Ever been drawn to the exotic world of belly dancing? Feel intrigued but a bit scared at the same time?

You may have some of the same questions I did.

My last post brainstormed some options for pelvic floor-safe exercise that aren’t boring. So here, as promised, is the first in a series that goes into these fabulous options in more detail, especially from the point of view of the pelvic floor. This time we talk about belly dancing for the pelvic floor.

In this post I interview Lorelle Hawes, experienced belly dancing teacher and physiotherapist.

We talk about the reasons it’s a pelvic floor safe exercise, when to start post-partum, and the lure of the music!

Can you summarise your background – how long have you been teaching, and how did you get into belly dancing?

I first tried belly dancing back in 1990, my final year of physiotherapy. The UQ Sports Association was running an 8 week course and a friend convinced me to come along. She dropped out after a couple of lessons, but I was instantly hooked! I think I taught my first class in about 1993, but didn’t teach regularly until about 1997. For the last 5 years, I have only taught as a ‘relief” teacher and try to keep my hand in by attending classes when I can.

What do you love most about belly dancing?

I would have to say the music, and how your movements are intimately guided by the music and the emotions that it evokes. Whether it’s plaintive vocals, energetic drum rolls or complex orchestral arrangements – your body has an answer!

“Your body has an answer!”

What advantages does belly dancing have over other forms of dancing – and exercise in general?

Belly dancing doesn’t feel like exercise. It is fun, creative, sensual and expressive. There are many different Middle Eastern dance styles taught under the umbrella of belly dance so you never get bored. Belly dance is accepting of all body types and ages, so it is accessible to a wide range of women. Just in case anyone is wondering, you don’t need to expose your belly in a belly dance class – but of course you can if you want to!

“Belly dance is accepting of all body types and ages”


On the whole, belly dance is low impact and you can pace yourself within the class environment. It is a woman friendly environment and the pelvic floor is often referenced during a class.

You don’t need to expose your belly in a belly dance class – but of course you can if you want to!”

Any warm up exercises a woman should learn before launching herself into the world of belly dancing?

Not really, a good teacher will always start with a warm up and break down new movements slowly.

Is there any special care a woman should take if she has a prolapse?

Yes. There are some folkloric styles that involve some light jumping, so be careful with that. Also, there are some movements that can potentially bear down on a prolapse if the pelvic floor is not responsive. For example strong undulations/belly rolls; sharp hip movements and vigorous shimmies. Ideally, the pelvic floor co-contracts with all of these movements to counter any downward pressure, but if you have a weak pelvic floor you should ease off the intensity with which you perform these moves. There may be some moves you will want to avoid if you feel downward pressure.

“Ideally, the pelvic floor co-contracts with all these movements”

How soon can a woman start belly dancing postpartum – if she has never done it before?

I would say 3- 6 months. I will never forget one of my past students turning up to class 4 days after having had her baby! That was definitely not on my advice! She was so passionate about it and couldn’t bear to miss anything.

Does a woman need to think about her pelvic floor while belly dancing?

If you do have some pelvic floor weakness then take care with the above mentioned movements. When you are learning new movements, you should be cued to draw in your lower abdominals frequently during class – take that as a prompt to also draw up the pelvic floor. However, once you have the basics under your belt, you should be able to enjoy dancing freely.

“You should be able to enjoy dancing freely”

Some critics say belly dancing might over-emphasise the global abdominals. What are your thoughts on this?

Compared to a typical gym or Pilates class where you might be performing curl ups and table top exercises, belly dance is far less focussed on the global abdominals. A lot of belly dance movements are generated through the legs only to look like an abdominal action. We do use the oblique muscles (and quadratus lumborum) quite a lot to achieve different movements, but there is usually no resistance, including from gravity, involved.

“A lot of belly dance movements are generating through the legs only to look like an abdominal action.”

How might a woman find a good belly dancing teacher?

It is trial and error to find someone whose teaching style you enjoy and are comfortable with. There are no regulations governing belly dance teaching. I would advise to ring around and ask the teacher how many years she has been teaching, how many people in class (ideally less than 20) and whether she has any group exercise teaching qualifications. If you have a prolapse, let her know, so she is aware you may pace yourself or modify some movements to suit.

I must admit, I would not recommend belly dance to women who have no pelvic floor contraction. There are many moves where you would hope there is automatic co-contraction happening. However, compared to sports and most gym classes it is PF friendly.

Thanks for the opportunity to be part of your blog!

Thank you Lorelle, and shimmy on!



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