Using Belly Dance to Heal Deepest Emotional Wounds – Part 1

Using Belly Dance to Heal Our Deepest “Emotional Core” Wounds – Part 1

This post is not for everyone.


This is for “mature audiences only” – reader discretion advised.

(The following post shares personal experiences, and is not medical advice. If you are at all in doubt before you begin – should you choose to do something similar to what I’ve done – consider asking for guidance from a licensed medical or therapeutic professional. And perhaps have a trained counselor with you as you do this particular form of “inner journey.”)

What Is a “Core Wound”?

A core wound is the psychological impact from an experience (or set of experiences) that we have when we are young, or are otherwise exceptionally vulnerable. This (these) experience(s) occur when we are still shaping our basic worldview; our concept of whether or not the world is a “friendly place.”

Core wounds most commonly come from experiences with our immediate family. In particular, they come about with those whom we identify as essential to our survival.

To the best of my knowledge, all of us carry with us some sorts of core wound. We often have them no matter how much we do psychotherapy, seek “spiritual enlightenment,” or just plain “work on our stuff.”

How Can We Determine What – In Ourselves – Is Our Own Core Wound?

Mother Henna writes about her experience of seeing her "pain body" as separate from her "light body."
Mother Henna writes about her experience of seeing her “pain body” as separate from her “light body.”

Core wounds feel like psychological “hurt.” In fact, they “hurt” a lot. So as a result, we try to bundle them up and isolate them away from our conscious awareness.

Core wounds never really go away on their own. They stay inside us, with tremendous power – mostly because we try to contain and control them.

How Do We Detect Our Core Wounds, and Know What They Are?

Often, our core wound show up as “blurts.” These can be phrases that we say to ourselves. Sometimes, they even slip into our conversations! Or, we show ourselves (and others around us) a core wound by voicing strong opinions about how a person (or certain group of persons) always does something that is “bad.”

Core wounds feel intensely private. We rarely – if ever – discuss them with others. Often, if we do psychotherapy or have a life coach or a spiritual counselor, we may work for months before we tentatively allow our core wound area to be broached. This is because, of all the parts of our inner world, our core wound feels most sensitive, most vulnerable, most “ouchie”!

And yet, if we do allow a core wound area to “come into the open,” we may be surprised to learn that our coach, counselor, or therapist really knew about it all along. (And so, for that matter, did our relationship partners, and possibly our boss, co-workers, family, and friends.) This is because our core wounds affect us so much that we “give them away” all the time!

Who Else Talks About Core Wounds?

Eckhart Tolle writes about core wounds in The Power of Now. He calls them our pain-body.



Core wounds never really go away on their own. They stay inside us, with tremendous power – mostly because we try to contain and control them.

Often, our core wound show up as “blurts.” These can be phrases that we say to ourselves. Sometimes, they even slip into our conversations! Or, we show ourselves (and others around us) our core wound by voicing strong opinions about how a person (or certain group of persons) always does something that is “bad.”

Using Oriental Dance (Belly Dance) to Heal

We can have breakthroughs, and often do. But still, these are the “core.” They go right down to how we believe that the world works – in our favor, or not. Dangerous, or safe and friendly.

When we dance, we sidestep the cognitive side of who we are. When we let our bodies simply move, and express how we feel, we can access – and begin to heal – our core wounds.

I’m not talking here about technique practice, or learning a tight little choreography. There is nothing wrong with either technique or choreography. But at some point, we need to go beyond – to what dance really is, and what it can do for us – if we start releasing ourselves to the flow of energy and feeling that we can experience as we dance.

Z Helene Christopher – in her excellent paper on Middle Eastern Dance: The Emergence of the New Sacred Temple Priestess – provides four key points that will help all of us (including myself) use Oriental dance (belly dance) to heal our core wounds. According to Z Helene:

There are four main points in which we, as new temple priestesses, reclaim and reconnect with the ancient Goddess.

  1. We must understand our dance as embodying nature, especially its fertility aspects… Our dance exudes fertility. We move our pelvises and roll our bellies, honoring the sexual act and the resulting procreation…
  2. We reclaim and reconnect with the ancients by understanding our dance as manifesting ecstasy… Our movement invokes the ecstatic kundalini…
  3. We reclaim and reconnect with the ancients by understanding our dance as an experience of Divine Union…
  4. We reclaim and reconnect with the Goddess by understanding ourselves as dispensers of karuna; early motherly love … transformed … to embrace all forms of love: touching, tenderness, compassion, mercy, sensual enjoyment and eroticism.

Alay'nya - author of "Unveiling: The Inner Journey"
Alay’nya – author of Unveiling: The Inner Journey

Very best wishes as you tap into who you really are using dance!

Yours in dance –

Author of Unveiling: The Inner Journey
You are the Jewel in the Heart of the Lotus. Become the Jewel!

Founder and Artistic Director, The Alay’nya Studio
Bellydance a courtesan would envy!

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From Z Helene’s Amazon review of “Unveiling: The Inner Journey”: “Unveiling is about becoming more intimate with ourselves. It is about peeling away the outer layers that keep us from knowing, naming, and attaining our deep wants and desires. By embarking upon a transforming inner spiritual journey, we are encouraged to get connected to ourselves in a way that allows us to genuinely feel our bodies and emotions– all of them, even the undesirable ones. By integrating and loving our “shadow” sides, and by doing daily practices such as stillness, softening, releasing, shifting state, and breathing, we increase our vital energy (prana, ch’i) which makes us more attractive and, yes, more erotic as well. For true attractiveness, according to Alay’nya, is the ability of women to lessen their adopted masculine roles of control and being in charge (Amazon archetype), and instead to surrender to pure energy, motion, and love. This is what makes us beautiful!”

Z Helene Christopher
Z Helene Christopher – Dancer and Herstorian, High Priestess and Teacher. Photo courtesy Rick Fink.

P.S. – Have you read Z Helene’s article on Middle Eastern Dance: The Emergence of the New Sacred Temple Priestess? I recommend it to all my dancers!

Z Helene also has a 4-volume basic Middle Eastern dance (belly dance) instructional DVD set, and another DVD on zills, available through her website. Check them out!

Copyright (c) 2013, Alay’nya. All rights reserved.

Related Posts: Energy Healing and Emotional Healing through Dance

Why We Suck at Dancing, and What We Can Do About It

A Very Rare Vent from Alay’nya – “Why We Suck” – and (Most Importantly) “What We Can Do About It”

OK, darlings. Let me come clean. I’ve been dancing for almost thirty years. Teaching for over twenty. And during that time, I’ve seen a whole lot of belly dance. And very most likely, you have as well.

And now that I’m moving out from the “writing Sabbatical” (the three years that it took to move from a raw draft to a published book, and the first year “soft launch” of marketing), I’m back to dancing again. And to watching you dance. And watching our friends, our teachers, and whomever else we can find.

And I’m back with one of my original opinions of the quality of our performances. Overall, we kind of suck.

The best that we can say – the kindest word – is that most of us are “enthusiastic hobbyists.”

Claudette Dessorgher says this much better than I could – or would – until inspired by reading her article in Gilded Serpent, Beyond the Restaurant: How Can We Bring Bellydance to a Wider Audience?:

However if we stand back and watch most hafla and showcase performances objectively, we have to be honest and say that, in comparison to other dance genres, the standard is very low.

Of course this is largely down to the fact that most bellydancers come to the dance fairly late in life, unlike other dance forms where children start training in their early years. By far the majority are hobbyists with full time jobs, so are unable to take the daily class that mainstream dancers expect, and even if they could, there are precious few advanced classes available in most towns and cities.

Ms. Desorgher goes on to make a number of useful points, and she offers suggestions on what we can – and should – do as a community. (This really is a good article. Go read it.

But to elaborate on her point: Most of the time, our shows are simply boring.

There’s a reason for that.

Dance is not just a “visual” performing art. When we go watch a dance performance, unless it is really very technically good – and visually engaging – we’re not going to be greatly enthralled. If we want a simple “visual” performance, we should watch the American Ballet Company performing one of George Balanchine’s classic works.

But you know what? Balanchine is cold. His work is abstractly beautiful, but it doesn’t engage me emotionally – even when the music is lively, and when the dancers are smiling and sparkly. And even watching interesting patterns as they move and fancy choreographies – that doesn’t do much for me either.

That’s because there is a real difference between Oriental dance (belly dance) and classic ballet. Oriental dance is meant to be an emotional expression – an emotional communication between dancer and audience (or dancer and musician and audience). And it is also a kinesthetic – a visceral – experience.

Ms. Desorgher suggests that one reason that our overall “community-level” performances are not as exciting as they could be is that many of us start late in life. Also, many of us don’t have access to advanced classes.

All true.

But that still misses the point.

We don’t look as good as we might because, by and large, we’re not present in our bodies as we dance. We’re way too often in our heads. (I’ve seen dancers count their way through choreographies; haven’t you?) Dance is meant to be in our bodies, not our heads.

All too often – actually, most of the time – we’re not “connected” in our bodies, either. That means, we are separately moving around our body parts. We may move an arm at the same time as we do a hip drop or a turn, but for most of us, the two movements are not “connected” inside our bodies. And it shows. It really shows. We look a whole lot more as though we’re following the leader in an aerobics class than we are doing a dance.

Finally, we are – as a community – seriously deficient in three major areas. First, we don’t have a “principles-based” approach. If we take a look at our sister art (actually, our “brother art”), T’ai Chi Ch’uan, we’ll see that it comes out of Principles. At least, if you’re studying with a really great teacher, it does. (For an example, check out Peter Ralston.)

Second, we’re deficient in understanding and consciously using our “emotional vocabulary.” Instead, we have a set of stylized gestures. By and large, we don’t know or understand how various movements – whether a gesture or a movement in space – communicate very specific emotional messages.

Third, we’re by and large still locked up in our bodies. Most of us have not yet done the emotional release work that allows us to effectively convey dance to our audience, and to experience a dance movement throughout our entire being. So if we’re locked up, if we’re not released, then our audience gains nothing by watching us.

Ideally, though, we take our audiences into a different state of being. We take them on an internal, magical story-ride, and they find a certain sense of release – an emotional experience – in watching us dance.

How to get there?

Well, I’ve just committed to Lynette Harris, Founder and Editor of the Gilded Serpent, to do a series of articles on just this topic. And because dance is visual/kinesthetic, I’m going to have to follow up with video. So this is a commitment, from me to you.

But one tiny little first step that each of us can take?

Do yoga. Get those hips, pelvis, and lower back released. Then do your hip shimmies and figure eights.

Also, the next time you’re going to perform – warm up before you go on stage. You’ll look a whole lot better if you do. Really. Seriously. Take my word for it. It will help you look better, feel better, present better, and minimize the likelihood of injuries.