Only On WLOS.com | Ancient dance finds new life as popular workout for all ages


    Diane Oberlin participates in a belly dancing class at Zahiya Studio in Asheville. (Photo credit: WLOS Staff)

    On a quiet Lexington Avenue in downtown Asheville, passersby can hear the murmur of a slight beat coming from inside one of the stores.

    If they look closely, they will see the women of all ages, sizes, and shapes, taking part in the ancient practice of belly dance inside Studio Zahiya.

    Lisa Zahiya (Right), the owner of Zahiya Studio, leads a belly dancing class in Asheville. (Photo credit: WLOS Staff)

    Studio owner Lisa Zahiya has been practicing this ancient dance for 20 years.

    She told News 13 that after retiring from professional dance, belly dancing was a fun way for her to keep in shape, while also making a living and embracing her body.

    "We have a lot of people who come into belly dance when they are having a big change in their life. Maybe they want to change their body, maybe they just got divorced and they want to feel good about themselves," Zahiya said.

    One of the many women in Zahiya's class is 73-year-old Diane Oberlin.

    Oberlin is the oldest person in the class, but that doesn't stop her from dressing up in extravagant head scarfs, glittering skirts, and showing her belly!

    "That's the best part!" Oberlin said.

    Diane Oberlin participates in a belly dancing class at Zahiya Studio in Asheville. (Photo credit: WLOS Staff)

    Diane says she has been belly dancing on and off since she was 40 years old. She got back into it when she moved to Asheville a few years ago.

    She said it was a great way for her to be social and stay in shape.

    "People are always surprised. They are like, 'It's harder than I thought, and I had to hold my arms up for an hour.'" Zahiya said of the workout value of belly dancing.

    "So, you are getting all this arm work and you're doing all this isolation and strengthening in your belly," she continued. "So, you are getting a calorie burn. It's cardio, but you are also getting lots of strength training and conditioning. So, you'll see a lot of changes."

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