Belly Dancing

Improve The Symptoms Of Women With Cancer

17th October 2017, Clement Long, Community Development – Mount Miriam Cancer Hospital

I would like to share a story about a belly dancer, published by The Atlantic, dated March 2017.

Jennifer LaFleur – A breast cancer survivor’s unlikely therapy for people looking to return to life before chemotherapy.

Whoever developed the art of belly dancing probably would not have foreseen that it wold be used to help women cope and recovery with cancer in the 21st century. After her mastectomy, Jennifer LaFleur found herself lying on the hardwood floor in her kitchen. The firm surface seemed to loosen up her tense back muscles, which were sore from the maddening stillness her recovery required. LaFleur was first diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2011. Six rounds of chemotherapy, a lumpectomy, a second surgery, and six weeks of radiation drove the cancer into remission—only for it to return in September 2014. This time, she underwent the mastectomy and reconstruction, and after one final surgery, she was cancer-free. But the invasive treatments left her feeling that her body no longer quite belonged to her. “I realized recovering from this trauma was going to be a complicated process,” she says.

On the floor, LaFleur’s mind drifted to, of all things, belly dance. Before her diagnosis, she had danced with a belly-dance troupe in Charlottesville, where she’s working toward a Ph.D. The slew of medical treatments had driven LaFleur into a sedentary life, disconnected from the activities she once enjoyed. She wondered, could returning to belly dance help her find a way back to the life she had known before cancer?


Like many other patients whose cancer has come back after remission, LaFleur remains afflicted by the nagging doubt that the cancer is ever truly gone. “Cancer is, at its core, your body turning against itself,” she says. “You have a hard time trusting your immune system. It’s very alienating, and it can be frustrating to not have the stamina you’ve had your whole life.” LaFleur liked that belly dance can promote body positivity and isn’t too difficult to pick up. The dance can also be modified to accommodate students who might need to sit or lie down due to weakened health. She decided to limit her class to other cancer survivors with the goal of connecting over the shared experience.

A recent Hungarian study that was published in the European Journal of Oncology Nursing stated that belly dancing could help improve the quality of life, social support, and life satisfaction for women who are going through cancer treatments and recovery.

Overall, the researchers agreed that women with cancer who undergo a belly dancing class as part of a complementary treatment would likely fare better physically, psychologically, and socially than those who don’t.

Nevertheless, every woman is encouraged to take up belly dancing. 

Health Benefits of Belly Dancing

Reasons Every Woman Should Take Up Belly Dancing

The benefits of belly dance are both mental and physical. Dancing provides a good cardio-vascular workout and helps increase both flexibility and strength, focusing on the torso or “core muscles”, although it also builds leg strength. As with starting any new exercise routine, people would be wise to consult their doctor before starting a belly dance regimen. It’s also important to talk with the belly dance instructor to find out the level of difficulty in the classes.

Mental health benefits including an improved sense of well-being, better body image and self-esteem, and the generally positive outlook that comes with regular, enjoyable exercise.

Belly dance is a non-impact, weight-bearing exercise, which is especially good for women, since it can reduce the risk of osteoporosis. There is minimal stress on knees and feet. Depending on the intensity of exercise, participants can increase breathing and raise their heartbeat, which can assist in building cardiovascular strength.It can burn as many calories as light jogging, swimming or riding a bike.

Professor Fobrose at the athletic academy in Koln, Germany, showed that regular belly dancing not only strengthens trapezius and abdominal muscles but also strengthens the heart and increases circulation.

The advantage of belly dance is that it is suitable for all ages and body types. It can be as physically challenging as the dancer or student chooses. Many belly dance moves develop the ability to move various muscle groups independently, increasing flexibility in the torso and back. Dancing with the veil can help build strength in the upper-body, arm and shoulders. Playing the zills can get fingers trained to work independently and build strength. The legs and long muscles of the back are strengthened by hip movements.

Anette Paffrath at the University of Hamburg ressearched the effect of belly dance on women with menstruation problems. The statements of the women showed a more positive approach toward their menstruation, sexuality, and bodies during the course of the class.

In Eastern and Indian philosophy pelvic area is the source of strength and storage of energy. Belly dance movements focus on this vital area, freeing the flow of energy and strengthen the abdominal and pelvic region, preparing a woman for labor and birth with less pain and more flexibility.