This belly dance teacher is making me fall in love with my (very soft) abs

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Photo: Getty Images/JGI Jamie Grill

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.

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Drum solos forever🙄😏😅🤣😁😎 I have no problem admitting that drum solos are one of my absolute favourite types of music to dance to. I remember from the moment when I first heard one, I was hooked, I was not sure exactly how someone was supposed to move their body with them lol but I was hooked and I was going to do it, no matter how long it took. It's been 10 years and I think I am now more obsessed with them than ever. I adore improvising to them, every time I dance to one is a chance to play with it a little differently or to finesse out something seems perfect for a moment. This drum solo is "Tabla Solo 2" by Mokhtar El Said. I always credit the music I use in hopes that if you like it you can easily find it to purchase for yourself. These musicians give us such amazing music to dance to and work with, and purchasing their work is one of the best ways to show support. I encourage other dancers to play the music info on the video as well. I use the app "InShot" to do so. I also wanted to say thank you to those who have checked out my patreon and signed up. I am so grateful. I will be adding more tiers and including sewing/costuming tutorial options coming next week. If you are just looking for introductory dance tutorials to get you started those have already started being available on there. 🤗😘😊😁❤ Link to my patreon is in my bio, or you can copy and paste #drumsolo #shimmies #layers #bellydance #bellydancer #tablasolo #cassandrafox

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

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Heard this song, "Baila Baila Baila" by Ozuna @ozuna for the first time this week and have not been able to stop playing it since ❤💃😍 So naturally I also had to dance around to it! I added a new tier to my patreon for intermediate to advanced level belly dancers who just want some practice drills and conditioning. It's called "Dance Drills and Thrills" and it's $10 a month and a new video gets posted every week. It's aim is to improve, strength, stamina, balance and to motivate you to practice more. :) The tier "New to Dance Enthusiast" is also $10 a month and has tutorials and practice videos for those with no previous dance experience or who are new to bellydance or who just want a refresher of foundation basics. You can check out my patreon here. #dance #bailabailabaila #ozuna #dancer #dancing

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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!

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If I was wearing corduroy we might ha e seen some sparks 😂😂 High friction thighs. The sounds of the body while shimmying (you may have to turn your volume up) and the sound of flesh 'clapping' and cheering me on while I dance as I change posture and emphasis. My boobs make no noise, they are the quiet ones of the bunch 😄 I am not embarrassed by these sounds, or bothered by them. If anything I am entertained. See the beauty and humour in your experiences and not the perceived "flaws". #donthatetheshake If you want to get better at something I recommend putting the energy you would normally put into worrying about how you look into focusing on the details of (in the case of dance) technique, musicality, understanding, culture etc. That will propel you forward even if you can't see it or feel it at the time. It's cumulative, and it takes commitment, and is not bettered or worsened by 10 pounds. #shimmy What are your shimmies like? Quiet? Loud!? Test it out, see what your body's music is 😁💗 use this hashtag if you want to share #soundofmyshimmies

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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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