'Closing The Bones' ; Reflections on a rediscovered much needed ritual in the western world.
'Closing the bones' is a western term, a title which i believe is taken from the Morrocan word for a healing postpartum healing ceremony for mothers that takes place following the birth of a baby. It is a traditional healing practice with variations from Mexico, Ecuador, Morocco, Hong Kong and I am certain many other parts of the world where indigenous traditional midwifery is practised, and it seems has roots in most places where shawls are still worn as traditional dress (that sounds simple but its a common theme it seems).
I was first introduced to the ideas of closing the bones via fellow doulas offering training who had trained with Rocio Alarcon, a midwife from Ecuador. I also attended Spinning Babies training and learned variations of skills similar for supporting pregnancy and birth, i have also done lots of my own research.
After i first received a western interpretation of the training I felt as though i was just scratching the surface of an incredible wisdom and healing that i didnt fully understand. I decided to take aspects I felt comfortable offering mum's, because it felt such an important healing and holding of space for mum's post birth. I began to include my own spiritual healing training (i had begun learning in spiritual churches in my early 20s ) and sacred drum healing ( a training i have been taking since 2017) within my postpartum healing practise.
I began to see a number of other doulas felt similar, a feeling like something was missing in our western aporoach to Closing The Bones. If you look around at western closing the bones practitioners you will see many will have varied approaches and skills they also include, which can include massage, reiki, reflexology, acupressure, and other spiritual healing processes. So we are consciously trying to adapt the postpartum 'Closing the Bones' healing ritual to fit our culture and be a healing we understand and can explain.
I finally had the opportunity to train with Rocio Alcaron PHD from Ecuador, Rocio grew up as a traditional healer, midwife. She shares her indigenous medicine, wisdom from generations via her grandmother's.
Learning with Rocio taught me so much and answered many questions I had held for so long. So many questions were answered, i am having to rewrite this blog because my previous blog on closing the bones was not accurate. I was a western doula and healer fumbling through the dark in an amazing wisdom unable to explain it fully because it wasn't my heritage, and I hadn't learnt from an indigenous teacher.
So what is Closing The Bones? Why do we need to bring it back to our culture?
Rocio described it first and foremost as a spiritual, shamanic practise. Rocio called is Hipping in translation. When she first looked at me, she knew I was a young mum (I was 16 when I birthed my first baby), Rocio could tell by looking at how my back was formed. She taught us that the healing is about reconnecting the body, and spirit, reconnecting energies, tissues, bones that are disconnected through pregnancy and all births, and clearing energy blockages created through our own maternal lineage and our own lives. The closing of the bones is about reconnecting the bones and cartilage underneath the pubic bone, as without this healing further pregnancies can become painful.
Rocio told us that without closing and reconnecting energies we are leaking energies, this can affect our whole body.
It seemed to me and talking to Rocio we worked on meridian lines, fasia, energies, chakra points, the bones, lymphatic system. The wrapping with a Manta (a piece of fabric like a pashmina, or mexican rebozo) was tight yet gentle, and careful, and was to support the bones, close them, bring energies round to reconnect everything. Rocio also taught us the close the energies, and release excess unneeded energies through using techniques with the Manta. Rocio taught us to see them.
So from what i saw with Rocio, 'Hipping' is a holistic healing, one that is catered individually to each mother, with sessions on going until her form looks more formed and her energies flow well.
I have had four children, from an early age, I was 16, 22, 28 then 34.
After healing treatments with Rocio, and giving myself her daily techniques, I am more in tune with my own energy. My menstrual bleeds are lighter, I don't need a day out on the sofa with a hot water bottle anymore and the area Rocio showed us to watch is becoming more formed. It is an incredible inspiring healing process to learn.
We clearly are missing this form of holistic postpartum care, healing and support in the UK. Many of us suffer with our menstrual cycle, we suffer postnatally with healing, subsequent pregnancies give us increased pain. As we age we have increasing back pain, we dont go through menopause easily either....could these 'conditions' and so much more within our health improve if we focused more on better postpartum healing?
I am aware I still can't explain the full process after just one weekend of training with Rocio but I am aware of how I feel since the treatments I received that weekend.
I have offered this healing to three new mum's since and each has said they really needed it. The feedback I recieved so far is that it's wholesome, it's a very different to the feedback I received before now in the techniques I was using before Rocios direct training. I believe it is because I now understand more of what the healing process is, and feel more confident in offering it because it's direct from an indigenous grandmother, healer, and midwife, it has the depth.
Rocio is keen on sharing her grandmother's wisdom because she wants to heal the world, she sees what we lack. She feels the plant medicine working on our planet too and wants us to relearn our western knowledge. She also described the Manta as being a ritual item, a friend to use to help us give extra support. Rocio suggested as with all ceremony tools it's best to make your own, to give it your energy and use the plants of our land to make it because it's closer to our own culture.
Hipping is a gift each woman should receive after birth for as long as she needs it in Rocios mind. I feel so honoured to have learned from her and ferl her generosity.
After learning from Rocio, I feel even more passionate we need to go to the source to learn postpartum healing, (and any shamanic or traditional wisdom) or if we are receiving a treatment in the western world to receive it from someone who has learned from an indigenous healer if not the source directly. We need to embrace these healing traditions, as our ancestors would have had similar skills. We are all human and this postpartum healing is in many traditions still around the world.
To relearn and reclaim our own it is wise to look to other cultures as we can see what we may have lost, but we must realise our culture is still different and we cannot learn from one person something that takes lifetimes of deep cultural wisdom.
I feel passionate we find our own indegionus medicines from our own land. The UK is living and breathing, plants are vibrant, and offer amazing healing gifts.
We can relearn traditional practices by listening to our hearts, feeling our own bodies needs, learning more about our land, learning through our own history, and with the help of indigenous teachers willing to share their families wisdom we can reform and grow pieces of our own cultural wisdom.
With reclaiming and relearning holistic postpartum healing wisdom I am also learning in a big way that when we can heal our own bodies memories, pre and postpartum, we can help our daughters heal and break generations of birth and womens trauma from our own mothers wounds.