Okay for pregnant women to dance?

Yes, as long as they are aware of movements they should avoid, say practitioners in Bengaluru

Payal Gupta has been on a performing and teaching spree. The belly dancer, practising the art for 13 years, is the director of Payal’s Dance Academy, with branches across Bengaluru.

She recently performed in Goa and Mumbai before appearing on stage in Bengaluru last Sunday.

What makes this remarkable is that she is 28 weeks pregnant. She says she might be the first Indian belly dancer to perform a full-fledged belly dance routine on stage well into her pregnancy.

“I have watched many of my international teachers dance through their pregnancies. I spoke to them about what it’s like to dance during this period and after taking their advice, I decided it’s completely safe and normal to continue doing what I’ve been doing,” says Payal, who has won numerous titles globally and domestically in the art form.

It is okay to dance if the woman has been physically active even before becoming pregnant; starting something completely new is not advisable during pregnancy, she cautions.

“I knew how to control my energy and I also scaled down a bit to control some movements and postures. Dancing relaxes me physically and mentally,” she says, adding that it also distracts her from the problems she is facing.

“Initially, I was hardly eating anything; dance was the only thing that kept me sane. I would look forward to going to my classes, meeting my students and teaching and performing because everything else would otherwise be overwhelming,” she says.

Sulekha Nazaruddin, assistant manager at a travel company, personally vouches for the many benefits of dancing while pregnant.

“Dance is one of the best forms of exercise for everyone, especially pregnant women. It loosens your muscles and makes your body more flexible; you hardly experience the discomfort of a growing tummy,” she says.

Sulekha and her husband enrolled for Bollywood dancing classes and she was practising a particularly vigorous song when she found out she was pregnant.

“But I didn’t stop dancing, even though many people asked me to. Why give up something you love if you are pregnant? You are not sick to stay inside all day. I just tweaked the steps to focus more on strengthening my thighs and back muscles, which experience the maximum stress during pregnancy and delivery. I even performed at a family function just before my ninth month,” she says.

Some of her friends and relatives were concerned but she was comfortable.

Sulekha recommends dancing early in the morning as “you feel fresh and energetic throughout the day.” Oh, and she had a normal delivery and gave birth to a healthy baby girl so you can take her word!

Concerns abound

Payal’s mother freaked out when she realised Payal was performing and teaching after becoming pregnant.

“She was stressed that I would overdo it and asked me to just halt it for the first trimester. I instantly called my teachers and they assured me there was no need to worry since I had been a yoga practitioner and a belly dancer for such a long time,” she says.

What doc says

An experienced dancer can continue gentle dancing in her first and second trimester.

In the third trimester, she could do it, provided it does not involve a lot of thrust on the pelvic area. If she has never danced earlier, it is not recommended to initiate it during pregnancy.

A pregnant woman having bleeding or a short cervix (neck of the womb) or a stitch around her cervix is not advised to dance. A yes from the obstetrician is also important for someone to pursue this activity.

If dancing can help some women to improve their happiness quotient, I definitely recommend it.

It is reasonably safe to do in the first six months. However, one needs to careful during the last three months.

Dancing gently is safe. Intense forms of dancing, like Zumba, are not recommended in pregnancy. I have personally seen some professional Bharathanatyam dancers who have given stage performances in the first six months.

Dr Gayathri Kamath, senior consultant, obstetrics and gynaecology, Fortis Hospital, Bannerghatta Road

What kind of dance is advisable during pregnancy?

Doctors and health experts usually suggest slow-moving and low-impact dances, like jazz, salsa, samba and belly dancing, which put less pressure on your joints.

Dance types allowed

Dance types that are strenuous and involve moves such as standing on one leg for a long time, or excessive jumping, stretching or kicking, should be avoided or modified suitably. Styles like Bharathanatyam, Kuchipudi, ballet and hip hop might need one to exert more, as they involve more strenuous movements like lifts and squats; but with toned down movements, these styles can also make your heart and lungs work harder, give you more energy, keep your muscles strong and toned, and may help with balance and coordination.

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