In August 2014, the Yahoo Contributor Network was shut down. All the copyrights to articles thereon were returned to their authors, so I decided to publish certain articles of mine, originally written for Yahoo UK on my own blogs. This is one of them.
I am going to make a confession here, so please be kind… I was once a terrible couch potato.
Actually I was more of a desk potato. Most of my free time was spent in my study, on my computer, gaming, chatting, writing. Despite having been fairly active in my teens and through my university life, once I was working I didn't seem to have the energy left at the end of the day to do anything active.
I know this is a common affliction. Finding time to fit in a workout can be a struggle for many of us. It's tough to get motivated, particularly in the winter months when it is cold and dark and all the best entertainment options involve being curled up under a blanket.
For me this changed very suddenly one September.
I rode my motorbike home from work, and noticed that my leather trousers were causing a really uncomfortable pressure on my right hand side. Over the weekend the pain worsened, and on the Monday, I was admitted to hospital with appendicitis. I left 5 days later following major surgery, as the infection had gone beyond the realms of keyhole surgery.
In less than a week I had gone from being capable, mobile and apparently healthy, to walking in an excruciating shuffle - via nearly dying from rotten insides. In my convalescence I reflected upon how fragile our health really is, and vowed that when I returned to full health, I would no longer take it for granted.
A couple of years previously I had taken bellydance classes. I didn't really get on with the class, despite being quite keen to dance, it wasn't the right teacher for me, or perhaps the right time, and as other commitments became more urgent, I stopped going.
This time I decided I was going to do better. I did some research and found a really great teacher. I bought a small library of practice DVDs.
I fell in love with the dance. So much that soon I was attending 2 or 3 classes a week. When I came home from work I no longer went straight to my computer. I would put on some music and practice my moves.
I was loving my new hobby so much, I barely noticed how it was challenging my body. I became stronger and fitter whilst having fun, getting out of the house and making friends.
As I improved my teacher asked me to join her performance troupe - so that was another class to attend! Tougher dance moves meant I had to raise my game, and soon I was putting in some intense yoga and pilates practice as well.
In less than a year my whole life had changed . I was out of the house more, I was more active, I was travelling all over the country to perform and train. Most of all I was healthier, happier and more confident.
Now I teach yoga and Arabic dance. I have come to see that mine is just one of so many similar stories. Dance is transformational. To anyone considering bringing more activity into their lifestyle, I would say, go for it. You will never regret giving it a try, and you could find a whole new lease of life.
ETA: When this was first published, the vast majority of comments on the article were regarding weight loss. For clarity I would like to add the following.
The focus of this article is health and fitness. Sometimes this equates to weight loss, or maintaining a slim figure, however this is not automatically the case. I am actually around 5kg heavier than I was before I started dancing, and a dress size larger. This is partly due to the 2 babies I have had, but the point is this: I have better cardiovascular fitness than before. My heart is stronger and healthier. My lungs are stronger and my asthma is better. My bum is undoubtably bigger, but it is made of solid muscle (that's where the sharp hip accents come from). My joints are less painful as they are stabilised and supported by dance muscle.
Being a bellydancer is about being strong and healthy and feeling good in your skin, not about how stretched your knicker elastic is (and if it is, just buy new knickers, it's just a number and you'll be comfier).