Amira’s Bellydance & Yoga for Pregnancy,
Prenatal Bellydance with Naia
Reviewed by a very pregnant Sonja Oswalt
posted June 2010
I am now in my 36th week of pregnancy, and I found that early in my second trimester I was worried about how to adapt my daily bellydance practice safely for my growing belly. Although I consider myself an advanced dancer, this is my first baby. Hoping for some guidance, I tried out two bellydance DVDs specifically marketed to pregnant women: Amira’s Bellydance & Yoga for Pregnancy, and Prenatal Bellydance with Naia. As you’ll see, both DVDs had something to offer, but each was unique in its focus and the audience for which it would be best suited. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my dance journey throughout my pregnancy. It is quite possible to maintain a healthy dance routine during your prenatal period with your doctor’s consent. Good luck and enjoy!
Amira’s Bellydance & Yoga for Pregnancy
In this DVD, Amira, who is both a Registered Nurse and a bellydancer, provides bellydance and yoga routines for pregnant women. The DVD begins with a lovely menu screen featuring soft, relaxing music. Amira provides an introduction describing her personal motivations for developing the DVD, and a brief history of Middle Eastern Dance with a focus on connections between the dance and movements used during the labor process. Amira asserts that bellydance was created by women for women, an assertion that depends upon what aspect or style of Middle Eastern Dance one practices.
Amira also uses the introduction to emphasize that the purpose of the video is not to teach the user how to bellydance, or how to become a professional bellydancer, but to provide movements that will feel natural and calming during pregnancy.
Amira also lists movements that new and advanced dancers should refrain from practicing during the third trimester of pregnancy. The introduction is set to the hauntingly familiar music of “Layali Al Sharq.”
A menu of exercises is provided, allowing the user to select Yoga Warmup and Stretch, Strengthening, Belly Dance, Exercise During Labor, and a Cool Down and Stretch, or to play all from the beginning. The studio setting is lovely and professional, but there are no mirrors so viewers must follow from the front view. The Yoga Warmup section includes a brief meditation and a series of seated stretches. These stretches will seem too easy to someone accustomed to a daily yoga or dance practice, particularly in the first two pregnancy trimesters. During the third trimester, however, the stretches will seem relaxing. I would have preferred some standing stretches, and a slightly faster pace, even during the third trimester. The stretches are quite appropriate for someone not accustomed to daily practice.
The strengthening exercises focus on developing leg strength to aid in birthing positions, particularly squatting. Amira teaches a safe way to practice squats during pregnancy, and leads the viewer in a series of squat exercises. Again, I found the pace to be a little slow for someone accustomed to daily exercise, particularly yoga, dance, or pilates—especially in the first and second trimesters of pregnancy, but appropriate for those just starting out or for someone in the third trimester of pregnancy for whom vigorous exercise may have become uncomfortable. Unfortunately, there are no arm-strengthening exercises, which would have been nice.
The Belly Dance section begins with short instruction on proper posture for bellydance.
This section is extremely slow for anyone beyond a very basic beginner level. I became frustrated with the slow pace, and was unable to pay attention or even follow along, although Amira does cover a wide variety of movements.
Amira covers hip slides, hip circles, vertical and horizontal figure 8s, rib cage slides, rib cage crescents, rib cage figure 8s, rib cage circles, and basic arm movements.
Amira includes a section called “Exercises during Labor” where she breaks down some bellydance movements that women may find helpful during the labor process. Again, for experienced dancers these movements will be easy and, therefore, the pace will seem excruciatingly slow. For beginning dancers, however, the pace is nice, with a focus on how to apply the movements to various stages in labor. Movements include reverse undulations, internal hip circles, pelvic drops, and full body undulations. The section ends with a series of breathing techniques for coping with labor pain which many women may find useful or interesting. The exercises end with a slow, gentle cool down.
Two performances are included on the video, during which Amira dances while pregnant. Her dance style is lovely, though it’s obvious the music was overdubbed on top of the first performance, and the videography is annoying because it goes in and out of focus and constantly moves from distance to close-up viewing. As a result, the viewer often completely misses the movements being performed.
The second performance was videotaped at MECDA, and while the videography is less artistic, I preferred it because I was able to see the movements. Amira is a very graceful pregnant dancer, which is lovely to watch, and her veil work was nice.
Overall, I found the video to be a very nice resource for beginning dancers who are pregnant or for women who have not ever danced before. For intermediate or advanced dancers, the video is too slow, particularly in the first and second trimesters, and those viewers will find most sections to be boring or frustrating because of the pace. Therefore, I would only recommend this as a resource to beginners, or to teachers who are looking for safe methods and movements for instructing pregnant students.
Rating: 3 zils
Best for beginning level dancers in any stage of pregnancy,
or advanced beginners in the second and third trimester;
requires no previous knowledge of bellydance movements.
Production Quality: High level, professional quality
Prenatal Bellydance with Naia
In comparison to Amira’s prenatal bellydance video, the DVD Prenatal Bellydance with Naia opens to a menu with a lovely background of flowers, and selections for workout with narration and music, workout with music only, an option to select specific chapters, and a few necessary extras like disclaimers and credits. Each set of exercises is tied to a nature-related theme like water and earth.
Unlike Amira, Naia appears to assume some previous experience with bellydance, and she uses dance-specific terminology.
She very briefly mentions appropriate posture. Naia’s studio is plain but lovely, with silky-looking curtains in soothing aqua in the background, a lovely selection of tropical flowers in a vase, and a mirror that allows you to view her from the side. Although she has the mirror available, Naia faces the camera with the mirror to her side, so the viewer is still forced to follow along based on a front or side view, not a back view.
In the “Water” section, Naia leads a brief warmup that moves at a faster pace than Amira’s exercises, and includes arm and wrist warmup, ankle warmup, chest and head rolls, back stretches, and general side stretches. In the “Earth” chapter, warm-ups progress to the lower body and transition into bellydance movements like big hip circles, maya, figure 8s, and hip lifts. While Naia breaks down some of the movements, she does so rapidly, and quickly uses the movements in small combinations and layered over footwork with fairly few repetitions.
A beginner with many months of experience under her bedleh, or any dancer over the beginner level would have no problem keeping up. A very new beginner would struggle with the movements, particularly in late pregnancy when movements become harder to execute even for a seasoned dancer.
In the “Air” chapter, Naia focuses on the upper body, and she begins with snake arms, and moves into chest lifts which she does not break down. Again, for a dancer who has previously studied with a teacher, this section is not too difficult. However, for early beginners the movements, while not advanced, are not broken down, move quickly, and Naia layers them over footwork after just a few repetitions.
The “Fire” chapter suddenly picks up the pace with traveling step-combinations that tie all of the previous chapters together. The rapid pace and traveling steps would likely overwhelm a beginning student, particularly a beginner who is in her second or third trimester. However, for dancers who have previous experience in other dance forms, or for dancers who are at an “advanced beginner” level or beyond, the rapid pace is invigorating. Naia ends the video with a slow cooldown.
I appreciated the pace of Prenatal Bellydance with Naia, because I found Amira’s Bellydance & Yoga for Pregnancy DVD to be too little of a challenge. This DVD, while still not challenging to an advanced dancer, does offer some cute combinations that provide a mild workout, and are soothing to a very pregnant body. However, I appreciated the sections in Amira’s DVD that focused on using bellydance during labor to assist progression, her focus on breathing techniques, and her strength-building squats. For students who are looking for a quick but easy workout with some light and simple bellydance movements, Prenatal Bellydance with Naia may provide a slightly more satisfying pace. However, new beginners may be overwhelmed, and would do better to select Amira’s Bellydance & Yoga for Pregnancy. Neither DVD offered a challenge for advanced dancers, while both DVDs are more suitable for a dancer in her second or third trimester, as they may be too easy for a dancer in her first trimester.
Rating: 2.5 zils
Best for advanced beginners throughout pregnancy
or intermediate dancers in their second or third trimesters;
requires an understanding of basic bellydance movements and traveling steps.
Production Quality: High level, professional quality
Personally, I would love to see the production of a prenatal bellydance DVD for advanced dancers w ho wish to maintain muscle tone, continue to improve technique, and challenge themselves while safely accommodating their growing bellies. However, perhaps because most bellydance movements are easily adapted for pregnancy and advanced dancers are usually able to intuitively adjust, there has been little need for an advanced prenatal bellydance DVD on the market.
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