More and more women are swaying their hips, moving their arms, and turning to belly dancing for their regular dose of physical activity. After all, the evolved dance form that is believed to have originated in the Middle East and is now adapted to suit Western styles, offers a wide range of fitness benefits. Belly dancing is also a highly enjoyable activity, and research has found that it could encourage positive body image.
According to the study's lead author Dr. Marika Tiggerman, belly dancing could be associated with positive body image because the participants focus more on the experience rather than external appearance. Dr. Tiggerman is with the psychology department at Finders University in Australia.
Dr. Tiggerman's methodology involved assembling a group of participants of 213 young women. Among them, 112 were experienced belly dancer recruited from dance schools, while the remaining participants were undergraduates who have never experienced or tried belly dancing.
All 213 women answered a questionnaire that focused on how they perceive their own bodies, how others seemingly perceived them, and how attractive they felt they were to men. Results revealed that belly dancers have a better overall self-image.
Dr. Tiggerman attributes these findings to her "embodiment model", a model which hypothesizes that the women who practice belly dancing experience a sense of nurturing that promotes mental and physical harmony with their bodies, leading to less thoughts of self objectification.
Despite the undeniable erotic nature of the dance, most of the women who answered the survey viewed it as insignificant or at least low priority. Dr. Tiggerman was led to conclude that the women mainly participate in belly dancing for their own selves and their own pleasure, without being too preoccupied of others' perceptions of them.
She adds that belly dancing "allows women a rare, safe, and creative opportunity for exploring and expressing their sensual and sexual selves."