You may have heard of the closing the bones massage ritual for postpartum recovery, but did you know that it also supports healing loss and trauma, supports endings and beginning through life’s transitions & helps regulate the nervous system, including for people who are neurodivergent?

In our modern times, we often overlook the profound wisdom of ancient healing traditions passed down over generations. The closing the bones ritual offers a transformative path to healing that transcends physical and emotional boundaries.

Rooted in diverse cultural practices worldwide, this powerful ritual has supported women through life’s most pivotal transitions and traumas for centuries. From the journey of motherhood to experiences of loss, it provides a nurturing space to process, integrate and heal mind, body and spirit.

But this ritual’s impact extends far beyond the postpartum period. It offers a unique approach to supporting mental health, emotional wellbeing and overall vitality. Through gentle movements, symbolic elements and connection to the body’s wisdom, it empowers women to reclaim their bodies as vessels for healing.

Prepare to be captivated as you discover how this ancient tradition is profoundly relevant in today’s world in supporting women through every facet of their life’s journey.

What is closing the bones?

Closing the bones is a traditional postpartum massage ritual. It is mostly known for its Mexican and South American roots, but versions of it exist (or used to exist) on all continents (including in Europe).

A closing the bones ritual involves the rocking of the body using scarves, a massage of the abdomen and chest (and sometimes the whole body), and a sequence of tightening scarves around the body. Some traditions also add a steam bath or sweat lodge. I use drumming in my rituals as well.

A closing the bones massage supports healing:

  • Physically, by providing movement in the joints, muscles, tissues and fluids.
  • Emotionally, by providing space to rest, be witnessed and held safely, as well as for emotions to be honoured and released.
  • Spiritually, by providing closure, a space to let go of what was, and bringing energy back to the person receiving it.

I have written many posts on closing the bones and you can find them below:

Beyond the postpartum

A closing the bones ritual holds immense significance beyond the postpartum period, serving as a profound way to honour and facilitate healing through various transitions and rites of passage in a woman’s life. Rituals play a vital role in these contexts, as they provide a sacred and intentional space for individuals to process and integrate profound experiences.

In our modern culture, where life’s significant milestones are often overlooked or minimised, rituals offer a much-needed opportunity to pause, reflect, and honour the depth of these transformative moments. They create a container for personal growth, healing, and transformation, allowing individuals to navigate life’s transitions with intention and reverence.

Rituals have the power to calm the nervous system and facilitate a sense of grounding and connection. By incorporating symbolic elements, movements, and practices that resonate with the individual, rituals tap into the depths of our collective unconscious, providing a sense of meaning and belonging. This can be particularly powerful during times of trauma or upheaval, as rituals offer a structured and supportive framework for processing and integrating difficult experiences.

Rituals also foster a sense of community and shared understanding. They create a space for individuals to come together, share their experiences, and offer mutual support and validation. This communal aspect is particularly relevant in the context of life transitions, where individuals may feel isolated or disconnected from their support systems. What is true for the lack of support women experience in the modern world during the postpartum period is also true during other significant life transitions.

By embracing rituals like closing the bones, we reclaim a sense of sacredness and reverence for the journeys that women undertake throughout their lives. These rituals serve as a bridge between the physical and spiritual realms, honouring the profound transformations that occur within the body, mind, and spirit. They offer a space for healing, integration, and celebration, reminding us of the intrinsic value and beauty of life’s transitions and the growth that can emerge from them.

Important life transitions times during women’s lives include:

  • Menarche, Motherhood, Menopause
  • Conception and fertility
  • New beginnings or endings
  • Loss: baby loss (miscarriage,  abortion stillbirth), and any form loss
  • Trauma (birth trauma, sexual trauma, shock…)
  • Regulating nervvous system overwhelm (especially helpful for neurodivergent women)
  • Recovering from illness

Menarche, Motherhood, Menopause

  • The 3 big transitions of a woman’s life, adolescence, matrescense and sagescence, are systematically dismissed, shamed, downplayed, feared, presented as only scary and/or inconvenient, and  in modern cultures instead of the powerful rite of passage that they are.
  • As Jane Hardwicke Collings says “Anything to do with women, or the feminine that is put down, ridiculed, feared, or made invisible, is a clue that it holds great power. Think menstrual blood, think childbirth, think menopause…”
  • A closing the bones ritual (especially one held in ceremony with a group of other women) provides a way to empower, witness and honour these passages.

Conception and fertility

  • Not only is this ritual a powerful healing experience for the postpartum but I have plenty of personal experience (and other practitioners too) of women overcoming fertility issues after this ritual. It can also be part of a conscious conception process.

New beginnings or endings

  • A closing of the bones is beautifully suited to support and ritualistically mark new beginnings and endings, such as mariage, divorce, a new career or job (or the end of one). I now use it as part of birthday celebrations for friends, and because I have trained many people in my community in offering this ritual, people tend to ask for it or offer it when people are struggling or when it’s their birthday.


  • I have supported many women through loss, from miscarriage to abortion and stillbirth, and I have written a blog post called How closing the bones can support babyloss
  • I have also used it to support people through the loss of a loved one, the loss of a community, a relationship etc. It is a perfect way to honour and support grieving and healing through difficult times in life


  • I have used this ritual many times to support birth and sexual trauma, including during pregnancy. 
  • I have also used it to support people through all sorts of other situations causing trauma and or shock, including recently for a friend after she had been in a car accident.
  • I was myself the recipient of such a ritual last year when I was in a very difficult family situation, and it was instrumental in my recovery. You can read about this in my post, ADHD and the kindness boomerang.

Regulating nervous system overwhelm & neurodivergent regulation

  • Through the ten years I have trained people in giving this massage, many told me how helpful it was for their kids who were autistic, especially the wrapping. My own daughter loved it and it never occurred to me until she was diagnosed with autism to put two and two together. This year I was diagnosed with ADHD myself, and I have been on a big journey to understand what this means. One of the things I have discovered is that people who are neurodivergent are very easily dysregulated. Closing the bones not only soothes the nervous system deeply but it also helps teach the body what it feels like to be safe. This is also helpful for anyone who is experiencing nervous system dysregulation.

Recovering from illness

  • In the past I have used this ritual to support people through severe illness, including chronic lyme disease, and more recently, terminal cancer. Every time I can see how the effects of the ritual are incredibly supportive in this context too.

A different approach to supporting mental health and wellbeing

The closing the bones ritual stands as a powerful antidote to the limitations of the Western model of mental health, which often treats the mind as separate from the body. This holistic practice recognises that trauma and emotional wounds are not confined solely to the mind but are deeply embedded within the body.

Western approaches to mental health tend to focus heavily on talk therapy and cognitive-behavioural techniques, which, while valuable, usually fail to address the somatic aspects of trauma and emotional distress. Trauma, in particular, is known to have a profound impact on the body, manifesting as physical tension, disrupted nervous system regulation, and even chronic pain or illness.

Closing the bones offers a refreshing departure from this compartmentalised view by acknowledging the intrinsic connection between the mind, body, and spirit. Through its gentle, nurturing movements, deep pressure and symbolic elements, this ritual creates a safe and supportive space for women to process and release trauma without the need to relive their experiences.

One of the profound strengths of this ritual lies in its nonverbal nature. By avoiding the need to share personal stories, it circumvents the potential for re-traumatisation that can occur in some talk therapy settings. Instead, it allows the body to express and integrate traumatic experiences through the language of sensation, movement, and energy.

The ritual’s emphasis on holding, rocking, and massaging specific areas of the body facilitates a deep sense of grounding and embodiment. The gentle, safe touch and rhythmic movement can help regulate the nervous system, providing a sense of safety and allowing the body to release deeply held tensions and patterns associated with trauma.

Moreover, the ritual’s incorporation of symbolic and ritual elements, such as setting intentions, the tightening and releasing with scarves around the body (a symbolic rebirth), the adding of drumming or energy work, can resonate on a profound level, facilitating the integration of experiences that may be difficult to articulate verbally.

By embracing the closing the bones ritual, women have the opportunity to reclaim their bodies as vessels for healing and transformation. This ritual empowers them to process and integrate trauma in a holistic, non-retraumatizing way, honouring the wisdom of the body and the interconnectedness of physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.

Learning or receiving the ritual

If you are a professional who supports women through life transitions or healing and you would like to be able to offer this ritual, I have 3 in person trainings near Cambridge in June, July and October. 

If you want to experience the ritual for yourself, feel free to get in touch with me. I’m based in Cambridge, UK, but I have trained over 1000 people in offering this ritual, and I may be able to help you find a practitioner near you. 

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