I talked with my Tuesday yoga teacher about my hips. They still hurt. They still have limited range of motion. I’m still limping. It’s been a year since the accident. She suggested I try her Wednesday night belly dancing class. I took belly dancing for a semester in college. I remember it as enjoyable exercise.
Unlike yoga, belly dance is public. During yoga class, I rarely look at the others students, unless the teacher asks a student to demonstrate a pose and variations. When, during class, the teacher gives instructions for uses of props and modifications (“put a pad under your left hip”, “if you can’t reach your toes, loop a strap around your foot”) I never look to see who is using props. Yoga is internally focused. Yoga is not meant to be a public performance. Nobody ever goes to a night club to watch people stretch into yoga positions.
Belly dancing students all line up in front of the mirror. Belly dancing students watch each other, hoping to pick up tips and techniques. Belly dancing students expose their midriffs and tie a scarf at their hips to draw attention to the movements. Belly dancing students hear comments like, “Nothing should move above the waist in this step, but if you are well endowed, you can’t help it.”
I was the oldest student in the room, by at least 30 years. My neck is stiff and can’t do that graceful move where the head looks like it has become dissociated from the body. On me, it just looks like I’m doing some sort of odd neck exercise.
I can move my shoulders as well as the youngest of the students, even the one that is still recovering from surgery can do simple belly dancing raises and shakes. My right hip has an easier time than the left one with the lower body maneuvers. Something that almost never happens for me any more in an exercise class – my left hip felt sore and tired about 15 minutes into the class.
Then we started working our midriffs. Lift the ribs to the left. Lift them to the right. Shift them forward. Shift them back. Rotate through all four positions, clockwise, then counter-clockwise. And there in the mirror – all those smooth bellied children with their elastic skin. There in the mirror – looking at the whole class gyrating – I had the only six-pack.
It may look a bit silly on what is supposed to be a sexy dance, but if you look at it as exercise, those muscles let me do what many of the seductive younger women could not. And that was the reason I went – exercise.