Multivitamin Breakdown


by Dr. Danielle Fink

During the warm summer months many people think about their health and wellness. It would be ideal to get all the nutrients our bodies need to maintain us through the food we eat. But most of us don’t eat enough of the “good stuff” to obtain the proper amounts of the vitamins and minerals that medical evidence suggests aid in the prevention of disease. The solution to this problem is to supplement our diets with condensed or concentrated forms of these vitamins and minerals. The most efficient way to do this is by taking a multivitamin.

When choosing a multivitamin or a vitamin regimen it is best to know that not all vitamins and supplements are created equal. It is important to recognize that not all vitamins are manufactured the same way. Many vitamins that you can purchase over the counter are manufactured using chemical processes to create synthetic forms of vitamins and minerals, whereas those supplements that are sold by medical professionals, on the other hand, are derived from materials found in nature (from plants and/or animals). These vitamins don’t include added coloring, artificial sweeteners or preservatives often found in the synthetic vitamins. Vitamins manufactured this way are called “whole food” supplements, and are concentrated supplements created from natural raw ingredients.

Synthetic vitamins may be friendlier on the pocketbook. But, the consumer needs to be aware that the molecular structure that composes these vitamins can sometimes be slightly different than the structure found in nature. It is the slight differences in structure that allow the vitamin to be absorbed differently in the body, or completely unrecognized and eliminated as waste. To be certain that the chosen vitamin contains a digestible form of a particular nutrient, you need to read the label and know what to look for.

Research has shown that specific vitamins have a positive effect on the human immune system and protect people from common illness. Look for the following vitamins and their recommended daily intake amount in your multivitamin.

• Vitamin C – a widely known vitamin used to “boost” immune function. 500-1000 mg daily is the suggested intake because the body cannot store this vitamin.

• Vitamin A – (beta carotene)-aids in the reduction of infectious illnesses. Suggested daily intake: 10,000-25,000 International Units (IUs) daily. (Most multivitamins contain around 10,000 IUs)

• Vitamin E – look for d–alpha tocopherol the natural form of Vitamin E and avoid the synthetic form (dl-alpha tocopherol). Research has shown that those with low blood levels of vitamin E are more prone to infection than those with high levels of vitamin E. Suggested daily intake: 400-800 IUs per day.

Zinc – among its many other uses has been shown to help prevent a weakened immune system. The suggested intake: 15mg daily.

• Magnesium – in its digestible form (Magnesium Citrate), has been found to be utilized in over 300 different processes in the human body.

• Calcium – look for the digestible forms: Calcium Citrate and Calcium Lactate, but avoid the difficult to digest form: Calcium Carbonate. Calcium has been found to aid in bone health, bone formation and bone strength.

In addition to a quality multivitamin, it is important to include the following in your daily supplement regimen:

Vitamin D3 (as cholecalciferol) – 4,000-10,000 IUs daily. Vitamin D deficiency can be detected by a blood test called 25(OH) D and levels should be 50-80mg/mL all year round from a combination of diet, supplements and the sun. These levels of Vitamin D have been shown in multiple studies to aid in the prevention of cancer and heart disease and improve overall health.

Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish oil in the following forms:

  • EPA –this is very important for decreasing inflammation (the reason why this supplement has been found to help protect the heart).
  • DHA – this is very important especially for nervous system development throughout life. Omega 3s have also been shown to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels and provide a protective factor against Alzheimer’s and dementia. The recommended daily dose for an adult is 1,000-3,000 mg (1-3 grams) daily.
  • CoQ10 – Research suggests, that among other uses, CoQ10 produces energy that is used to repair and maintain immune system cells, it has been found to be a powerful antioxidant, and it is important in building strong heart muscle cells. The suggested intake: 100 mg or more daily.

Each of these vitamins has beneficial effects on the immune system and has also been shown to improve heart health.

Keep in mind that the overall health and disease prevention benefits received from vitamin supplementation are enhanced through healthy eating habits and regular physical activity.

Dr. Danielle Fink uses Symptom Survey Maestro to indicate stress on a particular system in the body (ie digestive system) at McMahon Chiropractic and Physical Therapy at (715) 834-4516.

Beauty Labels

by Diane Wolfe

How do you choose a beauty product that is good for both you and the planet? Through the National Organic Program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture regulates food ingredients found in cosmetics, and the Certified USDA Organic Symbol is one of the most trustworthy labels around. But because the USDA only has jurisdiction over farm-raised ingredients, not all beauty product ingredients are regulated under this program, and there are more than enough ways to get confused.

Scan the beauty aisle and you will see plenty of labels. “Vegan-friendly” shampoo, or “biodegradable toothpaste” But what do they really mean?

From baby shampoo to facial and beauty cream, there are plenty of mysterious ingredients gracing the labels of health and beauty products on the market these days. And then there are the labels that say things like “organic,” “all-natural,” or “animal cruelty free,” which can leave you just as confused (or more) than the ingredients list does. Whether it’s for the well-being of your children, family or just you, understanding beauty labels can empower you to make better knowledge-based consumer decisions. Here’s the scoop.

Label: Organic
Clear rules make decoding this term easier. In 2005, the USDA started allowing makers of qualified organic beauty and body-care products to use a USDA Organic seal. The term “organic”, as it appears on beauty labels has four variations:

  1. 100% organic: The product must contain only organically produced food ingredients, and the label will display the USDA Organic seal.
  2. Organic: The product must contain at least 95% organically grown food ingredients, and the label will display the USDA seal.
  3. Made with organic ingredients: The product must contain at least 70% organically produced food ingredients. The label will not have the USDA seal.
  4. Organic ingredients: Products that contain less than 70% organically produced food ingredients can only include organic ingredients on its ingredients list, but these products cannot display the USDA Organic seal.

Look at the list of ingredients in your favorite “natural” product. You might be surprised to find petrochemicals along with the honey, shea butter, and olive oil. With no definition set by the FDA or any other regulatory agency for what “natural” means in the world of beauty products, take a buyer beware approach.

Fortunately, several legitimately natural product manufacturers have taken matters into their own hands. Companies such as Burt’s Bees and Aubrey Organics have created a Personal Care Committee under the direction of the Natural Products Association (NPA). They are working to define a “natural standard” and creating guidelines for which ingredients do or do not qualify. The group intends to design a seal this year to help consumers easily identify products that meet the criteria. Until then, don’t assume “natural” means anything.

Label: Cruelty-Free
We often associate “cruelty-free” with a bunny logo. Only one agency, the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC), conducts a routine check to ensure manufacturers live up to their promise. A union of six animal-rights groups that includes the Humane Society and Beauty Without Cruelty, the CCIC offers its trademarked “leaping bunny” tag to manufacturers who pledge not to test their ingredients on animals or purchase from any third-party supplier who does. Manufacturers also agree to an audit every one to three years to verify their continued use of only cruelty-free suppliers.

With no legal definition for “cruelty-free”, companies have unrestricted use of this term. The FDA points out that while a company may not have tested its finished product on animals, the ingredients may have come from suppliers who did. Look for the CCIC’s leaping bunny on the product. Note that once the “natural” standard is created, products displaying the NPA seal will also have to be cruelty-free.

Animal Testing on Products

If you’re not sure if your favorite brand of beauty products is eco- and animal-friendly, the CCIC offers a shopping-guide. The Coalition requires the companies it lists to prove that neither they, nor their suppliers, will conduct animal tests during any stage of product development. Also, PETA has compiled a list of companies that have signed a “Statement of Assurance” that they and their suppliers don’t and won’t test on animals. You’ll find major brands like Revlon, Avon, and Estee Lauder on the list, as well as natural favorites such as Kiss My Face and Aubrey Organics. “We started 17 years ago with a short list of companies,” says Ann Marie Dori, coordinator of PETA’s Caring Consumer Project. “Today, it has grown to include more than 500 companies that don’t animal test their products.” Just as importantly, PETA also offers a guide listing companies that do test, including Cover Girl, L’Oreal, and Olay. You can download the guides at www.caringconsumer.com or www.leapingbunny.org.

Label: Biodegradable
Products may boast that the liquid inside is “biodegradable”. While that sounds eco-friendly, what exactly does it mean? According to the Federal Trade Commission’s guidelines, created in conjuction with the EPA, a product labeled “biodegradable” should decompose “into elements found in nature within a reasonably short period of time”. For liquids that go down the drain, decomposition should finish during the waste-water treatment process. You can log on to “skin deep” at www.cosmeticsdatabase.com, and discover which chemicals build up in humans and animals with repeated exposure.

Label: Vegan-Friendly
While no regulatory body oversees the “vegan-friendly” claim, it’s somewhat easy to substantiate, if you know how to read ingredients. Byproducts like honey and milk are obvious no-nos, but the average consumer might not recognize contents that may come from plants–and also animals–such as lactic acid.

Know When to Toss Them

Now that we know a bit more about what our beauty product labels mean, how long does it last? Beauty products do go bad according to Ni’Kita Wilson, a cosmetic chemist at Cosmetech Labs in Fairfield, NJ. “At best, they stop performing as well as they used to, and at worst, they can cause irritations or infections.” Beyond the obvious signs like dried mascara or separated foundation, it can be tough to tell when something’s past its prime. U.S. labeling regulations do not require an expiration date on most cosmetics. So, here’s an easy “when-to-toss timeline” to go by, recommended by Wilson:

Every season: Toss mascara and liquid liner

Every six months: Toss your skin-care regimen, sunscreens, and liquid foundation

Every year: Toss your hair care products

According to the FDA, natural beauty products have an even shorter shelf life, because their botanical ingredients may be susceptible to microbial growth. Think about pure extract, oil, pulp, fruits. What’s more, though natural preservatives like essential oils of cinnamon, orange, rosemary, and thyme can be potent, when used at low levels they may not be as strong as synthetics.

Overhaul Your Scents Sense

by Yael Grauer

Artificial scents put into most of our cleaning and beauty products these days reek havoc not only on your sense of smell, but our environment. Get smart about the perfumes in your life.

The sense of smell is arguably the strongest, with fragrances being linked to events and emotions in our deepest memories. In fact, smell is one of our earliest senses, belonging to our limbic system or olfactory brain. Scents can release some very pleasant neurotransmitters such as endorphins and serotonin.

Sadly, our glorious sense of smell is not all roses. Commercial scents can do a great deal of harm to both ourselves and our environment.

Phthalates are often included in perfumes and other substances that have scents added. These are endocrine disruptors that affect the body’s hormone system, many of which are listed as reproductive or developmental toxins by the state of California. Some phthalates (such as dibutyl and diethylhexyl) have been banned in cosmetics by the European Union. Although the US government has recently limited the use of pthlalates in baby toys, new research indicates that prenatal exposure is linked to neurodevelopmental issues leading to disruptive and problematic behaviors (such as aggressiveness, conduct disorders, and ADHD) in children aged four to nine. Previous research has indicated a link between phthalates and lower sperm motility in adult men, and birth defects in the reproductive systems of boys. The chemicals are found in plastics, cosmetics, and perfumes and lotions — but it is the latter that are most strongly related to neurodevelopment. And although members of the perfume industry says phthalates are safe in small doses, they are stored in the fat and stay in our bodies for a long time.

Sadly, phthalates are difficult to spot, as they are often hidden in the product’s “fragrance” ingredient, due to an FDA loophole that allows manufacturers to simply use the generic term to protect proprietary secrets. This is true not only in perfumes but also in lipsticks, mascaras, moisturizers and shampoos. Even products labeled as “unscented” can contain phthalates as part of a masking fragrance. Other chemicals can also be included, as the FDA does not systematically review the safety of fragrances, but instead lets the fragrance industry’s own trade association (the International Fragrance Association) regulate itself.

In addition to phthalates, synthetic fragrances can also include parabens (hormone disruptors), sodium laureth sulfate, or PEGS, often contaminated with dioxins. And of course there are other environmental factors to consider the vast majority of chemicals used in fragrances are synthetic compounds derived from petroleum. The U.S. National Academy of Science has also identified certain fragrance ingredients as neurotoxins, though systematic research to determine the safety of these ingredients has not been funded.

Musk scents are often found in perfumes, in the form of nitromusks and polycyclic musks. Both are unregulated, although they are linked to reproductive and fertility problems in women at high levels. These synthetic musks have been found in human fatty tissues, breast milk, and the umblicial cord blood of newborn babies. Synthetic musk has been found in rivers and wastewater, and preliminary research indicates that it may be harmful to aquatic life as well. Galaxolide and Tonalid are two trade names for musks, but they are often simply hidden in the “fragrance” ingredient.

So what’s a healthy and environmentally-conscious consumer to do?

1. Find safe products. Luckily, the Environmental Working Group has compiled an online database of safe cosmetics and personal care products, which can be searched for ingredients.

Some companies have even made a committment to create safer products by signing the Compact for Safe Cosmetics, thereby pledging to meet or exceed formulation standards and deadlines set by the European Union Cosmetics Directive (eliminating their products of chemicals known or strongly suspected of causing cancer, mutation, and birth defects). These companies are listed on the site Skin Deep: Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetic Safety Database (http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/) as well as The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (http://safecosmetics.org/).

2. Choose products with no added synthetic fragrances. Just look at the ingredient list and make sure “fragrance” is not listed on the label.

3. Buy products that use natural fragrances or essential oils. Or, buy your own essential oils to spruce up your new safe products. These oils are safe and green, and have the added benefit of their own medicinal properties. Just think, instead of using fragrances that cause harm, you can use fragrances that are healing!

Cautions: Because essential oils are extremely concentrated, do not apply them directly to the skin unless you’ve diluted them in a carrier oil (such as almond oil, grapeseed oil or even olive oil). Make sure to use organically produced essential oils to avoid pesticide residue. Do not ever ingest essential oils.

Some Scent Favorites

  • Lemon balm, often called balm (botanically, melissa officianalis) is a wonderful herb often made into tea to cheer the spirit. The oil, which was written about by St. Hildegard of Bingen and used as far back as the 10th century, is extremely calming and revitalizing and good for stress, anxiety, and depression.
  • Cedar (cedrus sp.) essential oil is extracted by steam distillation of the woodchips and sawdust of this amazing tree. Often used as a fragrance for men’s products, cedar is warming, harmonizing, and calming. It is excellent for aggression and anger masking fear or discontent.
  • Eucalyptus (eucalyptus sp.) oil is great for breathing, and can be applied (in a carrier oil) directly to the chest or used as a steam. It is incredibly effective for asthma, bronchitis, colds and flu. Mentally, eucalyptus is stimulating, increasing concentration or helping with mental sluggishness or overload.
  • Lavender (lavandula sp.) is one of the most popular essential oils, and for good reason. It has a light, sweet and flowery scent and aids with relaxation. Add just a few drops to a carrier oil and massage it into your temples for a headache, or simply let the scent waft over you for balancing and cleansing.
  • Lemongrass (cymbopogon) is widely used in its country of origin, India, oil is refreshing and tonifying. It also works well as an insect repellant.
  • Mint (mentha sp.) Add just a drop to your soap in a morning shower and you’ll definitely wake right up! Mint is as refreshing as it is stimulating, increasing concentration and memory. Be very careful, however, as many people are quite sensitive to this oil!
  • Rosemary (rosmarinus officianalis) has been used since ancient times to aid in memory, with students in Greece and Rome wearing wreaths on their head while studying. One would do well by continuing in the tradition by trying the essential oil. Uplifting and strenghtening, this plant does indeed help stimulate the brain.
  • Tea tree (melaleuca alternifolia) Although the scent is definitely an acquired one, one can’t deny tea tree oil’s immense benefit as an antiseptic. Tea tree oil has anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties, and can be used to treat infections such as athlete’s foot.
  • Neroli Orange (citrus aurantium or citrus sinensis) is said to be named after Anna Maria de la Tremoille, the Princess of Nerole. The oil is tranquilizing, sweet, and strengthening. It is excellent for cramps, headaches, and digestion. The fruity scent is particularly useful for those who don’t care for flowery scents (like lavender) but could still use some calming and relaxation from a place of strength.
  • Ylang ylang (canangium odoratum) means “flower of the flowers” in Malayan. The oil is derived from blossoms of the cananga tree and it is said to be used by newleywed couples in Indonesia. Flowery and exotic, ylang ylang is primarily known for its use as an aphrodisiac, though it can, of course, be used by individuals for its healing and balancing properties.

References:

Wal-Mart in Trouble Again Over Organic Marketing Practices


Home Pesticide Manufacturer Misrepresenting Products as Certified “Organic”

from The Cornucopia Institute

Cornucopia, WI—The Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based public interest group that focuses on food and agriculture, today filed legal complaints with the USDA alleging that Wal-Mart, and a North Carolina-based company, HOMS LLC, are violating the USDA organic standards by using conventional agricultural oils, and other ingredients, in pest control products that bear the word organic and the green “USDA organic” seal. The pest control products in question are marketed under the Bio Block label (see front of bottle, back of bottle, and company webpage product screenshot).

A debate has been raging for years whether non-food products, such as pet food and personal care products, are included in the strict regulations that determine the use of the word “organic” on packaging. Most of those products at least had organic ingredients involved in their manufacture, whereas Bio Block pest control products contain not a single organically produced ingredient.

However, there has never been any question that the green “USDA Organic” seal can be used only by producers that follow the rigorous standards mandated by Congress and administered by the USDA’s National Organic Program.

In addition to using the word organic prominently on its label, HOMS uses the USDA seal on at least one of its Bio Block products without specifying that organic ingredients were used, and without disclosing the identity of the organic certifying agent, which is also required by federal organic regulations.

“This amounts to, allegedly, illegally usurping the value of the organic label,” says Mark Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst at Cornucopia. “The USDA Organic seal is meaningful to consumers and should not be used frivolously. This places ethical industry participants at a competitive disadvantage.”

The Bio Block products that appear to violate the organic standards were discovered on the shelves of Wal-Mart stores, resurfacing concerns long held by The Cornucopia Institute, and others in the organic industry, that the giant corporation has failed to take the organic standards seriously.

For years, Cornucopia has criticized Wal-Mart for inventing a “new” organic—food from corporate agribusiness, factory farms, and cheap Chinese imports of questionable authenticity.

Wal-Mart’s store brand organic milk, for example, comes from Aurora Dairy in Boulder, Colorado. In 2007, federal investigators found that Aurora had “willfully” violated 14 tenets of the organic standards, including confining their cattle to feedlots, instead of grazing, and bringing thousands of illegal conventional cows into their organic operation.

Inside Wal-Mart stores, Cornucopia researchers at the time discovered that the company was mislabeling conventional foods as organic, including yogurt, sugar, rice milk, soy milk and produce. Cornucopia notified Wal-Mart’s CEO of the problems with in-store signage, but the corporation ignored these concerns until officials of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection and the USDA took enforcement actions against Wal-Mart in 2007.

“These instances of mislabeling are emblematic of the company’s lack of investment in knowledgeable staff, its inexperience, and its questionable commitment to organics,” says Kastel.

While Wal-Mart vowed to solve its false and misleading in-store signage problems, Cornucopia says it has failed to ensure that its store brand organic milk, and some of its other product offerings, come from ethical family farmers following the spirit and letter of the organic law.

Now the organic industry watchdog alleges Wal-Mart is once again marketing organic products fraudulently.

Cornucopia contends that it is not only up to farmers, food processors and certifiers to ensure that foods labeled “organic” are truly organic, but that retailers play an important role as well.

Retailers can and do invest in the resources necessary to ensure organic integrity in their stores. The Wedge, a member-owned cooperative grocer in Minneapolis, handled Bio Block pesticides very differently from Wal-Mart when recently approached by one of HOMS’ distributors.

Since The Wedge has invested years in recruiting, hiring, and training qualified staff, it came as no surprise that one of their buyers questioned the legality of Bio Block’s labels.

The Wedge is one of about 275 cooperative grocers in the country, which collectively helped pioneer the growth in the organic industry. The Wedge was one of the first certified organic retailers in the country and has a full-time Organic Certification and Sustainability Coordinator, Susan Stewart.

“We take the confidence our members and shoppers have in The Wedge very seriously,” said Stewart. “Our job is to protect the integrity of the organic label and the authenticity of the food and products we offer in our store.”

Cornucopia states that this collaboration between farmers, organic processors and retailers, in partnership with the USDA, makes the organic label the gold standard in helping consumers choose safe and ethically produced food.

“As an organic industry watchdog, we make sure that stakeholders in the organic community, like The Wedge, are not placed at a competitive disadvantage by outfits like Wal-Mart that are attempting to profiteer from the trust consumers have in the organic label,” stated Cornucopia’s Kastel.

The Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based nonprofit farm policy research group, is dedicated to the fight for economic justice for the family-scale farming community. Their Organic Integrity Project acts as a corporate and governmental watchdog assuring that no compromises to the credibility of organic farming methods and the food it produces are made in the pursuit of profit. Their web page can be viewed at www.cornucopia.org.

So You Think You Can’t Dance?

Belly Dance: It’s for Every Body
by Jennifer Bush, Dancing Mountain

I teach and perform Belly Dance. After a recent performance a friend said to me: “Wow! That was fantastic! I could never do that!” To which I replied: “Of course you can! Every body can dance.” Her comment got me thinking. Why do some people think they can’t or shouldn’t dance? It is my philosophy that every movement is a dance and every moment is a chance to dance. But why is it that we so often forget that joyful movement is our birthright? My approach to teaching is to use Belly Dance as a means for women to reclaim and celebrate our whole selves through a joyous dance.

Belly Dance is a term primarily used in the Western world to describe a plethora of dancing styles coming out of the Middle East. Though belly is in the term, students coming into classes are not required to show their bellies and there is not a focus on making the belly move by itself. That’s just one aspect.

I feel compelled to yell out to everyone in the region that Belly Dance is truly for every body. Not just for the thin belly or the voluptuous belly. Not just for after you’ve lost 10 pounds. Why allow self-judgment and perfectionism about our bodies to stand in the way of a chance to move joyfully?

The belly is an all too often chagrined area of our form, oft misunderstood, and certainly under-utilized. While it’s true that Belly Dancing has the potential of waking up movements and muscles throughout that section, and there are the inevitable belly laughs shared by the students that gather, there are no requirements for belly size, shape, or aptitude. All women are welcome and encouraged to give Belly Dance a try.

We each have a belly and we each are ripe with creative potential. My class teaches Belly Dance from the ground up. We start by simply getting the rhythm in our feet and moving it up and out of us, improvising movements as we go, expressing ourselves organically. Isolations are also introduced (the movements of the dance) as well as traveling steps.

There is an art to Belly Dance. The art for me includes isolating movement in one part of the body, such as the hips or rib cage, while the rest of the body remains still. Eventually we get to layer movements on top of others like coordinating Snake Arms while stepping the Grapevine or adding a shimmy to a pelvic circle.

The layers and the isolations are integrated into choreographed or improvised pieces, another aspect of the art. Whether dancing to live musicians (a wonderful dynamic) or to a favorite recorded song, we get to put the moves into a variety of sequences that the teacher may offer or that you interpret from your own experience. The mastery of the art comes with practice, persistence and patience, over time.

But while mastery may come over time, it is not the point. As adults, we are often quick to judge ourselves in a learning environment. We approach dance, or other new skills, with an expectation that we should “get it” right away, or that we need to do the movement perfectly after a couple classes, otherwise we might as well give up. Self-compassion is important in learning anything new. If you get a chance, observe a small child learning to walk and marvel at her persistence. The young child isn’t counting the number of times she’s fallen; she gains more information with each fall, refining her movements constantly.

I invite students to get curious about their own process of learning. How do these new movements feel? What is it like to dance to new rhythms and songs? In class, I provide an environment to explore: to get a feeling of the rhythm of the music being played, to get a general rhythmic sense into the body, and to try out new ways of moving—up-down, side-side, in circles, diagonally, forward-back, in various traveling steps, etc. Let the joy come first and the moves will follow almost magically.

We embark on a journey of getting more comfortable being in our whole selves—body, mind, all our parts into one whole. We get clear about setting an intention for movement, trusting that with time, the movements will come and will come from an authentic place. We begin to get comfortable moving and groovin’ within a group of people. Whenever possible, I relate the Belly Dance moves to movements many people are already familiar with in daily activities.

Every movement is a dance and every moment is a chance to dance.

Women might hold back from Belly Dance because of a misconception about what Belly Dance is. They might think it is an erotic dance performed for men. While any dance or movement can be expressed or perceived as erotic, as I teach Belly Dance, it is by women for women. People also think of it as a solo performer’s dance when it can really be a group experience within a community of women. And it has a deep history in this vein.

In the history of Belly Dance, there is evidence that at women-centered gatherings, women would perform movements that expectant mothers could learn to facilitate childbirth, or at the very least, that could be seen as sympathetic movement to encourage the laboring mother (see the dancer Morocco’s account (http://www.casbahdance.org/GIVE2LIGHT.htm). Moreover, women in many Middle Eastern countries (and around the world) come together around various life events, celebrating in laughter, music, and dance. It’s a natural part of being together.

Not only are there many events where women have the opportunity to share dance, there are many different types of Belly Dance. The style of dance I teach and perform is called Tribal Fusion. It’s a generalized term that encompasses a broad base of styles of dancing, music, and costuming. The dancing comes from the Middle East, North Africa, India, Spanish Flamenco, Gypsy Rom, and North, Central and South American dance forms. The costuming has a “tribal” look, though there is no specific tribe to which to attribute the look. Coins, pendants, fabrics, and more originate from India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other countries. There are crafters and musicians from the U.S. who are also creating costume pieces and music inspired by these cultures and these styles of dance.

The term “tribal” not only describes the style of costuming, but also speaks to a way of life. Women who dance together encourage each other to grow within an accepting community. My students are becoming increasingly more comfortable in their own skin, more connected with each other, more courageous with their movements, and they are taking opportunities to costume up and perform in front of others together. It’s wonderful! The women who come to class are beautiful and varied in size, age, and background.

Dancing to our hearts’ content is a joyful way to celebrate our lives on Earth. Moving, swaying, skipping, etc. to rhythms and to melodies is innate to us. Belly Dance, culturally based in the Middle East, offers us a wide range of expression of our whole selves. Dance is for everyone. Belly Dance is for every body.