep reading!
Belly Dance + Hip Circle Videos
If you're ready to try belly dance and hip circles for pelvic health, then add these free YouTube videos to your watch list:
Ten Reasons Hip Circles Rock
Hip circles are one of my favorite dance moves. However, when I discovered hip circles in my early twenties, I was astonished by how HARD they were for me! My body wasn't used to moving in such a fluid, flowing way! I felt like a tin soldier — super stiff and awkward. But with time and practice, moving from my center (via hip circles) started to feel like coming home. I realized that this juicy movement had always been inside of me — it had just been "sleeping" for most of my life!
When I started a daily practice of hip circles (which I've continued for 20+ years), I began to feel confident and strong in ALL THE WAYS, and for all the reasons, listed below.
Reason #1: Pain Management
Chronic pain can lead to a vicious cycle: Lack of movement causes pain and stiffness, which causes less movement, which causes even more pain and stiffness, causing less movement, causing even more pain and stiffness (and so on). But there IS HOPE, and there is a solution: Baby steps of movement. Although it might not feel good at first, it’s essential to get your body moving gently, frequently, and progressively to reduce pain over time. Hip circles are a great way to start. Here's what some hip circlers have to say about circles and PAIN:
“Hip circles have changed my life! I do them on the job when I'm standing at the nurses station to free up my hips and my back. Circles keep me going through the long shifts without feeling like I need to be in bed on my off-days due to pain!" -Amy, R.N.
"I have been doing hip circles for a good few mornings now - I can't believe how much it eases up my back!" - Jo
“I've been doing big hip circles and they have cured my hip pain!!! My hips click less, no pain, and more mobile for running and staying active.” - Hannah
Reason #2: Anyone can do 'em
Circles know no boundaries. One of my most loyal hip circlers is in her 80's (see photo below), and toddlers love to do circles with their mamas! It doesn't matter if you're big or small, "in-shape" or not, coordinated or awkward, young or old... ANYONE CAN LEARN HOW TO DO HIP CIRCLES. Including men!
Reason #3: They're safe!
Hip circles are a safe core strengthening exercise for women with diastasis recti (DR) and pelvic floor dysfunction (PFD)... Which are VERY COMMON issues! Some people with DR and PFD are totally lost when it comes to core strengthening; sit-ups and crunches are "out," and even planks can be a no-no depending on the severity of their conditioning. But hip circles are safe as long as you start small and slow, and as long as you keep your breath flowing (i.e. don't hold your breath).
Reason #4: They feel pretty.
I was never a good dancer growing up; I was gawky and uncoordinated, and I couldn't learn a choreographed dance sequence to save my life. But circling my hips WORKED. After a little bit of practice, hip circles started to feel natural, and the fluidity and freedom of this movement made me feel like the unbridled, uncaged woman I *knew* I was on the inside. I often use the tagline "move like a lady" when it comes to flowing, multi-planar movements such as hip circles. Of course, men can circle too... But they're so darn PRETTY that they look (and feel) intrinsically LADYLIKE to me. In today's fast-paced society where women are expected to do everything that men can (and more), who doesn't want to feel like a lady now and then?
Reason #5: They strengthen AND relax!
There aren't many exercises that can accomplish both isolated strengthening and local + global relaxation at once, but with hip circles, you get a "twofer!" Hip circles not only strengthen the core, they also mobilize and lubricate your spine and hip joints and stretch and lengthen back and pelvic muscles that tend to be stiff and tight.
For example, when you circle your pelvis forward you're simultaneously activating (strengthening) your pelvic floor and low abs, and STRETCHING (lengthening) the muscles of your low back. When you circle your pelvis backward, you're activating (strengthening) the low back while gently stretching/lengthening the deep abdominals and releasing the pelvic floor. Win-win!
Bonus: Did you know that there's a connection between pelvic health and TMJ (temperomandibular joint) health? TMJ issues can cause jaw pain and even headaches. Due to fascia, everything in our body is connected... So perhaps you can release jaw tension by HIP CIRCLING your next headache away!
Reason #6: They're SEXY!
They look sexy, they feel sexy, and they increase blood flow to the pelvic area! I've had several women tell me that hip circles have the fun side-benefit of spicing up their sex life. They move better in bed, they feel more confident, and everything "down there" is more easily "lit up" and turned on when hip circles are a part of their daily routine.
Reason #7: They're grounding.
Are you familiar with the chakra system? Hip circles and pelvic motions are GROUNDING for the Muladhara and Swadisthana (first and second) chakras. This is perfect for those of us who are "in our heads" all the time! Hip circles help open up and clear the lower chakras, bringing you back to earth, rooting and centering you in the present moment. Stated another way, hip circles may help you feel calmer and less anxious. And believe it or not, it's possible to do seated hip circles. Try it, the next time you're sitting on a slippery (i.e. plastic or polished wood) chair!
Reason #8: They help you poo.
Hip circles can help you go #2. They're not harsh (or unnatural) like laxatives, and they bring circulation and stimulation to the digestive tract.
The body likes CONSISTENCY, so hip circles are particularly effective when you do them every morning! My morning routine includes sipping a large glass of lukewarm water (sometimes with lemon), followed by at least 10 hip circles in each direction. Note: if you have trouble with constipation, then don't miss my Smooth Move System for Constipation Relief! It's a part of my Lift program. You can learn more about Lift right here!
Reason #9: They're convenient.
Hip circles can be done anytime, anywhere. They are the most convenient total core strengthener I know! You don't need to set aside a special time or go to a special place to do them... You can do them while washing your dishes! Brushing your teeth! While waiting for the coffee to brew! I even have a friend who does mini-circles while standing in line at the grocery store.
Got mobility issues? If so, or if you simply don't want to (or can't) get down on the floor to do your ab exercises, then hip circles (and figure eights, etc.) are a great option for you. They're done UPRIGHT, which is a functional position... The position in which we live our lives! It doesn't make a lot of sense to do most of your ab work lying on the floor when our lives are (generally) lived upright... Right?!! Yet another reason hip circles rock.
Reason #10: They're HELPING PEOPLE.
Really, this is the #1 reason hip circles rock. I know I might sound like a broken record talking about the glories of hip circles, but THEY ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE. I am filled with joy to share this story from a member of the U.S. armed forces. I am so proud to serve her, as she serves our country!!!
From Michele, a member of the US Armed Forces:
Hello Bri -Not sure if you remember me, but I used to attend your fitness classes (when my schedule allowed). I have been deploying a lot to Afghanistan with the aircraft that we maintain. I've attached a picture of my "room" which is a metal container welded together with others to make our living quarters.
The internet here is equivalent to dial up speed. I leave your videos to download overnight so when I awake in the morning, I can do my wonderful hip circles with you.
Your videos are a highlight in such a dreary and hateful place.
I lose myself in the video and feel as if I'm back in your class, dancing with you guys for an hour. Pure bliss.
So, thank you for making your videos accessible to those of us so far away from home.
I have recommended your website & videos to every woman I meet. I tell them it will remind them how to "move like a lady" and feel great about their body.
Keep up the great work. -Michele
I am starting a circle revolution.
My goal is to have 1 million women circling their hips EVERY DAY. Let's start with YOU!!! Watch this quick vid on YouTube for some circle inspiration and then commit to circling with me every day. I also touch on hip circles in ALL of my online programs and courses, including Lift and Overcome.
Loosen up your hips! Limber up your back! Reconnect with your core!
Let's revive this beautiful form of movement and make hip circles a standard exercise that's not just for belly dancers but for all people, everywhere.
Sending circular love your way!
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