Gilded Serpent presents...

The Physiological Effects of Oriental Dance


Excerpt from Health and The Oriental Dance, Chapter 1

by Aziza of Hungary
posted November 8, 2010

In early 2000, there were no comprehensive instructional writings about Oriental dance written in Hungarian, so I had to obtain the necessary information in English. Also, in order to be able to teach Oriental dance as a movement system (from the point of view of movement and training theory), I earned a recreational sport and a Hungarian folklore dance instructor degree to complement my basic teacher’s degree. There was no information subject available like "the technique of Belly dancing". I had to construct it myself. It took a lot of research in regards to both its theoretical and its practical sides.

Dance helped me a lot, just as it has helped many other women, and has numerous aspects. Because of my family background, I thought that the stage would not be my main profile, but rather, teaching girls and women on their hobby-dance path as well as training, coaching, mentoring dance trainers (who had no pedagogical degrees) but want to teach dance throughout our country — even in the smallest villages. I share with them the teaching method I have developed over the years, the tricks I figured out, and whatever makes the learning process easier. I worked out, organized and lead an instructor training program that has received the accreditation of the Adult Education Accreditation Board of the National Institute of Vocational and Adult Education of Hungary (NIVE).

Besides teaching Oriental dance, regularly, I give oral lectures and special female training throughout the country. Additionally, I dance at different programs my articles have been published in magazines. In 2003, I published the first Hungarian Oriental dance book, "Belly Dancing: Harmony, Vitality, Body Shaping, Eroticism".


“Exercise substitutes lots of medicine, but there is no medicine that substitutes exercise.”

Oriental Dance as a Recreational Activity

It is the goal of human beings to feel good in their skin, to reach an ideal physical, emotional, mental state, aspire for a perfect general health. Optimal physical condition, proper nutrition, and a balanced emotional life are all conditions of health. The latter one is the actual, daily state of a person, which is associated with every-day, general productivity.

According to the definition of the World Health Association:

“Being healthy is not identical with the absence of illnesses; it is the state of physical, mental, and social well-being.”

According to the Universal Lexicon:

“Physical, emotional, and mental well-being in the objective sense, great productivity and good general condition.”

How can Oriental dance help preserve physical, emotional, and mental health?
As opposed to the popular name of this dance (Belly dance) it does not only make the belly work, but the entire body. Its ancient, natural moves are perfectly suitable for obtaining and preserving fitness. The word "bellyfit", which is a contracted form of belly dance and fitness, would tend to demonstrate that correlation.

  • As regards its physical effects: the many small repetitive moves and the larger, more energetic moves make almost all the muscles work.
  • As regards it emotional side: Physical exercise in a good mood does not only charge us with energy for the time of the training, but is able to produce reserves that can increase our resistance towards the outside world.
  • Mentally: Learning new, unusual things, approaching dance moves from a cognitive point of view, the new way of concentration also develops our thinking.

Dance CampLet us have a look at the advantages of a “perfect general condition” based on the experiences of Dr. Kenneth Cooper, one of the most well-known recreational experts:

  • Greater individual energy
  • More enjoyable, active free time
  • Increased ability to deal with stress at home and at work
  • Less depression and unjustified worrying
  • Decreased physical symptoms
  • Better digestion and less frequent constipation
  • Greater self-esteem and self-confidence
  • Effective regulation of body weight
  • More attractive, slimmer figure
  • Stronger bone structure
  • Slower aging process
  • Easier pregnancy and childbirth
  • Increased ability to concentrate
  • Greater will power, self-control, endurance in solving every-day tasks
  • Less frequent pain, especially headaches and back pain
  • Uninterrupted, deeper sleep

How can this perfect health be obtained?
We have to satisfy three fundamental human needs:

  • Emotional balance
  • Proper nutrition
  • Aerobic exercise

These three aspects are strongly connected to each other. Let us have a closer look at them:

Emotional Balance

Esoteric literature, holistic courses, emotional guides, and the support of friends are tremendous help in establishing emotional balance and a harmonious life. In the chapter on training theory analysis we can read about the stress-releasing, community-building function of dancing as well. We also deal with the effects of oriental dance on spirituality and creativity in a separate chapter. We can find tips about how to make our love life more harmonious in the “Scented Garden” chapter.

Proper Nutritional Plan

Accept your body and live in it in happiness!” Seika

We can find information about positive eating habits, matching foods, proper frequency and times of meals, fasting diets, special diets, and nutrition complements in magazines and from nutrition advisors.

If we are overweight, we shouldn’t believe the miracle diets and pills that are based on an unvaried diet and promise us fast weight loss. The models in the advertisements of these products may never have had weight problems in their lives, or were made slim with a pair of scissors. The perfect figure of the models on the front pages of magazines may also be a result of an eating disorder, such as anorexia or bulimia (or even perhaps unhappiness).

Unfortunately, fashion and the supposed or real expectations from women make us lose our sober judgment and cause a distortion of body image. Plastic body corrections might help some women who can easily accept their new selves after the surgery. The mentioned eating disorders, however, deeply undermine self-esteem due to the constant self-punishment and ensuing guilt. Sadly enough, teenagers and young women have been suffering from these disorders more and more often recently. In such cases, the help of an expert is necessary.

If we are looking for a front page ideal, why not Shakira, Jennifer Lopez, or Madonna, instead of Winona Ryder or Twiggy?
Proper nutrition plan means consciously planning our eating habits in the following way: Open Air

  • What do we eat?
  • How do we eat it?
  • When do we eat it?
  • How long do we eat it for?
  • What do we eat it with?
  • With whom do we eat it? In case of a private dinner for two.

We should pay attention to the distribution of the three main nutriments, which, according to doctor and sport physiologist Kenneth H. Cooper, is the following:

  • 50% carbo-hydrate,
  • 20% protein,
  • 30% fat

The distribution of daily energy intake:

  • Breakfast: 25%
  • Lunch: 50%
  • Dinner: 25%

One more help for regulating weight: If we do aerobic exercises in the evening, we can reduce our appetite. This way we primarily burn fat and not the muscles, which are much more difficult to obtain and they are the ones that start deteriorating first if we are on a starving diet.

Aerobic exercises

It was Cooper who introduced the term "aerobic exercises". The term means:
A physical activity which requires oxygen for a longer period of time, therefore puts the body into circumstances in which it must improve its own oxygen-utilizing capacity.

“During aerobic training, positive changes take place in breathing and blood flow. The aim of exercising is to increase the body’s ability to take air into the lungs and draw it out: blood volume increases, blood becomes more suitable for transporting oxygen. Physical activity improves blood supply in all parts of the body, including the brain. That is why we can suppose that aerobic exercise increases mental productivity as well.”

(Dobozy-Jakabházy: Sport Recreation 1992. p67. Translated by Emese Filus)

Physiological Effects of Oriental Dance/Bellyfit

(Disclaimer: Following the guidelines mentioned below does not substitute medical treatment!)
If you have any of the health problems mentioned in this section, you should see a specialist.

The following are individual experiences of women who practice Oriental dancing and were not recorded as part of a medical research.

Oriental dance can be categorized under aerobic activities. Its regularly performed moves have the same effects on the human system as regular jogging or swimming. Its content and structure, and their space-time and dynamic features, render it suitable for anybody regardless of age or initial fitness. According to Nádori László, one primarily needs to do aerobic exercises in order to obtain fitness, in other words we first have to improve staying power. Once we have improved our staying power, the following changes occur:

  • Growth of heart volume. After 6-8 weeks, increase of cardiac output, i.e. increase of blood pumped into the bloodstream by the heart in a minute. These changes result in the decrease of at-rest pulse from an average of 60-70 to 40-50 (in the case of professional athletes, it might be around 30-35, which is a sign of extraordinary fitness).
  • Maximum oxygen uptake increases, which increases energy intake ability.
  • Capillary function improves, arterial-venal difference increases, oxygen supply of the muscles improves
  • Maximum oxygen pulse rises, which is the amount of oxygen taken in during one cardiac contraction.
  • Myoglobin, the red pigment of muscle tissues rises, which takes in and releases oxygen.
  • The number of mitochondriums in muscle cells rises, in which energy generation occurs due to oxidation.
  • Glycogen content rises, i.e. the ability to store glucose; the functioning of enzymes with aerobic effect strengthens.
  • Rise of ATP (adenosine tri-phosphate) and b-phosphate.
  • The working of the heart changes, diastolic and systolic periods lengthen, the oxygen requirement of the heart muscle is reduced.
  • Breathing becomes more economical, the volume of blood circulation and hemoglobin increases.

(Nádori László: Fitness Training 1992. Translated by Filus Emese)

My Students after their exams

From left,
Back line: Melinda, Gyorgyi, Judit, Lina, Aziza, Bea, Mariann
Front line:  (our dog: Dori –her speciality is the modern Egyptian knee shimmy, ) 
Ibolya, Barbara, Krisztina, Katalin



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