Rocio and Maddie at the Cae Mabon workshop
Three years ago I was very fortunate to meet Ecuadorian shaman, healer and ethnobotanist Rocio Alarcon at a doula retreat in North Wales. She facilitated a workshop on the closing the bones postnatal treatment and massage This was transformative for me in many ways, not the least because it started me on the journey to share this amazing skill with doulas and birthworkers and therapists (read more about it here)
This year I was fortunate to attend two more of Rocio’s workshops-learning about advanced closing the bones techniques. The next level of the technique.
Dr Rocio Alarcon is an Ethnobotanist, healer, shaman and traditional midwife from Ecuador. She lives in the UK and teaches all around the world. She has a PhD in Ethnobotany, but the most valuable part of her knowledge she gained from her mother and grandmother, and from shamans in the rainforest in Ecuador. There is a depth knowledge in her, a wisdom that is the product of many generations of ancestral knowledge. This type of knowledge simply cannot be gained through university training.
When teaching these techniques, Rocio talks about Western medical knowledge, such as lymph draining, blood flow increase, and hormonal release. But at the root of the treatment is creating a movement of energy inside the new mother’s body. She talks about the opening of energy channels within the birthing woman’s body, moving from the top of the head to the root, and explains that there channels may close by themselves naturally, but that it might take a long time and the process needs to be speeded up and help, lest the woman spends the rest of her life leaking energy and feeling depleted.
Rocio spent much of the day teaching us how to use a traditional Ecuadorian cloth called a Manta to support the return of a new mother back to her full energy and health.
Using the Manta
Much of what we learnt can be applied to any woman, man or child incidentally, because the techniques help move energy around, stimulate lymphatic and blood flow, relaxing and warming muscles and fascia and stimulating the release of feel good hormones such as endorphins and oxytocin.
In this respect the techniques can benefit anybody. Rocio explained that these movements would be very beneficial to anybody experiencing depression or anxiety issues in particular.
Upon hearing this, my scientific mind was reminded that we exist in two primal states: the Rest and Relaxation state, and the Fight or Flight state. In the R&R state, we can heal and grow, whereas in the F&F state we are in a high alert, survival state, during which all resources are redirected to survival, hence no repair , healing and growth can take place. Having experienced the profound, deep relaxation that manta rocking provides, I can attest that it definitely promotes the R&R state. I felt like I was in a near trance like state after being rocked.
We learnt to use the manta to rock 5 different parts of the body (which amounted to massaging the whole body). Starting from the shoulders and upper body, we moved onto the chest and abdomen, then the hips, then we worked on the arms, the legs and finally moved onto practising a deep circular abdominal, hips and chest massage with our hands.
Rocio Alarcon demonstrating the abdominal massage on Sophie
The movements are difficult to describe to someone who hasn’t experienced them. Imagine being enveloped with a cloth and rocked with a jostling movement. Then they are variations to the actual movements, ranging from single to double rocking with an open cloth, to crossing the edges of the cloth, providing a tighter and different rocking motion.
After a session of shoulders and abdomen rocking, Rocio encouraged us to spend a few minutes writing how we felt and this is what I wrote
“I feel very warm, loose and mellow, almost in an hypnotic, trance like state. It was so lovely, I didn’t want it to stop. I felt like I was on another planet-the rhythm was lulling, relaxing, liberating”
I learnt the first level of the Closing the Bones techniques in 2013 with Rocio, and I have been teaching Closing the bones workshops, together with Maddie Mc Mahon, since 2014. We run these workshops regularly in Cambridge, and we are happy to travel for groups (see for dates of future workshops here ). Do get in touch if you would like to organise a workshop in your community. Our goal is to pass on this knowledge so that postpartum women have heard about it and expect it because this is something that our culture has forgotten and that all women should get.
Maddie and I are meeting next week to discuss how we can incorporate these new techniques into our workshops in the near future. Watch this space!