Hippy, Hippy Shake
First published in For Me

Ever since Jeannie wafted out of her magic bottle in the hit TV series I Dream of Jeannie, women around the world have been both charmed and intrigued by belly dancing.

According to Despina Rosales (pictured), who runs the Dreaming Of Jeannie Bellydance Academy in Sydney, belly dancing is a form of fitness that is accessible to everyone.

"I've taught people aged from seven to 70, but on average, my students are around 30 and are usually mums," she explains.

Why Belly dancing Is Great

Belly dancing is not just good fun, it's also a great workout that will leave you feeling fantastic. It works your entire body, not just the tummy. Every muscle from your neck to your calves gets a workout, particularly your upper and lower back and arms.

"People are usually a bit concerned about their bodies wobbling, but that's actually a good thing when belly dancing," says Despina. "The shimmy, which involves simultaneously vibrating the hips and shoulders, gives you a good cardio-workout. You won't get a red-faced, sweaty workout leaving you feeling as though your heart is about to explode. Instead, you'll feel alive, awake and full of energy."

Getting Started

Check the class you're signing up for. Despina says her classes are fitness oriented, while others may be focussed on artistic development or getting in touch with the inner child through dance.

What You'll Need

"No equipment is necessary, just wear loose clothing," advises Despina. "Comfort is really the key. Accessories, such as scarves, are fun to wear, but they're not mandatory. It's completely up to the individual."

Safety Considerations

"Inform your teacher of prior injuries and let them know if you are experiencing any pain when performing the moves," says Despina. "it's not a 'no pain, no gain' sport, so you shouldn't be hurting in any way. Often it is the technique that's wrong, so make sure you check with your instructor."

Why I Love It [from my student's (Flora Azizova) viewpoint, pictured inset]

As a child, I was fascinated by women who did exotic dances. I loved watching traditional Arabic, Greek and Egyptian dances. I loved the costumes and music, and I always though I would take up this style of dancing one day.

When I was in Moscow last year, I attended a women's education class. One lesson was on pelvic exercises, and the lecturer said that Eastern women are naturally strong in this region as they use their bellies when they dance. I've never forgotten that and thought belly dancing would be a good way to get fit on the inside and outside, and have fun, too.

As well as the muscles in my arms, hands and tummy, my posture has improved. After the class, I feel fantastic. Most appealing is that it's a beautiful form of exercise. I needed something to help me switch off , and belly dancing does that. My instructor tells me to dance with my heart, not my mind. My mind gets confused when I have to shimmy my hips and shoulders in unison, and wave my arms as well, so I have no choice but to switch off and let it flow naturally. I find it's very calming.

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Hippy, hippy shake
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Adopt a homeless animal instead - they all deserve a second chance

It's estimated that 130,000 dogs and 60,000 cats are killed every year in Australia because there are not enough homes for them all. And the global numbers amount to millions upon millions every single year.

Puppy mills are a major contributor to the terrible problem of overpopulation. Puppy mills are essentially 'dog factories' where dogs are forced to churn out litter after litter, with no thought for the welfare of the dogs and all thought for profit. The dogs live in appallingly dirty, cramped conditions all their lives, and when they no longer serve their purpose they're killed, dumped or sold to vivisection laboratories.

Petshops fit into the picture because puppy mills are generally where petshops get their animals from. Furthermore, having animals in shop windows encourages impulse purchases, and adding an animal to your family should be a conscious, careful decision - NOT one to be made while shoe shopping.

Breeders contribute enormously to the tragic statistics above too. And it doesn't matter whether they're professional breeders or backyard breeders, and whether they breed for profit or not, because while there are homeless animals sitting on death row in shelters, any and all animal breeding is utterly irresponsible.

Now, here's where you come in. You can either be part of the problem or part of the solution. You can either buy animals from puppy mills, petshops or breeders and be part of the problem. Or you can adopt from a shelter or rescue organisation and be part of the solution.

If I haven't convinced you, visit your local shelter to see the homeless animals. Let their innocent faces convince you that adopting is the only responsible choice to make.

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