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How I Did It

Workout Revives Body and Spirit

May 03, 1999|REBECCA IALI

Having done aerobics and run for years, my knees aren't exactly in tiptop shape. I wanted to maintain my level of fitness and find something that would incorporate fun and fitness with spirituality. After marrying a Lebanese man from Tripoli, Libya, I was immediately drawn to the culture and the language. Through my adopted heritage, I discovered belly dancing.

Belly dancing helped me open up my heart and soul and accept and appreciate who I am. There is a variety of music to dance to (fast and slow), and the movements are said to have originated with childbearing and religious ceremonies in India. After taking just a few lessons, I discovered that I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent belly dancing and looked forward to it. I felt mentally, physically and spiritually revived.

Before I knew it, I had firmed up and trimmed down in all the right areas. I found that eating light before class was sufficient. I didn't need to carbo-load, nor did I need a lot of food in my system. Because of the movements we were doing (called belly rolls and camels), I didn't want to eat a lot.

Belly dancing covers all body parts. Arms are lifted and held gracefully, giving them elegant and shapely definition. The shoulders are rotated, giving a nice massage to the shoulder and neck area--which was very helpful for me after sitting at a computer all day. The rib cage is lifted and separated from the waist, elongating the torso. After the hustle and bustle of the day, slow, graceful hand movements are excellent for the wrists, preventing the exacerbation of carpal tunnel syndrome. Belly dancing has also helped me become more aware of my posture, which has improved dramatically. My shoulders are pulled back and down away from my ears. I look and feel healthier and walk with purpose.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Monday May 10, 1999 Home Edition Health Part S Page 4 View Desk 1 inches; 19 words Type of Material: Correction
How I Did It--The How I Did It column on May 3 column gave the incorrect country of birth for Rebecca Iali's husband. He is from Lebanon.

Letting go to the music and allowing the body to move to the emotions of the music allow for a spiritual sense of awareness. Just seeing some of the moves can be spiritually soothing. And belly dancing is for all shapes and sizes. I encourage those who have been doing the same workout over and over or those who have to talk themselves into going to the gym to give belly dancing a chance.

How Did You Do It?

Do you have a story about how you lost weight and kept the pounds off? Or a story about how you learned to mountain climb or in-line skate, trained for a half-marathon or discovered a unique way of keeping fit, dealing with a nagging ailment or persevering with a fitness regimen despite some obstacles?

If so, we'd like to hear from you. Tell us your story in a 500-word essay listing what worked in terms of diet, exercise and encouragement, as well as any emotional and physical changes.

For weight-loss stories, send us full-body color photos of yourself, before and after. For other types of stories, send a color photo of yourself doing the activity you're writing about.

Send essay and photos to How I Did It, Health, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053. Include daytime and evening phone numbers. Submissions cannot be returned. And, please, no phone calls.

In addition to publication, winners will receive a Los Angeles Times Health section gym bag.

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