Waist beads are a traditional African accessory that consists of small glass beads on a string or wire worn around the waist or hips. The beads are usually worn over clothing, but some African tribes wear them underneath their outfits. Waist beads are often part of both casual and traditional African clothing. The beads can be made from dyed plastic or glass, but they are traditionally made using glass brought back by explorers in the 19th century.
Today, waist beads are popular throughout Africa and among Africans who have migrated to other continents. Some reasons for the increase in popularity are weight loss, intimacy, fertility, posture, and a renewed interest in traditional African culture.
Check out the video below for an introduction to waist beads and read on for the benefits
History of Waist Beads:
People have been wearing beads around their waists for thousands of years. Early glass beads were brought to Africa by explorers in the 19th century. They were quickly adopted by Africans who found them attractive because they could be made into beautiful necklaces and other forms of adornment. Traditionally, waist beads are worn only by women, but men wear them today as well. The use of these ornaments was meant to show status among different ethnic groups, with nobles wearing the most expensive types while commoners used cheaper forms. People also wore these items for spiritual reasons; some tribes believe that Babalawos (priests) must wear waist beads in order to protect their bodies.
The number of beads, the type of seeds or shells used, and what each bead symbolizes varies depending on the tribe. Hip adornments are usually found in traditional cultures but they can be modernized by changing the materials for glass or plastic beads that have different colors and designs. The most common bead types are made from ivory, ostrich eggs, leather, metal, ceramic, coconut shells, stone, bamboo tubes filled with seeds, tree fruit pits, and etc.
Waist beads are originally linked to African heritage but it is also worn amongst the Indian people in Malaysia. It symbolizes prestige, beauty, and power. There are many types of waist beads found in Africa, each different based on geographical location. The most common materials used to make them are the string waist beads which consist mostly of ornaments made from seeds or shells that could be affixed with paints, often red in color includes strings of cowrie shells that were earlier evidence of wealth than money itself. These days they can be made out of plastic instead due to their durability and longevity.
Waist Beads Benefits and Uses
Waist Beads for Weight Loss
Waist beads are commonly used to gauge changes in weight this is because it makes the wearer more aware of their midsection. Beads don’t stretch at the waist. If you put on weight, the beads will sit higher on your waist or feel uncomfortable. Beads that are too tight will cause discomfort for the wearer. If you lose weight, on the other hand, the beads will become looser and descend further down to your hips. People can use waist beads, rather than a scale, to keep track of any weight gain or loss in the abdomen.
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Waist Beads for Posture
Waist Beads can serve as a reminder to sit up straight, engage your stomach muscles, relax your back, and breathe properly. The beads fit quite differently depending on how one is sitting and breathing and can be a useful tool for reminding one to sit up straight and use proper breathing patterns. When the wearer is slouching, the beads will slide down towards the hips. If that happens, then you know that you are slouching and sit up straighter. It’s best not to wear waist beads when you’re not intending to have them on.
Waist Beads for Mediation
In some cases, waist beads can even help with meditation and yoga because they give an added component of movement to focus upon in addition to your breath and posture. People who practice Reiki or acupuncture might find additional benefits from using these tools as well since it allows them another method of assessment for their clients’ needs.
Waist Beads for Culture
Different colors hold different meanings in African culture. For example, red is commonly worn by people who have graduated from secondary school or university. Blue means someone has completed formal training in a certain field of work or study, while green indicates spiritual success or achievement. White can represent peace and clarity for your goals moving forward after tough situations in life. Black signifies victory over an illness or death of a loved one. The list goes on.
How do you choose the right waist beads for your body?
The best thing about waist beads is how unique they are. You may wear as many strands of beads as you want, for whatever purpose you choose. They’re a great way to project your personality.
You can wear them for any occasion, whether it’s your graduation, engagement party, or birthday. You can wear them with casual jeans and a t-shirt to a formal dress. You decide what you want the waist beads to express about yourself by choosing colors that resonate with you.
How to Measure for Waist Beads
To measure for waist beads, take a snug measurement of the narrowest part of your midsection. Try to do this when you’re at your “normal” weight, and not bloated or sore from eating. Remember: don’t suck in—you want an accurate measurement! The string should be able to wrap twice around your waist comfortably, but not more than that. This ensures that it won’t fall off when you sit down or if you gain some weight.
If you need help measuring for waist beads, try using a flexible tape measure (one that doesn’t stretch). To ensure an accurate result, ask someone else to help. Wrap the tape measure around your waist while standing up straight, near the navel. Make sure the tape measure is flat against your skin and isn’t pulled tight.
Placement can vary depending on what style you’re going for and how much coverage you want. Generally, the higher up the strings are placed, the more risqué they will look when worn under clothing, while lower placement leads to a less obvious pattern.
Regardless of where you wear them around your body, remember that the best way to not lose beads is to tie knots between each bead (eg. after every four beads). This will make the string of beads much more difficult to slip off your waist and will stop them from bunching up around one side.
Where to buy waist beads
If at all possible, try to acquire your initial pair of waist beads in person. The artist can then check them against your body and ensure that they fit exactly the way you want them to.
If you’re looking for a waist beading artist, look in the African market closest to you. If not, a vendor can usually advise you on where to go.
If you can’t discover a waist bead artisan in your area or would rather buy online, there are lots of alternatives to choose from.
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