TONING YOUR TUM IS BELLY DIFFICULT.
"IT'S more than just shaking your bits with bells on!" joked one woman as we strutted our stuff in a new belly dancing class.
With my summer holiday just under a month away, any activity promising to "tone up stomach muscles" would have caught my attention immediately.
Once in sunny Espa[+ or -]a, having a beach-friendly body is as essential to me as any sun factor or anti-mosquito spray.
So when I heard about the new belly dance class in Perry Barr I thought I would give it a whirl.
Especially when instructor Lindsay Hall claimed the Middle Eastern dance style would not only help with my posture, it would strengthen and shape my stomach muscles.
I ambled into the class wearing some baggy tracksuit bottoms and a loose t-shirt. As a firsttimer, I was not quite ready to bear my midriff just yet.
Around a dozen women were warming up in the large mirrored studio space at Birmingham City University's recently opened sports centre.
At the beginning of the hourand-a-half class, Lindsay took us through some basic moves. Chest lifts, hip slides, snake arms, hip lift and drops.
The 56-year-old has been teaching belly dancing for 12 months, but has been a belly dancer for three years.
She is one of a handful of teachers at the Birmingham Belly Dancing group that now runs classes at five venues across the city.
"The first time is always a shock for some people, who think belly dancing is all twirling around," she explained "It's such a fantastic way to exercise your core muscles and keep you supple.
"The moves are sensual but not supposed to be sexual, again, a misconception some people have about the style."
Halfway into the class I realised it wasn't going to be as easy as I first thought.
My stubborn stomach refused to pop for the tummy pops and I could not work out how to "isolate" my hip for the single hip curl. Despite that, everyone was laughing and having a great time. And because there were women of all shapes, ages and sizes, it was a very relaxed atmosphere with none of us minding having a wobble.
By the end of the class, we'd learned and performed a routine, putting together all the moves Lindsay had shown us to a lively mix of tunes. By the end of the session, although I was not exhausted or gasping for air, I felt my body had been put through its' paces for a generous all-round workout. The other woman in the class were as enthusiastic about trying out the belly dance class as I had been.
Michelle Spencer Lees, 49, said she had tried it years ago and had been excited to see it on offer at the Perry Barr campus.
The administration officer said: "I had back problems a while ago which stopped me from doing any kind of exercise.
"Now that's getting better I wanted to get back into exercising."
Friend Lorraine Daley, 43, from Great Barr, said: "It's not what I was expecting it to be, it was much more disciplined. Rather than moving your whole body, you concentrate on moving individual muscles."
Some of the regulars had moved up into an improvers class.
Sarah Washbrook said she takes her 60 year-old mum along. "I've found that my muscles have toned up. I used to slouch, but since I began belly dancing, I've become more aware of my posture."
Classmate Cheryl Lamb said: "My confidence has increased to the stage where I'm happy to perform in front of other people." For more information visit www.birminghambellydancing.co.uk
Shaking it all about: Mail reporter Rebekah Oruye (below) joins fellow novices for a belly-dancing class.