conley6.gif (2529 bytes)


Momma movement

By LAURIE ARENDT

January 7, 2007

Stefanie Masters teaches belly dancing to expectant mothers.


Mothers-to-be are often inundated with information on whatís right for baby before the bundle of joy arrives. For the past two years, Stefanie Masters has been helping expectant mothers do something a little unexpected thatís right for both mom and baby: Pre-natal belly dancing.

"A number of structural changes happen to a womanís body when she is pregnant," says Masters, an award-winning belly dancer and teacher with a background in holistic healing, massage and yoga. "Unfortunately, most women arenít aware of these changes."

In her classes and workshops, which are held at Destination Maternity in Brookfieldís studio, Masters focuses on helping moms-to-be change their posture.

"As a woman moves through pregnancy, her lumbar area starts to curve and her uterus pushes up, making it hard for her to take a full breath," she says. "As we inhale we bring fresh oxygen into the blood stream, bringing nutrients into the motherís body including the placenta, which feeds and nourishes the baby."

The typical "pregnancy posture" that many women exhibit can also be a factor in back pain, particularly during the later trimesters of pregnancy. Masters teaches her students how to tilt their pelvis back into place, which relieves the pressure on those muscles.

The movements found in the art of belly dancing naturally lend themselves to this work.

"Beyond gentle stretching and movement, belly dancing helps women build strength and endurance," says Masters, a Port Washington resident. Thereís a tremendous joy to be found in pregnancy, but it can also be difficult emotionally because a womanís body changes tremendously during this time."

Mastersí class, which was recently featured in the Wall Street Journal and Time Magazine, is a gentle and empowering class for expectant mothers.

"We donít do a lot of Ďhardí stuff; in that respect, itís no different than any other exercise a woman would do while pregnant," she says. "Itís more about getting to move while building dignity, self-confidence and grace."

Most importantly, pre-natal belly dancing can have a positive effect for a woman long after baby arrives.

"Itís an activity that keeps women fit, and statistically, women who start an exercise program while pregnant are actually starting a pattern of health for life." For more information on Stefanie Mastersí classes check out her Web site at www.danceforthesoul.com