NEW: LUV Bellydance Fitness in December 2016

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Get fit the fun way! Explore the ancient, feminine art of bellydance while strengthening core, increasing flexibility and toning arms in an atmosphere of supportive sisterhood. All ages above 18, all shapes and sizes. Women Only.

NEW session launching in a NEW location in December 2016. Wednesdays, 6-6:45 pm at DanceSpace, 6004A West Broad St., Richmond VA. Near the intersection of Libbie & Broad, upstairs above Mekong Restaurant.

Drop-in fee = $10/class. Dance Card = $32 for 4 classes in December.

The dancing will be done barefoot. Bring your own coin scarf for hips OR purchase one at the door, regular one-size for $5, plus size for $15. Wear soft, comfortable clothing in which you can move freely. Also, if you wish to be expressive, do not hesitate to wear halter tops, bikini tops, crop tops or decorative/bellydance bra. Whatever works for you!

Keep an eye out for posting RE January class at Weinstein JCC, on Thursdays at 5:30. Details being confirmed.

*Photo credit: Jimmie Ransom

Playlist for Flow Yoga

For a more vigorous practice of yoga, you might want to crank up the volume and the pace of the music. I use the following playlist for a class that is about half bodyweight strength-training and half yoga poses with a brief savasana at the end. I think this playlist also works well for running — I’m one of those folks who can’t crank out the mileage without music! All songs may be found on iTunes.

“Flying With You”                      MC Yogi

“Honey”                                         Moby

“Bodyrock”                                    Moby

“Staple It Together”                    Jack Johnson

“India Beat Crush”                      DJ Drez

“Shiva’s Dancehall”          EarthRise Sound System

“Shut Up and Dance”       Walk The Moon

“Uptown Funk”                            Mark Ronson

“Solo Darbuka”                            Chalf Hassan

“Senegal Fast-Food”    Amadou & Mariam

“Say Hey”                                     Michael Franti

“Tangerine Thrumi”                Prem Joshua

“Bombay Theme Music”   A.R. Rahman

“Fairytales with Gentle Rainforest Birds” Rainforest Lullabies

“Free Spirit”                            Budi Siebert

Power Pose: Convince Your Mind

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Wonder Woman! No doubt she gets the job done. She is sure of herself. She knows she has the power to do good. She will be heard.

Imagine the same woman, crumpled in a chair, drooping toward the floor and holding onto herself, gaze downward. Even with a groovy outfit, that body language screams: “I doubt myself! I’m not really here. Don’t look at me.” Of utmost importance is that her brain believes the feedback the body is sending it. Even an intellect that knows an answer, has solutions and proposals aplenty, even a strong and fit body will balk and hesitate if the body language feedback is negative. She who hesitates is lost! She who wants to be invisible or feels invisible can easily convince others that she does not count, perhaps barely exists.

And, yes, this phenomenon is not limited by gender. Men may get into self-defeating postures as well. If Superman really didn’t want others to know his secret identity, then Clark Kent would slump and droop and stumble.

Contemporary social scientists posit that we can create a better feedback loop. We can teach our bodies to convince our brains that everything is O.K., that we are worthy and we can take positive action even under stress. In the vernacular, “Fake it ’til we make it!” Check out this TED Talk by Amy Cuddy for details.

Even Ursula knew it! Villain or not, she knew about power!

Dance Break: Self-Care Tool

Adult life conspires to keep us still. Quiet. Controlled. Well-behaved. Appropriate. Yes, there are times and places where if you don’t conform to that, you are in trouble. But, all the time? No, no, no! Darlings, this will not do!

But, where and when and why and how does one enjoy a dance break? Must you wait for a wedding or a cruise or a club outing or a dance class? Many people I talk with say, “I used to dance” or “I’m not coordinated” or “I don’t have anyone to dance with” or “Yeah, sure, I will dance… after a few drinks … and then I think I’m the best dancer in the room.” Just for now, try dancing alone. Try dancing without self-judgment. Try it without sedation.

Where? If this is new, anywhere that you will not be interrupted for the length of two songs. Once you are comfortable, anywhere that you feel free to be yourself and will not be stopped or confronted by others.

When? So many options! Most recorded songs are about 3 minutes long. Got 6 minutes? Time enough for a dance break.

Why? 1) You have been sitting too long. (2) You are bored and feel you might fall asleep and think the walk to the refrigerator or vending machine would be the cure to wake you up. (3) A powerful emotion has hold of you and you don’t quite know what to do with it but you are tempted to sublimate, i.e. slam a beer or throw the emotions like a javelin at someone else or start broadcasting self-hating tapes in your head.

How? If you simply need to move or energize yourself, the prescription is simple. Play two songs that rev your motor. This is highly individual. Could be “Get Up Offa That Thing” or “Born To Be Wild” or “Save A Horse, Ride a Cowboy” or “Defying Gravity” or anything that makes the pulse stir. Pick two. Go! Caveat: You really, truly only have time for one song? Go! It’s better than none.

If you are dealing with overwhelming emotions, especially negative ones, the prescription offers a bit more guidance. While talk and journaling can be rich fields for problem-solving and evolution, we must not forget we are physical creatures and our emotions are also embodied. We are not just massive brains being perambulated around by skeletons from one sitting surface to another. Two songs are required for this kind of dance break.

The first song should mimic in tone and pacing the feeling you struggle with or that you cannot express verbally or physically in a safe, comfortable way around others right now. This may require a bit more exploration of your playlists or CD collection. Music is the universal language and it speaks every intonation on the emotion scale. Grief? Anger? Fear? Frustration? All covered. Move freely in a way you feel connects to those notes. Let it go! If you are in a good space to vocalize, that can be a helpful add-on. It may feel weird to groan and moan and weep and wail and gibber to music but the aftereffect is a fantastic feeling of lightness and tension released. At the end of the Emotion Releasing Song, take a few deep breaths. Odds are your mind will feel pleasantly blank. The second part of the prescription is to follow up the releasing song with a positive song that brings you back into a pleasurable state of inhabiting your body. A slow-ish, sensual song helps many people come back from the negative place they were in with the releasing song. (We want to release, not wallow or ruminate.) Think Barry White or make-out music. Some people will prefer an uplifting, soaring song, perhaps a classical piece or an aria. In these precious six minutes or so, you are movement, you are music. Your body will love you for it.

Dispense your dance breaks as needed. Sometimes, you may need a Dance Party.

LUV Belly Practice Songs

The wonderful world of music offers an endless variety of songs to dance to, and finding music for belly dance practice is great fun. These are in my ear today. All songs below are available on iTunes.

“Khamsa We Kamsine”                 Chalf Hassan

“Paint It Black”                                Demetra Suvari

“Bellydancing (Arabic Music)”    Belly Dance (album)

“Hips Don’t Lie”                              Shakira

“We Daret El Ayam”                       Mahmoud Fadi

“Mother’s Love”                               Ari Cohen

“Tahrir”                                               Ramzi Aburedwan

“Solo Darbuka”                                 Chalf Hassan

“Echoes of Istanbul”                       Keith Halligan

“Lebanese Blonde”                          Thievery Corporation

“Change the World”                         Eric Clapton

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Compassion Toward Your Precious Body

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To- Do List: 1) Give yourself a big hug! Wrap your loving arms around yourself and squeeze. Breathe. Let it all out. Whisper, “I love you.” (2) Find a mirror. Any size. Look into your eyes. Say, “Hello, gorgeous!” (3) Turn on a favorite song. Move any way you wish, from a sway to head-banging or anything in between. If you’re an introvert, dance like nobody’s watching. If you’re an extrovert, dance like everybody’s watching. (4) Write the Universe a thank you note. (5) Sit still or lie down in a quiet space and breathe slowly in and out for at least five minutes. On the inhale, think “I am.” On the exhale, think, “enough.”

Other than ending up feeling good, why should you do these things? Well, your brain is listening. And, it believes you. Far too often, especially in Western culture, we live in a near-constant state of self-criticism and perceived lack. This is toxic. It harms us and the negativity radiates outward to others.

That phrase “I’m only hurting myself”? Not true.

Compassion begins at home. Compassion AKA loving kindness begins within and toward your own body, your very being. It is difficult, if not impossible to be authentically kind and non-judgmental toward others if you are harsh and critical toward yourself. Mood is not a light switch so easily thrown. Habits of thought show up in habits of speech.

Many spiritual and religious traditions recognize this connection between compassion for self and compassion for others. Christianity, for example, teaches “love your neighbor as you love yourself; there is no greater commandment” and “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Yogic philosophy at its very base is rooted in ahimsa, a commitment to non-violence and compassion. It recognizes the absolute necessity of self-love, self-care and self-acceptance before one can relate honestly, openly and kindly with the external world. For those who fear the label or the state of narcissism, self-love is a baseline, not a state of total absorption to the exclusion of others’ interests.

When we are unkind to ourselves, we are less likely to be consistently kind to others. If our behavior towards ourselves is punitive, neglectful or outright abusive in thought, word or deed, that does not bode well for our health or for our relationships with others.

We all can slip into bad habits of speech and thought, leading into bad habits of action or inaction. “God, I am so fat.” “I look so old.” “I’m terrible; I don’t have any willpower.” “I’m past it.” The culture often encourages these unkind assaults. There is big money in self-loathing. When we are discontented and disliking of our very selves, we are vulnerable to the promise of a product that can ease the pain quickly — have a drink!– or something that compounds the pain by punishing our unworthy, failed bodies — feel the burn!

It doesn’t have to be like that.

LUVMVMT® exists to encourage and empower self-love through movement, which the human body both craves and needs. You will not be measured, weighed or judged. Come as you are. As you truly are, right now. The joy of movement is your birthright. Strength, balance, flexibility and coordination make the journey of life easier. They also reduce the likelihood of accident, injury or strain that so often assault a body that has been abandoned or neglected. Movement that expresses your feelings and their many shades allows your spirit to take flight. Today is the day to re-claim your birthright. Love Movement. Love Life. Love Yourself.

Move Freely. Stand Tall.

Long front body. Reach with the crown of the head. In dance, as in yoga, these teaching cues will be heard by students so frequently they may become a kind of white noise. Nevertheless, the actions are essential to moving freely with a supple spine.

We all have different ways of learning. For lovers of the technical and scientific, here is a useful description of how and why the “long front body” makes all forms of movement more free and less inclined to stress and injury. Hats off to this TED Talk speaker!