On a physical level, Yoga conditions ones body and allows Belly dancers to execute movements with fluidity and strength as well as to access muscles with body awareness. I feel that the lengthening that I get through Yoga postures and the strengthening allow me to move freely with Belly dance.
Mentally, Yoga allows the Belly dancer to let go of the mental clutter that prevents one from “getting it” (a movement, combination, emotional expression, timing, etc.). Instead of wondering constantly how you are doing, judging, or criticizing yourself, Yoga allows for “letting go and letting it flow”.
Training attention to come back over and over again to a complex task allows awareness to become increasingly absorbed in the task at hand.” Yoga does this both in Asanas (physical poses), breath work and meditation (returning to attending to breath, thoughts, sensations, etc.).
Spiritually, Yoga centers the Belly dancer. By revisiting Yoga’s non-competitive principals, one can acknowledge the bigger picture instead of any perceived slights or longings of the heart induced by the ins and outs of the dance community.
Both practices balance ones Chakras, starting with posture that aligns the spine. (Chakras are energy centers in the body.) Heat, light, electricity and nerve impulses are all energy, and the Chakras correspond to nerve ganglia in the body. By intentionally moving the body parts associated with each Chakra, one releases blocks, energizes, and balances the energy centers. By working the Chakras through two practices, one can experience greater balance and health.
Something to note is: while Belly dancing uses the whole body, there is a particular focus on one’s belly that one does not find in other movement systems. Intentionally, we not only move the belly on its own, we engage it constantly during posture, and body parts are accessed more fully during ribcage and hip movements, as well as during Body Waves or Undulations. One’s Solar Plexus, or Naval Chakra, (Manipura, the third Chakra) is associated with personal power, confidence and the fire element. With a stronger, more activated third Chakra, one exudes more confidence than someone with a less energized Naval Chakra. Perhaps this is the pull Yogis feel, already having been awakened to the energy and drawn to a dance that will further energize their inner fire.
There is an innate need for humans to create and to express themselves creatively. The second Chakra (or first, depending on ones reference), which is located in the pelvis, is our creativity center. With a strong emphasis on hip and pelvic movements, Belly dancing activates our creativity, a need often over-looked in Western society. While also energized in Yoga, Yoginis may seek out Belly dance as a way to further strengthen this Chakra. On the other hand, if you are experiencing a creative block in Belly dance, then Yogic meditation, especially creating and meditating on Yantras (geometric designs that are containers for spiritual energy) can remove creative blocks.**
Other movements and processes in the Belly dance experience also balance and organize the Chakra system. Floor work and footwork organize the first Chakra; ribcage and arm movements balance the fourth Chakra. Head slides, circles, swings and tosses, as well as zahgareeting and making shouts of encouragement or excitement energize the fifth Chakra; visualizing (a new choreography or costume, a movement, etc.), eye movements and moving meditations activate the sixth Chakra; and connecting with the Divine and/or your fellow dancers (including, but not limited to, the Zen feeling created during Improv Choreography and moving meditation invigorate the seventh Chakra.*
Another reason people may be attracted to both Belly dance and Yoga is the release from typical Western thinking. Both Belly dance and Yoga originated in ancient times and on different continents/subcontinent. These practices both offer a tolerance of and acceptance for the self not readily evident to many in our mainstream society. Yoga teaches one to slow down, relax, and process at a gentle, conscious pace. Belly dance demonstrates body acceptance outside of the body images that bombard us in the mainstream media.