On the day I handed in my doula coursework, I remember how anxious I had been feeling, not just because this was such a big achievement for me, but also because I was about to go into hospital for a hysterectomy.
My course leader had been amazing and as we chatted, she asked if she could gift me a closing the bones massage once I was ready, to help healing and to process all that my amazing body had done so far and honour all it had been through.
I don’t think I really realised what I was saying yes to (!) but two months later, I lay on the floor of my bedroom and Zara performed the most beautiful massage and celebratory ritual that I have ever experienced. I had to learn how to give this treatment and I wanted to use it to deepen a women’s healing post labour, as well as offer to anyone needing nurturing.
Fast forward to this past weekend and I have spotify up loud, my flask of coffee steaming away next to me and a very comfy pair of trousers on, as instructed, as I drive up the A1 towards Cambridge, to do a days workshop with Sophie Messager.
I was excited and apprehensive. I had had to cancel this course twice before so it had been a long time coming and I wasn’t sure what to expect. On the one hand, it was completely out of my comfort zone. I had never trained in any massage. On the other, I was eager to start because I was so keen to offer it to my post natal doula clients, as well as the ladies in my cancer survivor support group.
On arriving, the sun had broken through the clouds and light streamed through the nursery school windows. It was the perfect setting, a converted church turned nursery and since two of the ladies had very small babies, there were quiet and comfy areas for them to sit with the little ones where they could feed on demand and in peace.
The decor was natural, with creative sensory decorations making it feel safe, as any nursery school should! Under a beautiful old bike wheel, made into a stunning dream catcher, was a bright round blanket with cushions all around and a couple of objects in the middle. We even got to have circle time!!!
I made my way to the kitchen to make myself a cup of good strong tea to ease me in. Now I was here, I felt a bit of out my depth. What if it was all a bit too alternative for me after all?
Sophie welcomed the group to the circle and we chatted about why we were all there and what we wanted to get out of the day. I always find these parts of a course slightly uncomfortable and having to introduce myself in a few words, makes me feel slightly tense, but being able to articulate exactly what I wanted to achieve was a good exercise for me and a reminder that anyone taking a course like this, was likely to be a caring person who wanted to help someone else feel nurtured!
Within moments the group began to open up, just like the desert flower that Sophie had put in the centre of the circle. Sophie explained how the day would proceed, giving out some booklets and we moved over to the mats and watched as she demonstrated the first few moves of the massage. We proceeded to get into pairs and took it in turns to rock each other in the rebozo’s. What a feeling! It felt wonderful! When was the last time any of us had been rocked? Adults just don’t get that kind of care!
The day continued in this way, Sophie showing us a few steps, picking a new partner from the ten of us and taking it in turns to practice. After lunch we performed the whole treatment on each other. Needless to say there were a lot of sleepy and very relaxed ladies afterwards!
Returning to the cushions we downloaded how we had all felt, both giving and recieving the massage. The general consensus was relaxed, cared for and nurtured! The barriers had dissolved and there was a great sense of openness, compared to the morning. After having to be fairly intimate, exposing our pelvis area and tummy’s to each other, any shyness and modesty had been well and truly parked outside!
There was a lot of chat about our desire, as a whole, to spread the word and take this type of treatment out into our local communities, encouraging women to embrace their femininity and celebrate their bodies, whatever shape, size, weight and amount of stretch marks! Personally, I felt it was one of the few times I have not felt self conscious. We were all women. Our goals and attitudes were naturally aligned as care givers, mothers, as well as women. There was a real sense of equality and womanhood. Our imperfections became our perfections and this treatment truly emphasised that. Everyone was deserving of this nurturing and reassurance. It was a joy to give and a joy to receive. To be looked after this way was such a novelty and yet, in so many countries around the world, it is so normal.
In many cultures, this practice is performed straight after the baby has been birthed. It is essentially pulling the pelvic bones and hip area back together after being opened so widely in pregnancy. In countries like Thailand the nurses come to bind and wrap this area before you get a cup of tea, and nurses will continue this wrapping every day for the next few days!
The sensations of being rocked, massaged, held and tightly wrapped are deeply comforting, healing and really powerful. While new mothers are busy adjusting to a new baby, thier bodies are recovering from natural labour, or surgery, and this takes a huge toll on hormones, bones, fluids and organs. The gentle massage helps release any remaining stress or tension, as well as relieve any emotional blocks after labour and pregnancy. It gently encourages the organs to move back to where they should be, it de crunches any tension crystals in the hip area that can build up from carrying weight in the pelvis during pregnancy, as well as stimulating blood flow and toning muscles and surrounding tissues.
It is so much more than a physical massage. It is a healing experience. It is a ritual, a celebration of a new chapter, as well as a meaningful way of closing a huge event in a woman’s life. Not only can it be used to help mothers after pregnancy and birth, but it can be used on anyone suffering from trauma, anxiety, menstruation and it can also be wonderful for children and teenagers.
To end the day, we performed a group bone closing on one of the two mummies in the group. Sophie laid out the rebozo’s in the colours of the rainbow and Mummy laid down with her head at the top on the purple rebozo and feet on the red. We all gathered around and Sophie read a beautiful poem to open the treatment.
She proceeded to wrap the head with the purple rebozo. We then each took the end nearest us, passed it across to the woman sitting opposite and tucked it tightly around her. Within moments she looked like a rainbow who would have been at home in a pyramid in Egypt! The spectacle of it was beautiful, especially in the afternoon sunshine streaming through the windows around us. She looked so calm and peaceful.
Sophie began to sing a stunning song that we all joined in with. These words were incredibly powerful and I remembered having them sung to me at the end of my own closing the bones last year. They made me cry back then and though I didn’t cry on this occasion, I was totally absorbed in the energy of the room. Just as I had felt when I was my sisters birth partner five years ago, the over whelming pride in our femininity washed over me. The strength, power, energy and general awesomeness of women was so apparent that some of us were literally vibrating! What with Sophie’s drumming then thrown in, we were all buzzing and the mummy wrapped in rainbow rebozo’s was so relaxed she was practically snoring!
I can’t recommend this course enough to any doulas who might want to bring another level of care and healing to their clients wellbeing. It was a wonderful life affirming experience for me on a personal level too. Though the rocking and massage can be hard work being floor based, it was 'work' that felt hugely rewarding and if any of my blood, sweat and tears can benefit another woman’s, well, that has to be real solidarity doesn’t it?!
For more information on this course, click here x