May 23, 2005


I usually get to belly dance class early. I like to sit peacefully on my mat, listening to the Middle Eastern music, looking out the big windows that face the lake, and letting myself slow down. Sometimes I chat quietly with the other women.

Last night, a couple of the women were talking about how they stored stress in their bodies. Some said that yoga and belly dancing was helping to relieve some of that stress. One young woman said she had not had menstrual cramps since she started belly dancing. Another said her headaches were better. I had not thought about belly dancing in that way although I do have a range of physical activities in my life that help relieve stress. When I do reiki on someone, I can often tell where they are carrying stress, and I am fascinated by the connection between mind and body.

In class we did what my teacher calls core work, strengthening the abdominal muscles, doing undulations that begin at the pelvis and go up through the chest. This is one of the few drills I am any good at, mainly because it is so like the kind of exercises a woman does after childbirth. We had moved from undulations into belly rolls when I realized that one of the women in the class was crying, first quietly and then just absolutely sobbing. My palms tingled as I listened. BellyDancing Teacher walked over and began rubbing her back while the rest of us lay down on our mats doing yoga breathing, each one of us thinking about the sobbing woman and wondering. The class ended and the woman's friend went over to sit with her.

The woman was sitting on her mat, leaning against the purple wall, just below the window that is hung with gauzy cloths. Other women walked about, all in bare feet and in various stages of undress, some drinking herbal tea. The friend and the teacher just sat next to her, letting her cry. No one said anything, but I could feel the energy in the room and it seemed like a safe place for an emotional release. When I left, she was still sobbing.


Vegan Momma said...

I hope she was ok.

I loved the way you described your belly dance class. I never had menstrual cramps after I eliminated white sugar/white flour from my daily intake. Also, my cycle is shorter and a lot lighter.

Mona Buonanotte said...

While Sergei was an actor, he took a Feldenkrais movement class, and was kind enough to lead me through some of what he'd learned. One 'side effect' was that when certain muscles were made to work in ways they weren't used to, it would release a little blip of stress toxicity, and the relaxation that followed could include some emotional aspects. At one point I found myself crying, for absolutely no reason. It felt...well...great!

Yankee T said...

Wow. Another great jo(e) post

Friday Mom said...

What a wonderful story of care. Thanks for sharing it.

Rana said...

Yoga can do that too. I remember one time, when I was just beginning, taking a class that had lots of abdominal twists in it. Afterward, as I was picking up my stuff to go, I suddenly burst into tears, complete with great gulping sobs. My yoga teacher (a lovely woman who lived far too short a life) held me, and told me after I'd calmed down, that lots of emotions are stored in the belly, so twists not infrequently have that effect.

I'd love to know more about the reiki. I've done massages for friends and spot massages for companions on backpacking trips and the like, and I've found it fascinating that I could do things like trace the edges of old injuries without them being visible or me even knowing they existed. It seems like that's the sort of thing reiki develops?

reverendmother said...

Mmm.... holy ground.

I store all my stress in my neck and shoulder. Just me and Atlas, carrying the weight of the world.

I am a total believer in reiki. I had reiki done while seven months pregnant. My normally rather sedate child roiled and danced in my belly for the full 45 minutes.

Dr. H said...

I think this was an important story for me to hear. I'm usually tempted to feel like I have to take care of whoever is crying -- what's wrong, do you need to talk about it, etc. Sometimes what's best is letting things just be, and that counts as being supportive -- just simply allowing for that safe space where one can release emotions is providing enough comfort. I like this idea.

Scrivener said...

I was thinking something very similar to what H just said, but hadn't quite formulated it into a comment yet. I would so have a hard time just letting her be.

Rob Helpy-Chalk said...

I am fascinated by the connection between mind and body.

Identity, babe, identity.

In my discipline people are always talking about how all ideas about the mind can be "reduced" to facts about the body. I'm much more a fan of elevating ideas about the body to facts about the mind.

Mona: I had a roommate who did Feldenkrais in conservatory. He talked the exact same way--saying that moving muscles could release old emotions. At the time I thought it was hokey and vaguely fruedian (two sins). These days I think there is more truth than falsity in such language.