Monday, January 18, 2010

Belly Dance for Birth

What a treat I received in the mail today! Maha Al Musa, creator and teacher of BellydanceBirth, and author of Dance of the Womb, contacted me a few weeks ago, telling me she enjoyed reading my blog on "Control". She asked if she could possibly quote part of it in her classes. After chatting by email a few times, we realized we shared many of the same views about birth. She was so kind in sending me a copy of her dvd, Dance of the Womb. I had the pleasure of being able to take a couple of hours to sit and enjoy it in total.

I have always naturally gravitated towards belly dancing, embracing it as a magic we women can use to create with our sacred hips patterns that help us connect to our ancestral memories and process things in our lives. Maha uses this ancient art of belly dancing to help women create flexibility and strength in pregnancy,to provide a wonderful, effective tool to work through the intensity of labour contractions, and as a valuable way of facilitating easier dilation and birth.

It is a very thorough dvd, so either you can study it as if you were doing a workshop with Maha, following it all in one go, or by chapter, perhaps studying one chapter per day. If you choose to study it in spurts, definitely do the warm up exercises before each time, as they feel SO good!

Dance of the Womb is a JOY to follow. As you learn how to emulate with your hips the sacred patterns of the circle, the spiral, the figure eight, the "cervix dance" (which is subtle, but very powerful), the chest movements and dances of the hands and arms, you connect to a beautiful fluidity. There is one point where Maha, gloriously pregnant at the age of 46, demonstrates the wide hip circle while leaning against a chair. If you have witnessed birth, you will resonate with how universal this dance is, as so many women, if you leave them to their own devices, will feel their thought processes slow and their bodies release, naturally swaying their hips to the timeless rhythm that is Birth. While we cannot control our births, Maha helps us to tune into our innermost selves and use our bodies and breath to help manage the intensity of labour.

There was a small part of me which wished, for a little moment, that I could give birth again just to be able to consciously and joyfully bellydance throughout labour! That won't be happening any time soon, but I did actually receive a great benefit...my mid back, which has been bothering me for days, felt a lot better after doing the chest circles. As she freely caresses her pregnant belly with her hands and massages her baby with her dancing hips, Maha is a vision of fullness and beauty. But the movements come from such a natural, intuitive place, that she makes every woman feel like they can do it too, regardless of how much "technique" they are worried about lacking. Perfection is not important here..what is emphasized is feeling good while doing it..and it does feel good!

Maha narrates the dvd and gives the instructions in a very soothing voice with her cute Australian accent and allows viewers ample time to play with the movements, allowing us to go more deeply into the hypnotic music that reflects her Middle Eastern roots. Her words are nourishing. They heal us of our doubts about our abilities to give birth. Our hips, bellies, and wombs, designed with perfection, can bring our babies down and out without much help from our minds. By practising Bellydance for Birth, you can get a glimpse of what that magical endorphin/oxytocin suffused labour trance feels like, which transports us to a place where anything, even bringing forth life, is possible.

Maha treats us at the end of the dvd to an interview with the two midwives who attended the homebirth of her baby girl, interspersed with images and video clips of her labouring and giving birth. What I appreciate about these clips is that it is clear there is no promise that Belly Dancing for Birth makes labour "easy" or "painless". Maha and the midwives do not shy away from discussing the reality of pain in childbirth, speaking of it as normal and life giving. We get to see Maha challenged by contractions, and using the Bellydance to help manage the intense energy of the contractions, and releasing tension through movement and breath. We see her allow herself to freely release emotions to help keep the progression of labour going smoothly, and even get to witness as one of her midwives bellydances close to her, as if to share some of the burden, in a beautiful display of purely feminine commiseration.

If you are pregnant and searching for a way to prepare for childbirth, creating space and fluidity in the body and mind is essential, through the practice of BellyDanceBirth and/or Prenatal Yoga. These tools are FAR more important than learning how to look at a clock to "diagnose" your labour progress. Learning how to let go of our big think-y brains and breathe, moan, and dance away our labour tensions are valuable lessons. If you are a professional who works with pregnant and birthing women, Maha Al Musa will be giving trainings in instruction on BellydanceBirth, the Al Musa method, in the near future. I am happy to report that Maha and I are discussing a potential workshop in Montreal next year. So please visit Maha at http://www.bellydanceforbirth.com/ to keep abreast of trainings and goings on.

Thanks, Maha!
Lesley