Disco lights bounced off the walls in the darkened room. Whimsical music played in the background. People gathered around to choose colorful garments and scarves with sound-making attachments. It might not seem like it, but all elements describe a fitness class.

Several women recently participated in a beginner’s belly dancing demonstration at the Samana Holistic Center located in Pottstown. Belly Dancing is a style often said to have originated in Egypt. The cultural dance involves isolated movements in the torso as well as other parts of the body. It’s very common for belly dancers to wear costumes as they perform.

Jennifer Fischer, owner of the Samana Holistic Center, said she offered the belly dancing class because it sounded entertaining and not something heavily based on structure.

“It’s really about your creative energy and letting yourself go,” she said. “It brings out your childlike tendencies to just play and have fun.”

It was Fischer’s first experience with belly dancing. She said the lights, music and outfits made for a festive atmosphere.

“You didn’t feel like you were in a yoga room. It just totally transformed everything,” she said.

Lauren Baxter was the belly dancing instructor for the evening. She started learning the movements about three years ago. She had recently lost her mother and was seeking to fill a void in her life.

“I was looking for something fun,” Baxter said.

She joined a belly dance group but was disappointed when the instructors decided to stop the class. Baxter enjoyed belly dancing so much she decided to continue as an instructor. During the beginner’s class, Baxter demonstrated moves such as snake arms and how to make a figure eight with your hips.

She said the dance requires you to move all your body parts and engage your core. Breathing is also an important aspect.

“It’s a stress reliever. If you had a bad day, it’s like you forget about it,” Baxter said.

Lisa Smith, of Douglassville, has participated in several of Baxter’s belly dancing classes. She was originally interested in the class because it sounded like an enjoyable way to get fit.

“I’m always looking for more fun ways to get exercise,” Smith said. “I just recently discovered I can dance a little bit. It feels really good and gets the blood pumping.”

Smith said she has noticed the physical benefits in her abdomen and lower back.

“I didn’t realize how tight my lower back is from sitting at a desk all day. After doing this kind of movement, you really realize there’s more flexibility there,” she said.

Fischer plans to bring another belly dancing class to the Samana Holistic Center in the future. She would like to make it an even bigger event and have a hair and makeup artist available so people could dress fully for the class.

Several other new programs will be coming to the center in the New Year. The center will soon be starting a book club which will benefit local high school students so they can learn yoga and meditation. The New Year will also bring a new juice bar café located across from the center. The holistic center also offers custom skincare and biofield tuning, a sound therapy.

For more information about the Samana Holistic Center and upcoming events, call 267-304-2043 or visit www.samanahc.com.

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