Belly Dancing for Fitness and Fun
Belly Dancing (also known as Bellydance) and all the movements that go with it are ideal for Seniors. In the words of SESCIL Instructor Sandi Cohen:
"Bellydance is a very ancient folkloric art form. Its movements are consistent with those of childbirth, and older women are the ones to instruct the younger. The movements are mostly circular and spiral. There is little pressure on the joints, which for many of us have been weakened or stressed over time. In fact, it's known by rheumatologists that Bellydance stimulates the synovial fluid which lubricates the joints.
"In our classes we learn all the
basic movements, which are of isolations and undulations of the torso and hips .
There is not a part of the body from the head to the toes which is not used. The
movements may prove difficult at first for some women of certain age or culture.
But they have been told early on not to move in ways that might be construed as
suggestive. I consider most of the movements of this dance form to be
acceptable, sensual and graceful; I do not suggest that the women use pronounced
sexual movements or touch the body... the arms are used throughout the dance,
and surround - rather than touch - the hips or the torso. Much of the class is
spent learning to use arms beautifully and gracefully. (See SESCIL's
as an apt illustration of the movements involved.)
"The music also is very different from what most of the women are used to. It is Mid-Eastern, but also Spanish, Greek, Celtic, Israeli and a touch of New Age electronic. We could just as well dance to classical music. I find that once the ear has adjusted to the music and these rhythms, the dancing becomes proficient and the women are freer to move the way they should.
"Seniors are much less self-conscious about themselves than many of the younger women I have taught. They are finally able to laugh at themselves and find joy in acting silly at times or letting go. We often do independent mini-dances at the end of the classes. This factor in itself, the freedom that comes with age, is a wonderful facet of learning to dance later in life.
"On the whole, Mid-Eastern Dance or Bellydance, is a beautiful and artistic dance. It allows for improvisation and self-expression, which are also assets for those who are tired of living within the confines of "what is expected of them". We dress in long skirts and wear hip belts, which to me are essential. Not only do they add beauty and charm, but they give a sense of purpose and a special mood to the dance. We can become someone else - of another time, another place. I often see ordinary women become beautiful when dancing.
"Bellydance has nothing much to do with the 'belly'. It's one of the oldest dances that we have in history and is fused with many other folkloric dances. The true beauty is in its freedom. The true difficulty is in saying to oneself, 'these are natural movements of my body, and I can do them in time.'
"There is a well-known woman in Australia who has written a book on Bellydancing for Senior Women. She is known worldwide, having started to dance at 60 and opened the door for thousands of women who now have added a new dimension and a new-found sensuality to their lives. Her husband dances as well. They are both now hovering around 80.
always loved this dance and started to learn it in my twenties before it became
popular in this country. I am so glad now that I have spent so many years
involved with it, and absolutely love to see the transformation in my 'mature
women' when they finally learn to move and to experience the Bellydance
and all of its expression and emotion."
Closely related to Tai Chi (below), Chi Kung is a quiet, relaxing exercise, stressing balance, deep yoga breathing and massaging the body to increase circulation and flow. It is ideally suited not only for the frailer segment of our population, but also for those wanting to relax and meditate and feel everyday stress vanish. Chi Kung provides a nourishing and stimulating environment in which to relax and replenish the body, mind and spirit. Its methods are simple, yet its effect is profound.
Stretch and Flex
Stretch & Flex on Mondays and Wednesdays involves a strengthening exercise to increase muscle power and stretches to promote flexibility. The focus is on developing muscles you use: mainly legs, hips, back and shoulders. On Thursdays, the overall goal is to engage participants in a wellness program that will help them to perform the activities of daily living. Emphasis is on flexibility, weight training and balance.
Tai Chi goes beyond the mere physical aspects of Chi Kung because of its mind-body connection that leads to overall better health and a sense of well-being. Tai Chi is an internal art. Learning the mechanics of the form is only the beginning. Indeed, it is a lifelong journey filled with revelation at the personal level. You will learn a lot about yourself, if you make the trip.
Aimed at integrating mind, body and spirit to enhance health and well-being, Yoga progressively improves posture, bodily alignment, range of motion and overall strength. Through the knowledge and practice of various breathing techniques, practitioner's nervousness and anxiety calm down considerably.
Sources: SESCIL's Annual
Report: July 1, 2004 - June 30, 2005
Sandi Cohen's e-mail message of November 4, 2008 re: Belly Dancing