Belly-Burnout: What happens when you lose your mojo?

As a student of bellydance for nearly 10 years, I’ve had many moments of wanting to give up my dance, for a myriad of reasons. The past couple of years, I’ve felt my inspiration waning, despite attending retreats, intensives and teaching. There seems to be something missing from my dance at the moment which has caused me to mentally and energetically pull back and examine where my journey is headed. For the better part of ten years my mind has been occupied with Bellydance – going over choreographies and performance ideas in my head, thinking of music to dance to, finding costuming inspiration, thinking about upcoming shows/haflas/intensives/trips/gigs and keeping tabs on what everyone else is up to on social media.

So when I started feeling dread at the thought of preparing of a show, or the thought of attending a weekend of workshops exhausted me before I had even signed up, I realized that it was time to take a step back. Call it Belly-Burnout, if you will. For a long time this feeling churned inside and I felt guilty that this was happening to me, that somehow it made me a failure or a fake or someone who *gasp* isn’t as dedicated to dance as everyone else. That because I had come so far that it was too late to just stop, that I had to keep going for the sake of students and the expectations of the community, to be seen to participate and not become irrelevant or forgotten. So I pushed through, but I found that I was spending more time and energy trying to force ideas and worrying if I would be able to come up with something that I feel like that’s when my mojo disappeared.

Now, the creative process is a very interesting creature – for most of my professional career I have been employed in creative roles and for me when the ‘aha!’ moment happens, all things come into place, and I find myself re-energized and invigorated ready to explore an idea. The thing is though, the road between development of an idea and the ‘aha!’ can take anywhere from a moment to years, which for me (and I’m sure for many others) is the most difficult stage to get through. But once that moment happens, that’s where magic starts!

I haven’t had an ‘aha!’ moment in quite some time. However instead of stressing about it, I’ve thought about what else is going on in my life and where I need to direct my energy so that I can nurture myself back to a point where I am ready to feel creative in dance again. Though I still drill a bit at home, I have taken up other forms of exercise to give my body a break from what it is used to, build up my strength and stamina, and discover a different way of movement. I have started sketching again after many many years of not making the time having been so preoccupied with dance (and also full time work).

I want to love bellydance again. It’s all I think about during the day, which really indicates either a deep love or obsession. I want to be better, I want to improve and I want to continue my dance journey. But first I need to take some time out to realign and readjust so that I can be truly present and enjoy every moment. There is no shame in feeling the burnout or wanting to give up, it’s natural and normal. A teacher once told me in class that, “Bellydance is like falling in love with someone: You discover them, and they are all you think about. You can’t keep your hands off each other and every moment is exciting and thrilling. A few years later you’ve developed a deeper relationship, you might not be so hands on but you know one another inside and out. Maybe you even think maybe you’ve fallen out of love. But then one day, something happens and they remind you how amazing they are and you couldn’t imagine life without them.”

This is how I feel about dance. I think about the journey that has taken me all over Australia, the people I’ve met, how as I’ve grown as a person my dance has grown too. Losing your dance mojo doesn’t mean the end. It just means a little bit of time needs to be taken to rediscover that hunger, that desire. It might not happen right away, but I have faith that it will. And that’s OK with me.

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Yoga for Bellydancers: The Top 10 Poses You Need in Your Practice

In my previous post I wrote about how yoga changed my life, helping me to rehabilitate a chronic back injury and also improving my bellydance technique. This certainly didn’t happen overnight, or all at once. Over the course of a number of years I gradually incorporated yoga into my practice and by trial and error I encountered many beneficial poses that not only helped my flexibility but also improved my strength and general wellbeing.

The most beneficial yoga poses which I believe helped to rehabilitate my lower back but also provide more stability in my belly dance technique target the hip flexors, hamstrings, lower back and core.

All images are sourced from http://www.yogajournal.com – a fantastic resource for technique and information about building your own practice. Links to each pose from the website are in the numbered headings.

1. LOW LUNGE

Low Lunge
Low Lunge

This pose is a fantastic beginner’s pose, to increase the stretch in the hip flexor you can scoot your knee back. The front knee must be over the ankle at all times. Any variation of lunge is a great way to safely stretch the hip flexor.

2. 1-LEGGED KING PIGEON POSE

One Legged King Pigeon
One Legged King Pigeon

For the beginner, this pose can be executed without arms, and with assistance of a blanket or bolster under the buttocks if the hips are too tight. The King Pigeon pose is not only a fantastic hip flexor stretch but also does wonders for the glutes and outer hip. I found this pose to help my slow hipwork, particularly figure eights and omnis.

3. STANDING FORWARD BEND

Standing Forward Bend
Standing Forward Bend

This is a great pose to stretch out both the hamstrings and lower back, and is perfect for after class as a cooldown especially if you have been drilling lots of hip or lower back intensive movement. To really stretch the lower back you can bend the knees as much as you need and rest the belly on the thighs.

4. WIDE-LEGGED FORWARD BEND

Wide-legged forward bend
Wide-legged forward bend

One of my favourite post-class poses, this is a great lower back and hamstring stretch to improve flexibility. The wider apart your legs are, the easier it is to reach the floor, so you can increase difficulty by shuffling the feet closer together for a stronger stretch. You can lift the head from the floor and vary your arm positions to stretch the hips and side abdominals as well.

5. EXTENDED TRIANGLE POSE

Extended Triangle Pose
Extended Triangle Pose

A great pose that lengthens the hamstrings, side abdominals and calves, which also strengthens the knees and core, while opening the chest and alleviates stress on the lower back.

6. REVOLVED HEAD-TO-KNEE POSE

Revolved Head to Knee Pose
Revolved Head to Knee Pose

This pose is your new best friend. You’ll stretch your hamstring but with the twist and side bend you’ll experience a deep stretch down your side abdominals and right into your hip joint. As dancers we use these muscles a lot but there’s not always an accessible stretch to relieve and lengthen these areas we overuse. It also has the added benefit of stretching the upper body and generally relieving stress.

7. BOAT POSE

Boat Pose
Boat Pose

To be strong dancers and to avoid injury, core strength is a must. To target different abdominal groups you can gradually lower but not touch the floor then engage the core to raise back into boat pose. A strong core protects the spine and improves posture and carriage. If you engage in floorwork for your dance, core strength is a must to execute the dance safely and gracefully.

8. SIDE PLANK POSE

Side Plank Pose
Side Plank Pose

This pose can be modified by bringing the lower knee to the floor to begin conditioning the side abdominals and upper body. The side plank with the extended arm not only opens the side body but helps to engage the side abdominals and improve balance.

9. CAMEL POSE

Camel Pose
Camel Pose

If you engage in floorwork, backbends or laybacks in your dancing, the camel pose is a great strengthener for your back and thighs. It also has the benefit of stretching the entire front of the body.

10. HALF LORD OF THE FISHES POSE

Half Lord of the Fishes Pose
Half Lord of the Fishes Pose

After you’ve done a hard session of dancing and yoga-ing, cool down with this seated twist – you’ll gently release your spine and end your practice with a smile!

It was so hard to choose just 10 poses, but these are the ones  which really helped me personally in my journey as a dancer and yoga student. Do you have any favourite poses I haven’t featured?