Yesterday I was blessed to attend an advanced Closing the Bones workshop. I attended the first level a couple of years ago – about a year after Bryn had died and during a period where I was trying to get pregnant without success. It was a profound, healing experience and one I will write about in due course.
I was keen to go to this one, even though I had said no more courses for a while, because Rocio , and amazing woman from Ecuador, who had trained the teachers from the first level, was taking this course. Having given this massage a couple of times as part of a bigger postpartum ceremony for friends I was interested to learn more.
I am 33 weeks pregnant so I wasn’t totally sure how it would work or how I would feel about the process, plus I was suffering form some pains around my pubic area which wasn’t making me feel very great about moving a lot.
It was a huge group of us a mixture of doulas and bodywork therapists. From the first chat about how important it was for us to take this knowledge we would be learning and share it around I could feel a fire growing inside of me. The Manta or rebozo is a very important part of the whole ceremony (or massage if that is a word you feel more comfortable with), Mine has a very special history anyway, I love it very much.
So using a manta/rebozo (there is a slight difference in what the shawl is used for a rebozo refers to a shawl fro warmth, the Manta is the one used for working with pregnant and postpartum women) The whole body can be massaged – in large areas, the breast area, ribs, pelvis. Either in a standing, sitting or even lying position. The rhythmic movement of using the rebozo sends the giver into as much as a relaxed, trance like state as it does to the receiver. Rocio describes it as a dance between the two, with the giver tuning in to how the receiver wants to move, faster, slower, stronger or more gentle movements.
After the first practice you could feel the energy in the room change, a wonderful calming, nurturing atmosphere, lots of sighs as tensions and stress was released and the revelation that such simple seeming movements could create such a strong, relaxing feeling. The first training had concentrated just around the abdomen and pelvis, but as Rocio explained the body works as a whole and the breasts and arms are as important once baby has arrived. She got us to massage our breasts and it spared a long conversation about how we don’t touch our breasts much, if at all in this part of the world. It was strange for us to thin about this area. But Rocio explained about energy, how not having a relationship with the breasts, being emotionally detached can cause blocks of energy in this area, the area we want to use to produce milk to feed our babies. And this energy bloc could also cause a physical blockage and at times like engorgement or needing to ensure a strong supply of milk it is important to bring energy and movement to this area. I suddenly felt nervous – were we going to be massaging each others breasts? I wasn’t sure I was altogether comfortable with this idea and waited wit bated breath to see where we were going. But no, using the Manta we gave a nurturing massage and movement to the breasts. For me , having had a fairly volatile relationship with my breasts while Bryn was alive, very much concentrating on how much (or often how little ) milk I was managing to express, I can only imagine how much blocked energy I had. I thought back about the only two experiences I had of massaging this area, once was to increase milk supply and it was a very much gritted teeth massage, repeating ‘come on, come on, make more milk, damn you’ in my head and under my breath. Not at all a nurturing massage, and even the massage described in breastfeeding literature for increasing supply is very prescriptive with an aim in mind rather tan creating a warming, nurtured, relaxing environment. The other time I did any form of touching my breasts was as part of a breast exam to check for possible lumps. Again a not very positive process.
I could really feel an energy and feeling of coming alive in my breasts, my thoughts about them changed and I started to realise ow much care they needed, especially approacing a time where they would become the most important thing in my baby’s’ life.
We moved on to massaging the arms and the legs using the rebozo, some more moves on the abdomen. Once the basic abdominal moves were incorporated plus the wrapping section it would create the most nurturing and physically and emotionally healing massage I’ve come across.
That evening I was excited to find that I had no pubic pain and was just wallowing in relaxing hormones. This morning, although having aching arms, I feel so much stronger in my back and pelvis, I feel more together in my head, calmer and with a steady train of thought rather than feeling ‘spacey’ and muddled.
I am looking forward to practicing today on my son and my partner, and then hoping that I can practice on two friends who have recently had babies. This is definitely something every woman should have (even if you had your babies several years ago) but definitely should be part of every woman’s postpartum experience. Difficult though, I realise ,when we live in a society that seems to encourage women to pride themselves on how quickly they can get back into ‘normal’ life and to get their pre-pregnancy figures back. after the birth of their baby. A society that holds self-care of very little importance (in fact as an article I once read discussed how similar self-care was with selfish – thus creating the thoughts that the less self-care you did the better person you are).
Much of the massage is about moving the lymph, much about closing the hips, and much about bringing energy back to the woman. I could sit and write and write about the physical benefits, te emotional benefits, the energetic benefits of this massage but I think that until you have actually experienced it for yourself it’s very hard to understand.
This pregnancy I am planning my postpartum time as carefully as I am planning my birthing time and top of the list will be to arrange an appointment with someone who can nourish me with a Closing the Bones ceremony.