Although it’s not so clear to students themselves, many experienced teachers notice that after practicing belly dance a year or so, some students show marked emotional and/or mental changes.
These students have unwittingly entered a transitional phase in their life, and now their usual patterns of behavior or problem-solving may not serve them well anymore. But these difficult experiences are often signposts on the path to a deeper maturity.
Belly dance movements seem to involuntarily increase latent energies in the mind/body/spirit system much like hormones stimulate the onset of physical puberty.Or it could be the other way around: perhaps the awakening maturity of our inner self causes us to seek reasons to move like this. It’s believed that Yoga originally developed this way.
In fact, the emotional/psychological effects experienced after a year or two of belly dance practice sound much like the description of kundalini awakening, though at a slower pace. Perhaps, if used appropriately and with conscious intent, belly dancing could become an effective part of integrative therapy - not just "body work", but energy work.
rituals, including the temple-dance derived belly dance,
energize the spinal area, causing an awakening or
strengthening of inner forces. (This seems evident in the
Guedra, in particular. It's interesting to note that the
Guedra and Zar are usually done in a kneeling position,
effectively "silencing" the lower body so the movements
perforce take origin in the upper body and arms; and--in
the Guedra--flow out through the fingers. Perhaps these
upper-body dance-like rituals are a natural or instinctive
counterbalance to the hip-centered nature of belly
Sovatsky(2,3) describes belly dance as 'spontaneous yoga'. He theorizes that the movements stimulate the onset of a "post-genital" puberty, perhaps by increasing output from the pineal and/or pituitary glands. As I said earlier, it may also work the other way around, as the maturing intellect/spirit inspires the body to move in new ways to develop itself...rather like a chick struggling out of its shell.
One of the earliest Western explorations of these psycho-physiological effects remains among the best and most interesting: Lee Sannella’s “Kundalini Experience” contains research, case histories, charts, diagrams & illustrations; after reading this you’ll appreciate the interplay of belly dance and music in a whole new way.
Whatever the true nature of this energy phenomenon, it resembles processes that have been described in various ways in almost all religions. Since Western science hasn't yet sufficiently explored this field of bio-energies, we lack scientifically-neutral descriptive terms and so fall back on using terminology from other cultures. Theories about kundalini and chakra energies serve as a descriptive way to envision these processes, but the downside of this is not only do the Eastern religionists have many more terms for the various stages and complex effects of spirituality than we do, but we lack a refined understanding of the concepts behind these foreign terms.(4)(Continued in Part 2: What happens when the flow is blocked)