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What is Closing the Bones

Closing the Bones, or “hipping” as it is sometimes called, is a traditional postpartum massage originating in South America. It has been popularised in the UK by Rocio Alarcon, a traditional midwife, shaman and ethnobotanist from Ecuador. She was taught it by her mother and grandmother and is committed to keeping the tradition alive. Since learning this South American version from Rocio, we have found evidence of similar traditions in many other countries around the world, including Europe.

So what exactly is Closing the Bones and why is it so helpful for women after childbirth?

Rocio points to the fact that, if we did scans of pregnant women, we would see how the hips open during the pregnancy, becoming wider and wider. After the birth it always feels good to encourage the pelvis to close again, otherwise mothers can suffer from pelvic instability. Of course, a certain amount of this process happens naturally, but across the globe, since the dawn of time, women have felt the need to massage, wrap, warm and enclose their hips after childbirth. It is universally felt to be comforting and supportive of the natural process.

In Ecuador, women are given this massage within hours of the birth, and receive it again at least 5 or 6 times during the first 40 days postpartum. The massage stimulates blood flow; cleaning, renewing, moving fluids (which may help with milk supply/lochia), moving hormones, stimulating the immune system and toning muscles and tissue. In many traditional cultures, the 41 days of the postnatal period represent a sacred time. The woman will have the closing massage at least 5 times during her babymoon.

Because the hips support the weight of our spine and head, they are therefore the seat of many emotions. The massage itself includes sifting with a rebozo, using the rebozo for closing the hip bones, and various hand massage techniques using oil around the pubic bones, belly and around the hips. It has been so interesting to compare these ancient techniques with those used by a skilled osteopath. He has been impressed and fascinated by the massage and rebozo movements and reassures us that Closing the Bones is a safe and gentle thing to do.

We feel that beyond the relaxing aspect of closing the bones, there is a spiritual side to the massage, which provides a safe space and a sense of ritual for the mother to feel nurtured and release emotions associated with the birth and motherhood. Having experienced the massage ourselves and given the massage to many new and not so new mothers, we have both experienced and witnessed how powerful this ritual can be in releasing birth emotions, even many years after the birth itself.

Closing the Bones is a time out; a time for silent communion and reflection on our journey to motherhood. It is a time to feel the loving hands of our sisters. This experience has reiterated for us how powerful and necessary it is to spend time nurturing the mother in a very physical way, honouring her amazing pelvis.

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