Women's Empowerment

This Belly Dance Teacher Is Making Me Fall in Love With My (Very Soft) Abs

Erin Hanafy

For those of us whose size fluctuates in certain years, certain seasons, or certain weeks of the month (AKA pretty much everyone), the feeling in your body is palpable. And that's not always a bad thing. Waking up with some super-size cleavage or a bum that's bloomed into a badonk can feel powerful in a "cover girl, put the bass in your walk" kind of way. And thanks to women like Rihanna (who reinforces this idea by extolling "the pleasure of a fluctuating body type"), it's easier than ever—even in our weight-obsessed society—to enjoy the ups as well as the downs. At least, it is for me.

One stalwart caveat to this embrace of my body's natural ebbs and flows, though, is my abs. Or rather, the soft layer of flesh that insulates them, hiding the theoretical six pack I'm convinced is just waiting to come out. It's the one part of my body I haven't stopped monitoring, even after I threw out my scale a couple of years ago. I keep a tape measure handy to check my waist size on a regular basis, only in part because I know waistline expansion is correlated with heart disease, cancer, and more. It's also an attempt to impose order on the out-of-control feeling of a jiggly belly: creating unexpected "rolls" when I move, spilling over the top of my jeans, and making its presence known ("Look at me!") in dresses and skirts that are fitted at the waist. I want to celebrate the natural beauty of my tummy, but so far it's been a theoretical exercise. And honestly, a pretty unsuccessful one.

Then I saw Cassandra Fox. In Instagram videos sent out from her modest studio in Ontario, Canada, the belly dance teacher doesn't look like a revolutionary. She has the high-beam smile of your ex-cheerleader friend who's always down for margs. But basic she is not. Because she's done something extraordinary: Her straight-up joy in shaking what she's got allowed me to finally let go of my pot belly paranoia.

Here's the thing: As a trained dancer, she is in complete control of her body (especially her abs) and yet she makes her jiggly bits a part of the dance. Like, making them shake and bounce is the point. Think of it like backwards twerking—and she's doing it with the glee of a Big Freedia backup dancer. I don't theoretically think she looks beautiful; I believe it with all my heart.

Just take a look at this video, where she's wearing a fitted dress that looks amazing because of the visible soft belly.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bp1-6HxneiV/

Or this one, where she adds some regular twerking to her belly-dancing routine, for an effect that's straight-up hypnotic.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BtoZpV7nBh6/

And in this one—with no music so that you can hear the sound of swishing flesh (and, yes, a booty going clap)—Fox's enthusiasm for her undulating body was like a gateway drug for me to love my abs, once and for all. I mean, look at her face!

https://www.instagram.com/p/BcIGhyunk83/

Admittedly, in no world would Fox ever be considered "plus-size" or out of shape, and in terms of a fleshy layer over her abs, it's much thinner than mine or the average woman. But her celebration of what she does have—its plushness, its shake, its undulation—is what got me feeling the love for my midsection, and finally, finally trusting my gut.

Another way to love your body more? One writer says working out in front of a mirror was the key for her. And here's how tattoos can actually be healing as well.

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