Raks Sharki, also called belly dance, is a form of dance that many are familiar with. Originally from north Africa, having roots in all ancient cultures from the orient to India to the mid-East, belly dancing gained popularity in the United States in the 1970s and has grown more popular since.
Belly dance strengthens a woman’s (or man’s) self-confidence and also promotes creativity and self-expression. Belly dancing is a great way to improve your overall physical fitness as it gently tones and firms all major muscle groups, and especially abdominals, arms, upper back, hips and thighs.
It involves serpentine head, neck and arm movements, as well as abdominal undulations and hip isolations, rotations, and shimmies. Because a woman is on her feet, moving during the dance, it is considered a weight-bearing exercise. Weight-bearing exercise can prevent osteoporosis and strengthen bones.
Muscle groups that attach to the ligaments and vertebrae create movement in the trunk and pelvis areas, improving posture. Raks sharki tones these muscles and maintains flexibility in a safe and effective manner. Belly dancing can help relieve stress to the back, counteracting the almost constant compression of the disks that occurs from sitting and a sedentary lifestyle.
It is considered a low-impact exercise, meaning the risk of injury is minimal when movements are done correctly and can burn up to 300 calories per hour. Apart from strengthening transverse abdominis, belly dancing tones also all other abdominal muscles, such as internal and external obliques, as well as rectus abdominus, which helps you build a perfect six-pack. The greatest thing about this fabulous dance is that it teaches you to balance your body, as well as to isolate different muscle groups, in order to achieve more circular movements.
Many doctors have suggested belly dancing classes as part of rehabilitation from injury; it is, however, important to check with your own medical provider before starting any new form of exercise.