Who Me? – Sandra’s Story
In 1986 I started bellydance lessons at my local community center in Sunnyvale, CA. I wasn’t very graceful but I was having fun and my teacher Cathy was very encouraging. I stuck with it and performed at student nights and eventually took classes with the amazing Dunia until 1991 when my first daughter was born. Flash forward to 2006, two daughters occupy my life and bellydance has fallen by the wayside and my weight is slowly creeping up about 10 pounds per year over the previous 4 years. My loving man caught me dancing in the kitchen and insisted I get back to dancing. It took a few false starts to find Khajulah and Raks al Khalil in San Jose. I had never troupe danced before and it was a fun challenge. With my doctor’s help I discovered that my body was attacking my thyroid (Hashimoto’s disease) which explained why despite diet and exercise my weight continued to climb. Medication and Weight Watchers stopped the increase but it wasn’t doing much to reverse the extra poundage. I made the commitment to myself to exercise more. Dancing with the troupe is fun but is definitely not aerobic as there is a lot of stopping and starting to work on choreography. Zumba? Fun, sweaty, confusing if you aren’t at the front and really hard on my feet. Boot camp? Uh, no. Doing sit ups and push ups in the grass where the people let their dogs run free? Ick. Step class, body pump, body flow, all great and all offered while I am at work and the gyms are crammed full in the evenings. Going to the equipment room to spin, run, walk is boring even with the TV on. So my attempts to go to the gym more often were often sidetracked by homework help, Girl Scouts and driving my kids to their activities and over all boredom with my workout.
Then at Rakkasah West in 2009 my husband pulls me away from my shopping telling me, “You have to see this!” and takes me over to the SharQui booth. Oreet had just finished performing and was back at her booth, glowing in her wonderful costume and was talking about her new aerobic workout based on bellydance. My mind did a double take, a BELLYDANCE workout? Then she said she was looking to train instructors in San Francisco. ME? An aerobics instructor? With this tummy? A bellydance instructor should look like Oreet, petite, slim and strong not tall and overweight. I took the literature and bought the fundamentals DVD thinking that I would at least do it at home.
I loved it! The workout was fun and easy to follow and I could feel my abs working. I was hooked. Next thing I know I am signed up to take the three day instructor training AND to get certified to be a group exercise leader through ACE. The training was the most fun working my butt off I had done in a long time. The other students were a fun mix of bellydancers and aerobics teachers and we have all kept in touch since then. Oreet was encouraging but kept to her high standards for her program and made us work for our certification. It took some time to finish my group exercise certification so I wasn’t teaching yet but I was still practicing at home, learning to talk and dance at the same time. Not an easy task!
Finally it all came together. I started teaching one night a week and building my confidence as a teacher and then the explosion happened…four classes a week at a variety of gyms and community centers. I know that if students are expecting me to show up and teach I will not let other things get in my way so that really helped my own commitment to exercise. Up to 100 students per week come to my classes. I started to really focus on my food and since September 2010 I have lost 15 pounds. I still have a ways to go but I am thrilled to be doing it at last. My clothes fit better and people think I have lost more than that because my tummy is so much smaller. Say hello to core muscles I thought I would never have. I can now outlast everyone in my troupe on the drum solo because I have stamina. I like to think some of my negatives make me a better teacher. I am not super skinny, nor am I super flexible but I love to dance. I love to share what I do with my students. I like to think that because I am not a perfect size 6 I can be more of a role model for students who are looking to get into shape. I am definitely not intimidating with highly chiseled abs, I am soft and curvy but I can MOVE and I have fun doing it. That I think is what brings people back to the class every week, they are getting a good workout and having fun.
I’m sure that dancer I was back in 1986 would not recognize my dance style today. I am more relaxed, don’t have to count every beat, the smile is real and I continue to add new moves and styles all the time. I now have my own students and they have taken the first steps towards becoming performers by being part of a flash mob I organized. I now make plans around my exercise time and even make time to work out new choreography and take more classes from other dancers whenever I can. My life is richer in so many ways because SharQui allows me to step out of the regular world and be a positive influence in other people’s lives but a healthier me is the best reward of all!