I’ve been offering and teaching a postnatal massage called closing the bones since 2014 with Maddie McMahon.
Maddie and I never intended to teach this technique, we just wanted to share it with our community as we had been urged to do.
But then women started to ask us to show them. So we put together a workshop.
Since we started we have grown organically and have now trained nearly 400 people in providing this amazing nurturing ritual.
I hope to use this media to help change the face of the postnatal support in the UK with this, towards a mother centered one.
Over the last couple of years more and more people who had trained to do the massage started contacting me, asking if it would be possible to provide a version of the massage on a massage table instead of on the floor (we normally practise on yoga mats), because they had bad knees, or bad backs, and found working on the floor difficult.
I have a bit of a theme in my professional life, that I seem to always end up teaching stuff because people ask me to!
So I had a chat with my lovely local osteopath friend Teddy (who had already provided all the anatomical and effectiveness knowledge for the workshop handout, and therefore already knew the technique inside out), if he fancied the idea of developing a massage table version of the technique with me.
He liked the idea a lot so we started working on it. This was about 18 months ago, in summer 2017.
This was a true work of love, and in the end it took us over a year and many sessions of practise and hours of trial and error to get it working.
This is how each session would go: I would setup both a massage table and a yoga mat on the floor. Teddy and I would try each technique on the floor then on the table, taking turns giving and receiving each technique.
I would record the session and make some notes. After each session I’d listen to the recording paying attention to what Teddy said, and write down questions and make more notes for what to practise/change at the next session.
At the beginning we did get plenty of stuff wrong. I think I was so intent of getting the exact same treatment on the table as on the floor, that this got in the way. Teddy has much deeper knowledge of body function than I do, so he had to explain to me repeatedly why some of the stuff that was done standing up or crouching over a person lying down simply couldn’t be done from the side of a table, due to biomechanics.
We tried and tried. The most challenging part were the rebozo rocking and the hip squeezing. It was challenging because of the biomechanics (you can’t produce much force when you’re on the side compare to standing above a person), and because I wanted the technique to do the same thing to the body, but also to feel good.
Teddy wanted to make sure the technique was safe and effective but also easy on the body of the therapist (a basic rule for bodyworkers).
It proved extremely frustrating at time. Many times we thought we had got it but when we revisited it didn’t feel right and so we were back to square one. Some techniques worked mechanistically but just didn’t feel nice so they were discarded.
It was also a fun experience and a huge learning curve for me, especially as Teddy educated me on how to position my body for maximum power and effectiveness around the table, something I am still learning to master.
The real magic happened when I finally let go of it being exactly the same. Teddy had tried to explain to me repeatedly that it wasn’t necessary (that we were aiming for the same effect) but I am a perfectionist and like things to be “just right”
One day we finally worked out a way to make the rocking work from the side.
From then on everything seemed to flow magically.
As we progressed we also ended up modifying and adding several elements to the massage.
Some were based on discussion about the effectiveness of a technique and how to make it work more easily.
Some were based on the changes in the pregnant body that weren’t treated as part of the original massage, namely treating the ribs (which flare during pregnancy), and the shoulders (which hunch during pregnancy and often during breastfeeding as well).
Some just happened because it felt logical to add them to the flow of the movements we had created.
In the end we ended up with a massage which is inspired from the original technique but is really quite different. I did it for the first time on Maddie McMahon in August and she loved it. We added a few more movements after that. I also practised on my massage therapists friend Emma Kenny who loved it too.
We named it the Postnatal Recovery Massage (PRM).
We finished our individual practise work at the beginning of October, and we then went on teaching it to a small group of guinea pigs, composed of 2 doulas and 2 massage therapists.
We all had a very fun morning of practise teaching this new techniques, and all our guinea pigs loved it.
This is what they said:
“Knowing Sophie and Teddy as I do, I knew they would design something that is both relaxing and effective. I was not prepared for how beautifully the movements flow into each other, and how true to the spirit of Closing the Bones they have stayed. For people who find floor work tiring or painful, I highly recommend learning these new techniques” Maddie McMahon, Doula.
” This new version of the postnatal ceremony blends effective rebozo (shawl) massage techniques and lymphatic drainage massage to support post natal mamas. Rather fabulous it is too!” Emma Kenny, Massage therapist.
“I think one if the reasons I like the massage that you have developed for the table as it feels like a modern way of adapting the traditional massage. It feels like a new technique, a therapists technique. I also like being able to connect to the anatomical benefits. I want to practise giving the massage and feel newly inspired.” Katie Oliffe, Doula
We are now putting the final touches to the handout for this new technique, complete with my signature set of description, pictures, videos, and an explanation of the effect of each movement on the body by Teddy.
This should be ready by sometimes in December and we are looking forward to teaching this workshop together in the new year.
The first workshop will take place in Cambridge on Saturday the 5th of January.
I can’t wait to introduce more people to this amazing technique!
Update January 2019.
Teddy and I taught our first course last Saturday. The course was extremely well received by our trainees. Here is some of the feedback they gave us
“What a wonderful, professional, well constructed and instructive course with plenty of time for step by step practical, complemented by Teddy’s expertise and Sophie’s organic shamanism and such a wonderful community of like minded body workers. Thank you. Thoroughly recommended” Jenni Tribe, Therapist
“Thank you so much for an informative and inspiring day. I can’t wait to use the techniques on my clients and support women more effectively. You are doing an amazing work and I’m so grateful ad excited to be part of it!” Grace Lillywhite, Pilates teacher.
“I loved this course. It is just as nurturing as the closing the bones massage but much easier to do. Sophie and Teddy worked amazingly well together” Michelle Parkin, doula.
“The course was well organised, very informative and easy to follow. The level of practical support was fantastic and I feel confident to take what I have learnt and help local women postnatally. Thank you!” Becki Scott, doula and massage therapist.
“Amazing workshop! Loved being in a small group to work through techniques in enough details. As an osteopath this experience has been invaluable in improving my practise if postnatal patient , in fact all of my patients!” Rob Ballard, osteopath
“Amazing. Thank you both so much. More than the sum of the parts. Just lovely” Charlotte Filcek, doula.
“The tutoring, the technique, the group, just exceptional!” Alison Duff, therapist and therapy centre owner.