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Interview with Amulya Merrett: Vegan Belly Dancer

Amulya is an international belly dance artist based in Melbourne who began belly dancing in Amsterdam when she was a teenager.  She has performed in many European countries as well as Australia and has  taught classes and workshops for many years in The Netherlands and Australia. Her repertoire consists of classical Egyptian belly dance, modern Egyptian, tribaret, tribal fusion and her own innovative artistic work. Amulya is part of BlackTop Circus Theater and has been a regular performer at the Lucky Dip Show in Byron Bay.

Amulya_Merrett

Why Vegan?
How and why did you decide to become a vegan?
Once I discovered the truth about the dairy industry. I already gave up eggs when I found out about the baby male chickens going in the grinder alive. 

How long have you been vegan?
Over 6 years. 

What has benefited you the most from being a vegan?
Knowing that I don't contribute to cruelty and better health - I used to have severe joint pains, it's much less now. After quitting dairy, the pain diminished within 5 weeks! 

What does veganism mean to you?
A compassionate lifestyle that includes so many things, kindness to all beings, contributing less to climate change. I'm against specieism and being vegan is the only way to live a non-specieist life.

Training
What sort of training do you do?

Belly dancers tend to do regular stretches, I can recommend yoga to stay flexible. Flexibility is one of the most important things in belly dance, without this, one cannot dance. However, everybody can actually get some flexibility, mostly I see students get more flexible already at the 3rd or 4th lesson. Besides stretching, turn on the music and just dance – it’s the best way to exercise. 

How often do you (need to) train?
Best would be daily, but I can be slack... 

Do you offer your fitness or training services to others?
I teach belly dance 

What sports do you play?
No other sports, just dancing!

Strengths, Weaknesses & Outside Influences
What do you think is the biggest misconception about vegans and how do you address this?

That we are unhealthy, are wasting away (awfully skinny or gaunt looking) and that vegan food is hard to cook. I try to be an example of a healthy looking vegan and post pictures of yummy food on FaceBook. 

What are you strengths as a vegan athlete?
Flexibility, muscle strength and being fit. Belly dance is a bit of everything, but in a moderate version. It is perfect for all body shapes and ages. 

What is your biggest challenge?
I have severe chronic fatigue, I have had this since I was a child and it is a huge challenge. 

Are the non-vegans in your industry supportive or not?
Yes they are. They love to come and watch me perform. 

Are your family and friends supportive of your vegan lifestyle?
Sort of, they have accepted it but joke about it as well. 

What is the most common question/comment that people ask/say when they find out that you are a vegan and how do you respond?
Actually, I rarely get comments, people just accept.

Amulya_Merrett_2

Food & Supplements
What do you eat for:
Breakfast: Banana smoothie, made with almond milk and sometimes I add raspberries or strawberries
Lunch: Rice crackers or buckwheat crisps with avocado on top.
Dinner: Mostly Asian greens (bok choi etc) with tofu and rice, sometimes a potato salad, pasta or a mixed greens salad.
Snacks: Chocolate. More bananas.

What is your favourite source of:
Protein: Tofu - I love tofu!
Calcium: I don't have a specific type of food I eat for calcium, as it is in so many things, it's easy to cover with a healthy diet.
Iron: Green leafy vegetables
What foods give you the most energy?
Bananas
 
Do you take any supplements?
Yes vegan multi vitamins
 
Advice
What is your top tip for Gaining muscle, Losing weight & Toning up?

Since belly dance is a gentler type of exercise, don't expect to bulk up, but you will get fitter and more toned. Belly dance is mainly cardio so very good for weight loss and staying generally fit.

There are many different movements in belly dance you can practice at home. Shimmies are the hardest. They are perfect for cardio. However, if you want a more relaxing exercise type, you can practice the slower movements, they help with flexibility. Once you start belly dance classes, you will discover muscles you never knew you had. You can have a bit of muscle soreness after the first few classes, but not too much. My students never complain about a lot of soreness. A good teacher will build up each class gradually for a slow warm up.
 
How do you promote veganism in your daily life?
By showing how good the food is and by telling people about facts, those can be health facts, animal rights related facts and links to scientific publications.
 
How would you suggest people get involved with what you do?
Google for belly dance classes in your neighbourhood, or, even easier; have a look at my links page there are two websites in that that list classes in Australia (and outside Australia.)
 
 
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