Closing the Bones Ceremony

Living life as a woman is filled with the experiences of opening and letting out – we menstruate, give birth, and let our hormones and emotions flow in, out and all around. We are opening ourselves into the world physically and energetically, but very often we forget to close ourselves at the end of things, which leaves us not only open at all times, but also very often empty. Is there anything out there that can help women change this state? Yes, there is.

Closing the bones is a postpartum healing ceremony, from South American tradition, where the new mother is massaged, wrapped and cared for. This not only helps the new mother to find herself once again as a person in one body after the journey of pregnancy and birth, but also it is a celebration, a moment of sacredness between women, their bodies, their emotions and needs.

From my perspective, and I think that quite a lot of women would agree, one of the most “opening” experiences in a woman’s life is the experience of birth. During labour we open ourselves on all the possible levels – and it is all very important, because without that opening new life wouldn’t be able to enter our world. Nevertheless, the sad truth is that very often our bodies remain open afterwards and drained of energy leaving us feeling raw, vulnerable and sad – and this emptiness will affect us on all levels too. Women in Ecuador found a solution to this problem centuries ago. There, postpartum women are given ‘closing the bones’ massage – first time can be a few hours after birth and then another 5 times in their first 40 days as new mothers. This massage stimulates blood flow, which cleanses, renews, and moves fluids, hormones and tones muscle and tissue. We have forgotten about this practice now, but in traditional cultures the first 40 days of postnatal period – days of seclusion – is a very important and sacred time. New mothers are looked after, and cherished by other members of the community/family, giving them time to recover after birth, get to know and feed their new babies. Sadly our culture rejects this custom and new mums are thrown back into an “every day” life as soon as a few hours after this important rite of passage. If we stop for a moment and think how many new lives are being born in one act of labour we may appreciate it a little bit more. It is not only a new baby that is born – it is also a birth of a new mother, a new father, and a new family unit at the same time. Shouldn’t we then stop and acknowledge that? Shouldn’t we stop and make this transition time sacred for all involved? To let it last a little bit longer, so in safety new parents can find their new feet?

‘Closing the bones’ ceremony can help with that, because it provides a safe space for the mother and gives her permission to feel nurtured, and release emotions associated with birth and entering the path of motherhood. The “closing” space will be safe and filled with warmth, candle-light, soothing aromas and soft music. The woman will have a warm essential oil back rub to help her relax and ease her into a sacred space we are both going to create. Then the woman would lay down on blankets and scarves. The “closing” will be done by gently rocking her hips with the help of rebozo (a long scarf used by South American women from birthing to death rituals and for everyday use), massaging her abdomen and then gently wrapping key areas of her body to help facilitate the return of organs to the previous position (uterus, bladder), and to guide pelvic bones back to their original position. Once closed the woman will be able to lie quietly for as long as she would like to, and she will be able to enjoy the experience of closeness to herself and her body. Closing the bones will give her time to process what has happened to her body for the past months, and will bring closure to the pregnancy and birth time.

Although ‘closing the bones’ is great for mothers from 6 weeks postpartum, it is not only limited to that time in a women’s life. It is open and recommended to all women who wish for a closure for themselves, to all who wish to cherish their femininity in this special way. ‘Closing the bones’ honours all women and is important in helping to deal with any situation that has been an overwhelming trial – no matter what age, race or religion. It will help each woman to feel safe, nourished, held in highest respect and it will help her to re-gather and rebuild her energy levels. It will help you to relax and regain your strength.

In every rite of passage – be it menarche (first menstruation), birth, menopause, recovering from illness or loss – we wander in the territory between the worlds. The veil between life and death, spirit and matter becomes thin and if we will allow that, a new path will clearly unravel itself in front of our eyes. If we are permitted, we can walk to the edge of our courage, to the edge of the world known to us, and to the boundary of the women we thought we were. We shed our fears, inhibitions and our bodies open. And only there, in the centre of the unknown we can find the women we are and the women we could become – stronger, deeper, and more powerful that we could ever have dreamt of imagining. So let us all close these women in our hearts and bodies and let us keep them there to help us grow, develop and blossom, and to become the true blessing for us and our families.

Closing the Bones is now available at Prime Therapy.