Veil Dancing – A Beautiful Instructional YouTube Clip

Belly Dance Veil Instructional YouTube Vid by Imei Hsu Shows Softness, Sensitivity, Technique

Too many of us in Oriental dance have performances that are heavy on the glitz and glamour – all brightly-colored, sequined and beaded costumes, big smiles – and not enough sensitivity and depth of emotional feeling.

One of the best ways to enrich our emotional repertoire is by dancing with a veil.

Anahid Sofian, Master Teacher of Oriental dance.
Anahid Sofian, Master Teacher of Oriental dance.

Veil dancing gives us mystery and depth.

I learned this from two of my master teachers in Oriental dance, Anahid Sofian and Elena Lentini.

Both of these teachers were renowned for their flowing and expressive veil movements.

In Chapter 4 of Unveiling: The Inner Journey, I describe one of Anahid’s favorite veil drapes, the “Turkish turtleneck.”

In Unveiling’s Chapter 26: Selective Revelation, I share a powerful lesson that Anahid taught me.

Unveiling: The Inner Journey currently has twenty 5-star reviews. It includes many vignettes of studies with leading teachers of Oriental dance.
Unveiling: The Inner Journey currently has twenty 5-star reviews. It includes many vignettes of studies with leading teachers of Oriental dance.

From Unveiling: The Inner Journey:

What was it that Anahid had, and that I had totally forgotten?

Simply, it was the power of holding something back.

In my dance, I had started the way that many dancers start these days; holding my veil behind me, and using it to frame myself as I moved across the floor. There is nothing wrong with this. In fact, if the music is very active and dynamic, theis can be a great dance opening! However (and this is important), this approach lacks the power of mystery and suggestion.

In the dance that Anahid showed me, she started by staying in one place, with the veil wrapped around herself. She held the veil edges in such a way that her hands were covered. She held her hands high enough so that, with the veil wrapped around her from behind, it covered her face as well. [pp. 359-360]

Where Can We Learn Good Veil Techniques on YouTube?

Imei Hsu does Veil Bellydance for Emotional Performance as a YouTube video clip.
Imei Hsu does Veil Bellydance for Emotional Performance as a YouTube video clip.

In last week’s Alay’nya Studio blog, I shared one of my favorite recent finds – a YouTube vid veil performance by Imei Hsu: Bellydance Veil for Emotional Performance.

Today – in preparation for this week’s class, and for those of you who are studying with me “virtually” – let me recommend two of Imei’s instructional vids.

Basic Veil Openings and Movements

If you are just beginning your veil work, start with: Imei Hsu’s How-To Veil Basics. Although she starts even beginners with a 3 1/2 yard veil (and recommends 4 yards for taller students), her techniques are very accessible; within a short time, even a beginner can be using these techniques and looking very good.

Soft, Graceful, and Emotionally-Rich Veil Openings and Movements

Melina, of Daughters of Rhea, teaches Greco-Turkish Oriental dance.
Melina, of Daughters of Rhea, teaches Greco-Turkish Oriental dance. Photo by Najmat.

Imei has a second, slightly more advanced tutorial: Imei’s Advanced Belly Dance with Veil YouTube Instructional Vid.

If you have problems loading this clip by clicking on the link above (YouTube is being just a tad bit tetchy today), then open a browser in YouTube, and enter the key words:
Imei Hsu Belly Dance Seattle Classes How To Dance With a Veil – you’re looking for a vid clip that is 8 minutes 14 seconds long. That should get you there.

Once again, here’s the link to Imei’s Advanced Belly Dance with Veil YouTube Instructional Vid.

I like this clip because it breaks down several of the techniques taught to me by Anahid and Elena. Imei credits Melina (of Daughters of Rhea) with some of her techniques.

Here are some special points to note:

  • Longer-than-average veil allows more flexibility with dance opening moves. Imei favors a 3 1/2 yard veil. Most veils today come in 2 1/2 yard and 3 yard sizes. When you go to a 3 1/2 yard veil, it is a bit more difficult (especially for shorter dancers), but the increased vocabulary range makes it worthwhile.
  • Emotionally-compelling dances often begin by keeping yourself fully veiled from view. Imei shows two lovely variations on how to enter covered with your veil, where one of the long ends is tucked into your hip belt. The veil can be draped so it covers your head and torso, either coming up from the front, or swooshed to the back and draping down over your front. Both are lovely and give a subtle sense of mystery and drama to your opening moves.
  • Your longer veil gives you more options for framing and partial draping. Imei shows how you can frame yourself from behind, or throw your veil over one shoulder and arm – while still keeping the tail end tucked in your sash. There’s a lot of choreographic and expressive flexibility with these moves.
  • Lovely way to frame your hips for shimmies. Imei shows a very pretty and useful way to have the veil close-held and yet frame your hips, about 3 min, 40 seconds into this clip.
  • Beautiful “Z” movements – can be combined with turns. This section is very reminiscent of some of Elena Lentini’s movements; about 5 minutes into this clip. A dramatic flip-up, followed by “double-Z’s” is very reminiscent of what I’ve learned from Elena! (About 5 min, 40 seconds in.)
  • Veil work – with back to audience – can be a lovely lead-in to shimmies. See a section about 6 minutes in. Imei shows the same movement she just did previously, with back to you (the audience; the camera), followed by a little in-place shimmy. Delightful!
  • Play with your veil as though it were your dance partner. Imei’s concluding technique demonstrations – starting about 6 1/2 minutes in – show a beautiful veil change-of-pattern embedded into an in-place turn; this was new to me and very worth learning. She follows with a segment on holding the veil (more or less) steady in front while doing a turn – I prefer to hold the veil more taut for this. (Petite Jamilla shows this beautifully on her DVD, Unveiled.) Her concluding techniques are both lovely and dramatic, and well worth mastering.

If you are studying with me – either in-person or virtually – please review both of these YouTube clips before class on Sunday.

Right after Sunday’s class, I’ll post a very quick little “class review notes” blog. It will cover techniques and micro-choreographies that will be our homework for the coming week.

Whether you’re with me in person or at a distance, please do chime in with your comments as we move through Autumn Quarter, devoted to emotionally-expressive movements in Oriental dance!

Very best wishes as you use Oriental dance (belly dance) for expressing those aspects of yourself that come out only when you dance!

Yours in dance –

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

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!

Check out Alay’nya’s YouTube Channel
Connect with Alay’nya on Facebook
Follow Unveiling: The Inner Journey on Facebook





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

Related Posts: Veil Dancing

Related Posts: Autumn – Esoteric Energy Dance for the Season of Cups (Metaphysical Element of Water)

The Most Luscious, Nurturing, Feel-Good Thing You Can Do

The Most Luscious, Nurturing, Feel-Good Thing You Can Do in Bed, On Your Own

And I’m not even talking sex. (Well maybe. Just a little bit. Later.)

What is the one thing that you can do on your own, in bed, that sends a totally relaxing and soothing feeling up your spine?

It’s the same thing that I wrote about a few days ago, leaving you with a bit of a “cliff-hanger.”

Because, as I asserted in my last post, many of you already know this!

The real surprise is, many of you already know this – and you might even be new to Oriental dance!

Believe me, I am more than surprised. I am amazed. I am totally blown away.

When I learned this “little secret” – many years ago, as I was writing Unveiling: The Inner Journey – it was news to me.

Our belly dance "Figure 8" ("Figure Eight")  movement mirrors the infinity sign, and also traces a subtle internal movement at the base of our spine.
Our belly dance “Figure 8” (“Figure Eight”) movement mirrors the infinity sign. Infinity sign coded by Charles Petzold

The really important thing about what she shared?

It’s that the insight didn’t come from a member of the Oriental dance community. It came from someone who was skilled in the mind/body healing arts. (Diane now does something called HeartMath.) My students who already knew about this movement were practitioners of Reiki, yoga, deep tissue massage, and related areas.

So what is this one thing?

It’s the movement that we dancers call the “Figure 8,” done with our hips.

Our “Figure 8” (“Figure Eight”) movement in Oriental dance (belly dance) mirrors the infinity sign, and also traces a subtle internal movement at the base of our spine. The person who “clued me in” on this movement was Diane Richardson, whom I mentioned several times in Chapters 14 – 16.

I’ve looked at a number of YouTube vids purporting to teach the (vertical) Figure 8, and have only found one so far that is trustworthy – click here to see a Figure 8 tutorial. Just watching this dancer, you’ll see how the Figure 8 activates – actually massages – the sacral area. Beautiful!

(Be careful if you’re looking at various online clips; some focus on a horizontal Figure 8; that’s nice, but not what we’re discussing here. Others show a Figure 8 that starts “top to bottom”; this is sometimes called a Maya. And surprisingly, just changing the direction of how the movement is initiated makes a huge difference. For best energetic benefits, do the “classic Figure 8” – start going down-and-out, then up. And no matter what anyone tells you, try to keep your feet on the floor!)

Enough of the technical hints. The real question is: Why is this movement so important? Why is it more than just one of the many basic “belly dance techniques”?

The answer – as I shared in Unveiling: The Inner Journey – is:

She [Diane] pointed out that Oriental dance is built on a natural undulating and flowing movement that connects our entire spine, from our cranial vertebrae down to our sacrum. In addition, she helped me to sense a very subtle and naturally-embedded “figure eight” motion at the base of my spine. … All that we are doing, as we dance, is to tap into these innate, natural rhythms, and magnify them into a dance. (pp. 410-411)

So, the Figure 8 movement in Oriental dance:

  • Taps into a subtle, naturally-occuring rhythm in our sacral area,
  • Activates the physical and energetic components, and
  • Induces a sort of “energy wave” that travels up our spines towards our heads; essentially initiating a form of cranio-sacral massage.

To the best of my knowledge, doing a physically-correct Figure 8 movement is entirely safe, given that a person has no physical or neurological conditions that would make this movement difficult. (If the reader has any doubt or questions, he or she is advised to consult a medical professional first.) Also, to the best of my knowledge, while well-done Figure 8’s gently encourage both cranio-sacral release and (somehow) produce a “feel-good” effect, I don’t believe that this movement alone will cause release of kundalini energy. As a reference, in yogic teachings, the kundalini energy is stored as a “coiled serpent” at the base of our spine. When we do the Figure 8, we are gently activating life-force energy, but I don’t believe we’ll have any danger of arousing kundalini.

The Figure 8 does, at least in my experience, seem to relate to an overall group of intrinsic motions from the cranium down to the sacral area. Healing professionals are learning to sense and work with these rhythms in a healing modality called cranio-sacral therapy. I have personally experienced cranio-sacral therapy treatments, and found them safe, gentle, peaceful, and healing.

I like to do Figure 8’s in bed, because then gravity is not working on my sacral area. It is freer to move. And because this movement is gentle and relaxing, it will sometimes help me sleep easier and more restfully. And the relation to sex? Well, if we release our sacro-iliac area, and in fact mobilize our entire pelvic region (and Oriental dance movements help us with just that), then we are much more likely to have pleasure, right?

The Most Amazing Thing …

The Most Amazing Thing Is That – You Already Know This!

It happened during the second-to-last class of autumn. I was giving a “preview of coming attractions” – going over the “hot topics” for the winter quarter to come.

http://naturalplane.blogspot.coWhat is "esoteric belly dance"?
What is “esoteric”? And what is “esoteric belly dance”?

I took a deep breath, and launched into what I thought would be the most oddball, obscure, and yet most fundamental part of our next studies.

I felt pretty scared with this topic.

It’s one of those that makes “esoteric belly dance” – well – esoteric.

Mentally, I braced myself for resistance.

You (that is, the new group of students – and also those of you reading this) have borne up cheerfully – and even enthusiastically – as I’ve introduced a range of topics that you (students and readers collectively) often refer to as the “woo-woo stuff.”

That’s right. By many other standards, esoteric means the “woo-woo stuff.” And you’ve been cheerful and enthusiastic in not only trying this out, but in using that term.

This time, I thought, I’d lose you forever.

But as I launched into my description, my jaw dropped. I saw you nodding your heads in agreement. (This time, “you” being the students who were actually in the class that day – and perhaps even you as a reader.)

Over half of you were saying, essentially, “Oh yes, we know this already.”


One of the weirdest, most unusual, most “woo-woo” parts of the curriculum, and it’s already common knowledge?

I just couldn’t believe.

But it made sense.

In the class, we had a massage therapist whose interests and background included energy work. We had a Reiki practitioner. We had a few whose interests in yoga, meditation, and related areas were almost life-long.

Most of you already understood one of the most powerful principles for pathworking, or for bringing your energy work into your physical practice.

Jedi for Women

Over the years, as our curriculum shifted from classical, mainstream Oriental dance to … well, Oriental dance plus something … I’ve tried to express who and what we were in different ways. One that made the most sense was, simply, Jedi for women.

Imagine that you are Obi-Wan Kenobi, but a young Obi-wan. You’re not yet the Jedi Master. In fact, you’re not yet even a Jedi knight. You’re a young man who hopes to one day become a Jedi knight.

Hermione Granger, from the "Harry Potter" book and movie series.
Hermione Granger, from the “Harry Potter” book and movie series.

Or imagine that you’re Hermione, and more than anything, you want to go off to a school that teaches you to use the powers that you know that you have – but simply haven’t ever been able to bring together.

Or that you’re an young woman in pre-Arthurian times, stepping into the boat that will take you through the mists to Avalon, where you hope to learn the fabled priestess arts.

You’ve Already Been There, and You Already Know This

Now, let’s take this one step deeper.

Imagine that not only you are some fictional character, setting out to learn and master some arcane arts that will require years of complete devotion and dedication – but that at one point, in one of your many lifetimes, you were such a person.

Imagine that at one time, you not only knew these things, but had mastered them.

You were, at one point, a Jedi Master. You were a grown-up, fully powerful Hermione. You were a Priestess of Avalon.

And now, in this lifetime, you’re simply trying to bring it all together.

And thus, you gravitate towards energy practices, such as yoga. Or perhaps you’ve already studied energetic healing arts, such as Reiki. Or you’ve followed a tradition of ritual, and opened up your sensitivities in that area.

Somehow or other, in your various wanderings, you’ve already picked up enough so that when the new information is presented to you, it’s not new anymore.

It’s already part of your known and familiar.

Make sense?

Of course. And for a very good reason.

An “Integration Lifetime” – Or Why It Seems So Tough and Complicated

Many of us are experiencing an integration lifetime. We’re pulling together all that we’ve learned before, and we’re making the breakthroughs that we were reaching towards earlier, but possibly didn’t make in our previous lives.

That’s why this lifetime, for so many of us, is so complex, demanding, and challenging. We’re “wrapping up” a lot of things all at once, while reviewing all that we’ve learned before, and making major breakthroughs that we almost – but didn’t quite – complete in our earlier lives.

Sound exhausting?

It’s kind of like taking organic chemistry during the summer. (Difficult under the best of circumstances.) And then, while doing that, taking a “survey course” covering a few thousand years of humanities. And then doing an extra-credit project under the direction of a Nobel Laureate researcher.

Which would explain why our lives are so full, so complex, and so challenging.

We’re not just making headway in one area, we’re doing a lot of things, all at once.

And the Answer Is …

But what is this one thing – one of the three “cornerstones” of esoteric dance – that many of you know already?

Read the details in the next blog. (Yes, I promise to be forthcoming. And I’ll put the link here as soon as I publish the next blog.)

Or, if you simply can’t wait, pick up your copy of Unveiling: The Inner Journey, and read the paragraph at the bottom of page 410. (Yes, this is smack in the middle of Chapter 29, “Pragmatic Esoterics,” or – as we now call it, the “woo-woo stuff.”)

Here’s to your health and well-being – and to your overflowing personal energy and abundance in 2013 and beyond!

Much love – Alay’nya

P.S. Do you have a desire to be a “Jedi Master” in your own life? Do you desire bringing all of who you are – energetically as well as physically, and emotionally as well as intellectually – into one art? Do you desire your own pathworking?

Join me. Click here, scroll to the lower left on the page, and join the Unveiling community for quarterly (and sometimes more frequent) communications. This is reserved for people like you – people who want to infuse their practice with the energetic aspects, and use their dance art as a pathway for healing, wholeness, integration, and mastery.

Very best wishes to you make your dances more fluid and expressive as you add “water play” to your practice!

Yours in dance –

Author of Unveiling: The Inner Journey

You are the Jewel in the Heart of the Lotus. Become the Jewel!

From Dr. Nicole Cutts’ Amazon review of “Unveiling: The Inner Journey”: “I love, love, love this book! It is like the g*ddess mother, mentor I never had and always needed. Finally a book that just tells it like it is for women. It is well written, intelligent and enlightening. For any woman who wants to live a life of adventure,joy and love. It is rich with so much wisdom and grounded in thorough research, which I love! I can’t say enough about it. All I can say is read it if you are looking for something new to take you to the next level of womanhood.”





Nicole Cutts, Ph.D., with Alay'nya, at the first private signing of "Unveiling: The Inner Journey"
Nicole Cutts, Ph.D., with Alay’nya, at the first private signing of “Unveiling: The Inner Journey”

P.S. – Are you seeking to revamp and rev up your life? Do you have goals, desires, dreams that seem almost within your reach?

Nicole Cutts, Ph.D., Success Coach and Founder of Vision Quest Retreats, can help you map the strategic plan to achieve your dreams.

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

Related Posts: Water Dancing and Emotional Release Through Belly Dance

Autumn Lesson 4: Breaking Through Emotional Resistance

Autumn Lesson 4 in The Season of Cups: Moving Out of Stuck Situations

The primary focus of this ten-week series (from the Ace through the Ten of Cups) is on cultivating our internal energy and bringing it up our spines. The final stage of this series is actually the Ace of Cups, when we (supposedly) learn to “fountain” our energy around ourselves.

This is an important goal, both because being able to “fountain” our energy (actually, to do anything at all with our internal energy) is good, but also because this ability is a crucial predecessor to the really important energy exercises:

We will be doing the first two of these practices (Micro-Cosmic Orbit and Middle Pillar) over the winter, and the final one (Circulating the Body of Light) in the summer.

What we are doing now, though, is a structured energy practice that will lead us steadily to some of these more advanced exercises.

In the previous three weeks, we introduced the Season of Cups and basic exercises for this autumn quarter:

In this Autumn Week 4, we encounter emotional blocks that keep us from fully doing our energy work.

The Tarot Minor Arcana "Four of Cups" card describes the emotional process of opening up to new life experiences.
The Tarot Minor Arcana “Four of Cups” card describes the emotional process of opening up to new life experiences.

Learn more about the Tarot’s Minor Arcana Four of Cups.

The Four of Cups is a moment of stasis; we are so locked up in our present thoughts and conditions that we can’t open up to new “good energy” that is being offered to us.
Three channels through which vital ch’i energy flow up the spine, the ida, pingala, and susuhmna, with their six “nadi” crossings.

When we studied the Two of Cups, we realized that we were being directed to examine the Ida/Pingala energy streams at the root of our spine. At the Three of Cups, we included the Sushumna primary energy column in our attention, and did the first “interweaving” or “crossing over” of the Ida/Pingala streams. We did this at an energy nexus point on our spines that connects directly to the second chakra in front.

(Recall our energy anatomy: there are six “nexus points” on the spine, each of which connects via nerve bundles to one of each of six nerve ganglia on our fronts. Each of these physical nerve ganglia bundles corresponds to a chakra area.)

Now, at the Four of Cups, we’re at the second crossing of the Ida/Pingala streams, which corresponds to the third nerve bundle on the spine and the third nerve ganglia grouping and chakra center on our fronts.

This third chakra occurs at our solar plexus. This is right where our upper diaphragm (the one separating our heart and our lungs from our abdominal organs) occurs.

When we are energetically and emotionally blocked or “stuck,” then our diaphragm is tight, and we have a rigid hold on the muscles in our upper abdominal area as well as our sternums. The result is that we have a tight and rigid dance.

In Unveiling: The Inner Journey, I describe how one of my master teachers, Anahid Sofian, corrected me and another leading dancer on precisely this matter.

Across the crowded floor, a series of young women swayed like seaweed in the ocean. Their eyes on the diminutive teacher, they followed Anahid Sofian in her graceful yet precise movements…

“Leah,” she called out to a dancer, “you need to release – right here.” She gestured to her own sternum. We were practicing upper body undulations, one of the most beautiful and sensual moves in Oriental dance. “And Alay’nya,” she turned, scrutinizing me, “you need to do the same.”

Both Leah and I were well beyond the beginner’s level. … Here we were, getting the same correction on one of the most basic moves. “What,” I wondered, “is going on with us?”

Suddenly it hit me; one of those “Aha!” moments. Leah and I both epitomized the “young-woman-on-her-own-in-the-world.” Having to make it on our own in essentially a man’s world, we had taken on the masculine attributes of body armor by using our muscles and ligaments! By stiffening our muscles, and holding them tightly, we created an impenetrable shield; we were “armored” against the world. What we were doing in our bodies reflected more the influence of Athena, Goddess of Intellect (as well as war; she is the ultimate Amazon), than Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love. We were fully in our Amazon mode!

Releasing the muscles in our sternum took conscious attention from each of us. It did then, and it still does. The old tension patterns die hard. [from Unveiling: The Inner Journey, Chapter 14, “Locking Our Minds Out of Our Bodies,” pp. 189-190]

For many of us, as we go into the autumnal Season of Cups, our attention is not just on practicing technique. Rather, it becomes a quest to release those tensions and blockage patterns that keep the movement from flowing freely.

Here’s to your own “inner un-blocking”!

Very best wishes as you use Oriental dance (belly dance) for personal growth and healing!

Yours in dance –

Alay'nya - author of <a href="">Unveiling: The Inner Journey</a>
Alay’nya – author of Unveiling: The Inner Journey

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!

Check out Alay’nya’s YouTube Channel
Connect with Alay’nya on Facebook
Follow Unveiling: The Inner Journey on Facebook


P.S. Getting Your Own Copy of Unveiling: The Inner Journey

Do you want to continue reading Chapter 14, from which the beginning was excerpted above? You can have your print copy of Unveiling overnight from Amazon, or a Kindle version within minutes.


Alay’nya, Unveiling: The Inner Journey





P.P.S. More Unveiling

A very important related section is in Chapter 9, “The Essence of Stillness.” I have a nice long extract posted on the Unveiling website. Go to the Resources page, and look for the extract about Esther. Also, you’ll have a chance to sign up for the Unveiling e-newsletter, and be given early information on:

  • Workshops: Whether my own, or those that I highly recommend (and will likely attend), be the among the first to know your options for putting your Unveiling studies into practice – topics will range from archetypal to dance to the “Fountain of Youth,”
  • Best-of-the-Best links and “insider info, which I custom-select, carefully edit, and share just with the Unveiling Community (free, but you must Opt-In using the Opt-In form on the website’s first page) and
  • Weekly updates – so that you won’t miss a thing!

Alay'nya - author of <a href="">Unveiling: The Inner Journey</a>
Alay’nya – author of Unveiling: The Inner Journey

Very best wishes to you make your dances more fluid and expressive as you add “water play” to your practice!

Yours in dance –

Author of Unveiling: The Inner Journey

You are the Jewel in the Heart of the Lotus. Become the Jewel!

From Dr. Nicole Cutts’ Amazon review of “Unveiling: The Inner Journey”: “I love, love, love this book! It is like the g*ddess mother, mentor I never had and always needed. Finally a book that just tells it like it is for women. It is well written, intelligent and enlightening. For any woman who wants to live a life of adventure,joy and love. It is rich with so much wisdom and grounded in thorough research, which I love! I can’t say enough about it. All I can say is read it if you are looking for something new to take you to the next level of womanhood.”

Autumn Lesson 3: Unifying Our Energies

Autumn Lesson 3 in The Season of Cups: Unifying Three Essential Types of Vital Energy

In autumn, we focus on cultivating our intrinsic vital energy, or ch’i. The suite of Cups (from the Minor Arcana) is associated with autumn, and with the metaphysical element of water. Thus, when we put our attention on Cups (water) energy, we are really seeking to develop our internal cup, or energy basin.

Stephen Covey, in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, identifies the second habit as: Begin with the end in mind.



We previously saw a visual depiction of our goal: Being able to bring our energy up and have it “fountain” or “flow” down around us. We saw this in the classic Rider-Waite interpretation of this card.

Our desire to “fountain” our energy is a normal and natural one, especially once we gain some proficiency with energy work. I learned about this energetic practice from Medea, my first teacher in Oriental dance.

“Medea had studied yoga. Her lover was also her guru. He had, she explained, taught her to bring up her energy during love-making – and to give it to him! Then they broke up. What, she wondered, was she going to do with her energy, if she wasn’t going to give it over to a man? She finally figured it out. As she told us, ‘Instead of giving it to him, I’ve learned to bring it up, and then to “fountain” it back down and take it in again!'” [Unveiling: The Inner Journey, pp. 402-403]

In last week’s class, we got more specific. We began our energy-study in earnest, with an etude (study piece) cultivate the two vital energy streams that come up on either side of our primary energy pathway in our spine. That is, we focused on the Ida/Pingala energy channels. We saw these two energy channels symbolized by the picture for the Two of Cups.

In this Two of Cups picture set, we see a consistent theme – a man and a woman come together to share their energy.

In the central picture, we see that the man and the woman each are holding a cup, and are each extending their cup towards each other. We connect this to the first step of the Ida/Pingala energy raising. We note that the two persons seem just a bit tentative; this is their first experience of bringing their unique energies to “cross over” and join with the other. This is where Ida (left) and Pingala (right) cross over at the base of the spine, at the root chakra.

Now, “begin[ning] with the end in mind,” we take a look at the final card for the Suite of Cups. The Ten of Cups similarly shows a man and a woman, and again each holds a cup.

The big differences? Their wrists wrap around each other, and their cups are upraised. There is energy flowing into and out of their cups (the rainbow). The signs of “cups” are all about them; the union of these two energies has resulted in a happy, positive overflowing abundance – complete success!

This is our end-goal for our Ida/Pingala energy-raising exercise, and in fact, for the entire Autumn Quarter, when we focus on Cups.

Keep in mind that when we look at imagery such as this – strictly in terms of how these images represent steps and challenges (and overcoming challenges) in our personal growth and mastery – that each person or being represents an aspect of ourselves. In the pictures showing a man and a woman, they represent our masculine and feminine psychological poles, and/or our different energies – in this case, specifically the Ida/Pingala energy channels, or nadis.

In this context – of knowing our overall goal for the quarter – we look at the Three of Cups.

Images for the Three of Cups traditionally show three woman, often dancing together. The middle image here shows them bringing their cups (energies) towards each other, and intertwining their arms.

This brings to mind what we learned last week; the Ida and Pingala are on either side of the primary energy channel, the Sushumna. This week, we remind ourselves that our deeper goal is not just to bring energy up the Pingala and Ida channels, but also bring up our primary energy (up the Sushumna channel); this becomes a kundalini awakening – a very advanced step. In our classes, we focus on prerequisites – on the “beginner steps” towards this very advanced goal.

One of the most basic, and important, practices for energy cultivation is pranayama. We introduced a “baby pranayama” exercise together with energy raising in the etude that we have set to Rasa’s Gayatri Mantra. (Hereafter, for simplicity, we’ll refer to this as the Gayatri Mantra energy-raising etude, or simply the Gayatri Mantra etude.)

In this Gayatri Mantra etude, we do three things:

  • Bring energy up our spines, where we anchor (drop our body weight) and allow our hands to come up each time we “bring up our energy,”
  • Coordinate the energy-raising with specific mudras (hand gestures) and with vibrating the words that go with each mudra, and
  • Coordinate all of this with a simple (baby-level) pranayama breathing pattern.

This is only complicated until it’s not.

By the end of this quarter, we should be proficient with:

  • Bringing energy up to each of seven different chakra-levels (actually, six nadis on the spine and then our crown chakra),
  • Coordinating this with seven different mudras and their respective “intonations,” along with the ability to do some baby-level pranayama, and
  • Some awareness of our Ida/Pingala energy channels, which interweave about our spinal column.

Also, by the end of the quarter, we should be much better at:

  • “Containing” our energy in our pelvic “energy cauldron,” as opposed to spilling it out,
  • Minimizing “holes” in our “energy cauldron” (making it a “cauldron” and not a “sieve” or a “colander”), and
  • Protecting our energy boundaries (yes, “setting boundaries,”) so that we don’t unintentionally give away all this lovely energy that we’re cultivating.

The end result is that we should approach winter solstice with a strong, vibrant energy – ready to share at our discretion as we spend time connecting with friends, family, and colleagues. We should be energetically “insulated” against winter, and be strong for the next aspect of our inner journey.

Most of all, we should be feeling “juicy.” As in, downright fabulously “delish”! Here’s to a great autumn season for all of us!

Namaste! – Alay’nya

Filling Our "Energy Well" Using Oriental Dance

Filling Our “Energy Well” Using Circular, Rolling, and Snake Movements with the Chifti Telli Rhythm in Esoteric Belly Dance

Julia Cameron, in her book The Vein of Gold, talks about “filling the well.” She writes, “As artists, we must learn to be self-nourishing.” (p. 21)

Vein of Gold

Walking in the World

Water: The Energy of the Season of Cups

As we move into Autumn, the Season of Cups, we shift both our dance and our life-focus. Summer was the Season of Rods, and dealt with fire energy. If we had progressed in our energy cultivation path well over the previous year, we had plenty of “energy to burn” by summer time – and that’s exactly what we did!

Now, though, with the heat of the summer waning, we are ready for something different. Our bodies – and our psyches – seek replenishment.

Energetic Anatomy

Because we are doing esoteric belly dance, or Oriental dance (belly dance) with an energy component, the idea of replenishment has very specific and practical meaning for us. We focus on drawing energy into our “energy reserve centers,” and to building and strengthening this energy.

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As a first step, we look at one aspect of our energy anatomy – the various energy channels that come up our spine.

In many of our energy exercises, we draw energy up our spine. Very often, we bring energy straight up our spinal column.

However, in this lesson, we pay attention to the fact that the energy currents up our spine are more complex.

Energy channels going up tNada, ida, pingala, & sushmna energy channels
Energy channels going up the spine: nada, ida, pingala, & sushmna

There are really three channels, or nadis (a Sanskrit term), as recognized in the yogic tradition. These are:

  • Pingala: The nadi carrying the “active” aspect or prana (this is our vital life-force, or ch’i)
  • Ida: The nadi carrying the “passive” aspect or apana
  • Sushumna: The nadi carrying the Kundalini energy

These energy channels have been recognized in our own Western medical tradition – in a very subliminal manner – for thousands of years. Specifically, the cadeceus – our emblem for the healing arts – is a stylized depiction of these energy channels.

The tantric tradition of kundalini yoga has been to awaken the energy flow through these nadis, culminating in a fully awakened and energy-vitalized state.

Relating Energetic Anatomy to Western Esoteric Tradition

In our studies, we use this time of year to “fill our well” energetically. In fact, we opened this quarter by giving attention to energy dancing with a water feeling.

Now that we’ve introduced our theme, we move from the overall feeling of water energy (the Ace of Cups) to the lesson in the Two of Cups. Margaret Wells, who has developed interpretations for the various Tarot cards, describes the Two of Cups as bringing forth “a moment of shared feeling.”

"Two of Cups," by Melvis
“Two of Cups,” by Melvis

Look closely at the imagery in this card, designed especially by Melvis, in a project organized by Margaret. See how the two cups are blending together? And they’re both receiving droplets of water.

This is what we’re doing. We’re bringing “droplets of energy” to both our prana (Pingala) and apana (Ida) origination and storage points at the base of our spine. This is the starting point for our exercise.

Practicum: Second Week of Autumn

Pingala/Ida Nadi Tracing

We will return in this week’s class to the Cabbalistic Cross exercise that we began last week, using the music Anahat (by Kairo by Night, on the Zaman CD).

We are going to use the opening phrases of this music (about a minute or so, before the “melodic line” kicks in) to trace the Pingala and Ida circulation lines up our spines. This acts as a reminder to ourselves that these two nadis play a role. Even though many of our other energy exercises will bring the energy straight up our spines, we acknowledge the different “currents” or nadis as we begin our practice.

Please note: The Cabbalistic Cross is not an “energy-building” or “energy circulation” exercise. Rather, it is the first step in aligning ourselves with certain “realms of consciousness” (Sephiroth in the Kabbalistic tradition), and is a preliminary to an “energy boundary” exercise, the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram. We are inserting the Pingala/Ida here – because it works – and we’ll insert it into other exercises/etudes as well. Keep in mind the distinction; energy-building or cultivation vs. energy circulation vs. protection/boundary-creation.

Other exercises for the Second Week of Autumn

  • Diaphragm stretches: We’ll begin paying more attention to each of our three diaphragms, allowing them to release, so we can bring in more air. This is an important precursor to learning undulations, both upper and lower body.
  • Circular Movements: Hip circles and rib cage circles help us to “feel out” the fullness of the energy basin that rests in our pelvic girdle.
  • Snake Arms: We’ll introduce some exercises that will help you move your arms and hands gracefully. These are necessary precursors to candle dancing, which is an optional study for Winter Solstice.

As always, we’ll do veil work – both in place, and moving across the floor.


We will listen to and move with various chifti telli pieces, which are the focal rhythms for this quarter.


  • Lotus Flower: This is a Static Principle, and is the second one that we learn in our sequence. It is the natural corollary to the Anchoring Principle that we studied last week.
  • Expansion/Contraction: This is a Dynamic Principle that we’ll study in greater depth over time. We use the Expansion/Contraction method, combined with breathing (even a little pranayama) to fill our energy cauldron (the “basin” in our hip girdle, where we build and store intrinsic energy, or ch’i). This is a natural accompaniment to – and adds to the energetic value of – movements such as hip circles.

Using Unveiling: The Inner Journey as a Study Guide for Autumn Dance Classes

Textbook References

The following chapters in Unveiling are relevant to this week’s study:

  • Chapter 25, “Sex Secrets of Belly Dancers”: All you need to know (and more) about our various diaphragms. Also a write-up on why we do those horrible abdominal exercises during our warm-ups. (Strengthens our internal and external obliques.)
  • Chapter 22, “Looking Like a Dancer (Even If You’re Not)”: Includes a very brief description of the Anchoring Principle, which I learned from martial arts master Peter Ralston, along with a brief mention of the Lotus Flower Principle (which I simply call “reaching up” in the text).

Related Personal Pathworking Steps:

At the beginning of this post, I referenced author Julia Cameron, who talks about using images to feed our artistic souls. I build on her ideas in my recent book, Unveiling: The Inner Journey. (Look at the Personal Pathworking at the end of Chapter 3, “Bedtime Stories for Grown-Up Girls.”)



Studying with Alay’nya

It is still possible to join us in the Alay’nya Studio in McLean, VA. Beginners meet on Sundays from 11:30 to 1PM. Learn about the Beginner’s Dance Package, and email me for an invitation to join us for a complimentary introductory class: alaynya (at) alaynya (dot) com.

Related Posts for Using Water Energy in Dance

How to Prepare for Your First Class in Belly Dance

Advance Preparation Makes All the Difference in Learning Oriental Dance (Belly Dance)

Darlings – I have a confession to make.

If you’re tracking this blog at all, you’ll know that we’re having our first Open House in over two years. For all practical purposes, I had closed the Alay’nya Studio while doing the final rewrites, edits, proofs, and publication of my most recent book, Unveiling: The Inner Journey. And then, a first year of guiding it through public introduction. Think of it has having a baby, where the last three months of “gestation time” that we need for a human child transferred into 2-3 years to bring Unveiling from raw draft to finished product.

Now, of course, it is not only available (in both trade paper and Kindle download form), Unveiling is actually the first required reading for people who want to study with me.

Obviously, though, this is a dance class. And I’m having to get my “dance groove” back on, just as you will when you join me. (Mark your calendar NOW for our Open House on Sunday, Sept. 9th, and contact me for directions and details.)

So I’m practicing. And in addition to the yoga, core, and conditioning basics, I’m back to practicing dance (and developing lesson plans, reworking choreographies and practice pieces, and all sorts of things necessary to launch a great season).

One of my favorite training DVDs is Kathryn Ferguson’s Mid-Eastern Dance: An Introduction to the Art of Belly Dance.

Years ago, this was my most significant instructional tape; then available only in VHS form. During a summer when my dance teachers took a break, I had just refinished my living room. This empty room beckoned as a new “dance studio.” The big challenge was: could I get myself to practice all on my own, without the structure and security of a dance class to guide me?

My next big question was: could I ever look like Kathryn?

I was entranced and inspired by her tape. What was most mesmerizing about her presentation was that after each (well-explained and well-demonstrated) technique section, she’d have a little vignette in which she used those techniques in an improvisational dance.

I wanted desperately to look like her, to dance like her. Even after finding my “master teachers” (Anahid Sofian and Elena Lentini; read about them in Unveiling), Kathryn remained an icon. And her VHS tape was always my reference standard for introductory teaching.

Now, I’m using her material again. This time, she’s (so thankfully!) released it as a two-volume DVD. You’ll have to contact her to get a copy; it’s not available through Amazon, and not even as a “store item” from her website. But contact her directly. (I may place a bulk order for the class, once everyone has registered for the first quarter.) The extra effort is worth it. This still remains, by far, one of the most fascinating, beautiful, and useful introductory DVDs to this beautiful and gracious art.

But my confession? Right now, I’m looking nowhere near the way that Kathryn does in her teaching DVD. Full circle. I’m back to being a student before I can be a teacher again.

Tiraz Dance Network Hosted Superb Belly Dance Convention, Saturday, May 20, 2012

Tiraz Dance Network Hosted Excellent Belly Dance Event with Most-Ever Dancers and Vendors in May, 2012

The Tiraz Dance Network held its sixth annual Belly Dance Convention yesterday, Saturday, May 20, 2012 at the Frying Pan Park in Herndon, VA. Congratulations to the Tiraz Dance Network’s Board of Directors and convention organizers for bringing together the biggest and best event that they have hosted to date, with the most dancers (about two dozen performers) and an increased number of vendors.

Breathing, Breakthroughs, and Belly Dance

Emotional Breakthroughs Show in Our Breathing, Body Movement, and Dance

Just yesterday, I had a breakthrough.

Now my life consists of “breakthroughs.” I have them intellectually. (This is what gives me ideas for everything from blogposts to patents. There are several “breakthroughs” in Unveiling alone.) And I’m used to having physical breakthroughs as well; these have made me an effective dancer.

But yesterday something happened that was a bit unexpected, and I want to share it with you while the memory is fresh.

For the previous few months – post-Unveiling-publication – I’d been having a lot of fatigue. Through being kind and gentle with myself, through rest and (not-too-strenuous) exercise, through better diet and supplements, I was slowly getting better. But this improvement was wobbly, and after almost three months, I still wasn’t back to full strength and power. In fact, just the day-before-yesterday, I’d had one of those days in which all the supplements in the world – all the vitamin B-12 and ginseng – were getting me off the launch pad but not quite into stable orbit.

And then, yesterday, several little things happened. I can’t quite put my finger on any single one. But somehow, in the midst of all these “little things” – a real breakthrough occured.

The “little things”? Working my daily exercise with the Course in Miracles, which I started about two months ago. (If there is anything that is life-changing, this is it. And I was in huge resistance about one of those exercises, but somehow, wound up adopting the premise that it offered – that may have been a “pivot point.”)

The “pivot point” may have been when Nimeera, another dancer with whom I met the day before, looked at me and said, “Breathe.” (I didn’t even know that I was holding my breath.)

It may have been waking up, realizing that I was holding tension in one of my favorite tension-holding places in my back, and then starting to use undulations to release that tension, and also releasing the “emotional issue” that I felt was linked to the tension spot.

It could have been any of these; all of them, or none. What I do know is that somehow, sometime, yesterday I began to move again.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’d been “moving” all these past few months. A fair bit of the daily yoga and core, stretch and resistance training. Renewed long walks. And lots and lots of housecleaning and other chores.

But I hadn’t been doing much dance.

I’d attributed this to having put all my energy into the Unveiling-publication.

But there was something else, a sadness that had been a part of my life over the last three years. And somehow, it released, and my body began to naturally do the “belly dance movements” once again.

That’s right, I started naturally and spontaneously moving – the undulations, the figure-eights (of all sorts). The stretches, the neck movements, everything.

And I realized, once again, that the beauty of Oriental dance as a body art (in comparision with other, equally good and very valid body arts such as yoga and T’ai Chi), is that the range of movements that it gives us are fabulously superb for releasing emotional tension. They are the best movements for real body/mind/psyche integration.

That’s because an Oriental dance technique, such as an undulation, corresponds to releasing tension up and down our spine. When we release emotional tension, we can release the physical. And vice versa.

So if we have even a glimmering of how the two are connected – some attention and awareness of how our bodies and our “emotional selves” work together – then when we get the slightest little release in one area, we can use the dance techniques to help us release just a little more. We use our body/mind/psyche integration pathway to leverage this release.

So, for example, a little emotional release – leads to an undulation. An undulation leads to a figure-eight. A figure-eight leads to paying attention to what we have “stuck” in our lower backs and pelvic area. And then we bring our attention to the emotional aspect, process it, and get a bit more release again physically.

And this is why I love this dance form so much!

P.S. I write about this in Chapters 14-16 of Unveiling: The Inner Journey. And in those chapters, I credit Diane Richardson, who is a Co-Founder of Relational Energetics (see I also suggest chiropractic and massage, and other healing modalities – Reiki is good, as are others.

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

Related Posts: Creating a Youthful Presence Through Belly Dance

Lineage – in Martial Arts, Yoga, Zen – and Belly Dance!

Our “Master Teachers” in Oriental Dance

Recently, I took a workshop with Anahid Sofian, where the day’s classes were taught by her protege, the internationally-renowned Eva Cernik. Among the attendees was Nourhan Sharif, and others who were remarkable for their intelligence (one had her Ph.D. in biochemistry), devotion to the art (most were long-standing students), and overall high level of knowledge about dance, art, and life.

I overheard Nourhan and another dancer, where the question that one of them posed was: Which other leading dancers do you like – and respect – the most? (The context was with historical figures – the luminaries of films, etc.)

Somehow, the conversation swung around to how we – as students, practitioners, and often teachers – show how we respect our own teachers. And someone (here I’m airbrushing just a bit) commented on one dancer who left a well-known teacher to form her own studio. She had been a teacher in the master dance teacher’s studio, and took the students – who were in class with her – when she left to set up her own “establishment.”

This wasn’t just a burst of ego. It was a show of disrespect, and – in simple business terms – an undercutting.

I had the same thing happen to me, and write about it in Unveiling: The Inner Journey. (see the opening for Chapter 15, “Softening: Beginning to Break Through,” beginning page 199.

I recall a conversation with another leading dancer, one with whom I’ve studied and whom I respect a great deal. I asked her how I could honor her in my work. She said, “Simply recognize me in your bio. Say that you’ve studied with me.”

That seems easy enough. Surprisingly, though, there are dancers – those who want to “establish” themselves – who think that the best way to do this is to disregard (and even disrespect) their connections with their teachers and – when they find them – their “master teachers.”

We in the Oriental dance world seek to claim legitimacy for our art form. We want respect. We demand, and the rigor and beauty of our art form demands, a high level of respect.

But to get respect, we have to give it.

Look at the great traditions in the world; the ones where personal teaching is necessary. Martial artists, the world over, acknowledge their teachers. Lineage is exceptionally important.

Lineage is important in ballet, modern dance, and other dance forms. It is important in all branches of yoga.

In Zen meditation, one of the practices is that the disciples recite the names of their master teachers, going up through their entire lineage, and thanking and acknowledging them.

We have a profoundly beautiful, moving, and exquisite art form. We also have lineage. It’s time for us to respect our “master teachers.”

In Unveiling: The Inner Journey, I identify my “master teachers” – in dance, in martial arts, and in body/mind/psyche/energy integration. If I’ve studied with them, and if there is enough of a relationship so that they can pick me out of a lineup, they’re mentioned. I tell stories about them – the kind of “student/teacher” stories that highlight their role as teachers.

Right now, more and more of us are writing. (Morocco’s book is coming out soon, Nourhan Sharif has one underway.) We put together websites. We have videos. In addition to teaching classes and performing, we have numerous venues available to us – through the web, digital media, and print – in which we can honor our “master teachers.”

We want respect? Let’s start by giving it.