|So at the moment I have been quite busy with family life and other aspects of maintaining my massage business that I have neglected my blog a little. It is pleasant to be able to sit down and write when it doesn't feel forced. I often find that I have little time for thoughtful, reflective writing but right now I am able to sit for a while and I have decided to share one of the activities that is currently keeping me busy. This activity is a course in the Scared Art of Belly Binding.
Have you ever heard of this? I hadn't until I was invited to participate. It is a beautiful treatment to be learning about with the aim of giving something special to both the learner and the future receivers. It is through my journey on this course that I will be able to provide a treatment that is unique to me and tailored individually for my clients.
In countries such as China and Malaysia 'belly binding' has been practised for many generations. Simply put it is the process of weaving a long length of fabric around a woman's torso (postnatally) from a little above her pubic bone to just underneath her breasts. The idea behind it is that it enables a woman to maintain good posture after birth, help with the contraction of the uterus and support the musculature of the abdominals. Numerous other benefits have also been noted but I would say that these three are fundamental to a new mother's postnatal care.
As a holistic therapist the course that I am studying incorporates an extra element - the process of ceremony and the celebration of a woman from maiden to mother. It involves nurturing her after 9-10 months of carrying and bringing a new soul into the world. In Western culture the importance of caring for our new mothers has been lost. A great deal of time and energy is focused on the pregnanct woman but once the baby arrives a new mother's emotional and spiritual health is often ignored. Is it any wonder that our rates of postnatal depression are so high? Not all women seek help so the figures could be greater but they currently stand at 1 in 7 mothers diagnosed in Australia with the condition. (See; http://www.panda.org.au/news/panda-news)
From a personal experience I realise how beneficial touch can be after birth. I have written about it's power at any time in a person's life and I advocate the importance of holistic massage rather than always opting for being fine tuned through chiro, osteo and remedial etc. At this particular time in a woman's life the need for receiving touch, feeling loved and honoured is extremely important; if not for the wellbeing of her but the baby and their family as a whole.
The art of sacred belly binding for me is a reminder that it is okay to take time out for one's self, most especially when so much of our own time is taken up with the giving of ourselves for others. That 'giving' needn't be only at home but also in the workplace, our communities or other such daily commitments.
I am very much looking forward to completing this course and being able to offer it to those that will benefit from receiving it. It is essential to remain in the world of education when working as a massage therapist and I will admit that it is no chore to do so. I hope that the time I invest in my studies will be of benefit to you or your loved ones. Please keep an eye out on my blog for future updates regarding the completion of the Belly Binding course.
Today I have decided to inform you about the pregnancy massage that I offer my clients. A number of conversations recently about this modality have made me think what a great idea it would be to share this topic with you.
It would appear that the general impression that most women have is that they need to have something wrong with them to be able to receive a pregnancy massage (or any treatment for that matter). Simply put - this just isn't the case! Why wait until you feel out of sorts before coming to relax? Why not remain relaxed and in a great state of health, using massage as a means to achieving that? It's a perfect place to be in preparation for the achievable but hard work that labour will soon bring.
A friend and co-worker (Claire) got me interested in studying the specific pregnancy course that I chose and whilst I was pregnant, with my first child, I received frequent massages from her. Claire and I worked in a Spa and if we ever found ourselves without clients scheduled in Claire often utlised that vacancy by providing me with gorgeous pregnancy treatments. From that time on I was fascinated. After such a great pregnancy and birth I thought that it was a modality that I could share with my own clients.
I studied my diploma with 'Well Mother' based in Windmill Hill, Bristol, England. Our teacher, Suzanne Yates, now has a very long history in working with pregnant clients in a variety of settings (including hospitals). She teaches not only to massage and shaitsu practioners but also to midwives, doulas and birth educators; travelling to numerous countries imparting her
knowledge. In her words, via the link below, is what the Well Mother approach is about:From a personal experience I found the treatments that I
received very relaxing and I used them as a way to connect with my
growing baby. They allowed me to remain calm and enjoy a trouble free
I find it a shame that most of the women I speak to feel that they should only receive a bodywork treatment if they have something to be 'fixed.' Many have even questioned how beneficial a massage can be as they are so accustomed to being referred to chiropractors and osteopaths. Yes, for some pregnant women the changes their body undertakes while carrying a child, other than an obvious growing belly, may be only subtly percieved. They need not always cause pain and discomfort. Massage can aid these women too though. The very act of being touched and nurtured oneself can have great physiological and emotional effects.
During the best part of a 9 month pregnancy the focus can appear to be fixed on the wellbeing of the baby, the woman is often neglected and the approach can be a very medicalised affair. It is easy for the magic of what is occuring to be removed from the experience.This type of care often carries over following the birth and can leave mothers feeling very misplaced as their role may seem trivialised. Time spent gently encouraging the body and the mind to relax is paramount in helping mothers and mothers -to- be in remaining in a positive frame of mind pre and post natally.
Without a doubt this form of massage also has its benefits on an anatomical level. Shiatsu is incorporated and slow, fluid mobilisations of the limbs can be used to open up areas of stiffness and fatigue. The treatment can be performed lying on one's back (in the 1st trimester) on one's side (2nd & 3rd trimesters) or resting on an exercise/birthing ball. The use of an exercise ball is great for working the back and opening up the sacrum, especially towards the end of a pregnancy when the way in which a woman carries her baby may change (we've all witnessed the pregnancy waddle). It is also a brilliant position to adopt for labour and I like to use it to demonstrate to birth partners how they can be of support during the birth process.
Not only is this pregnancy massage suitable during all trimesters of pregnancy it is also available to women post natally. The female body continues through a process of changes after the baby's delivery. The uterus contracts back to it's original size, the gained suppleness (in preparation for labour) is lost and many hormones remain busy helping the mother to nourish and connect with her baby. Post natal massage after delivery by a caesarean section is still possible, by allowing a woman to rest on her side, rather than on her front or back. There is no need to wait for many weeks for a treatment if one is required sooner and babies are welcome to join their mothers. All mothers can gain from the use of acupressure points; implemented to relieve tension from continual
lifting, carrying and feeding a baby. General massage strokes can be
used to soothe and release sore muscles and stiff bodies, encouraging an
awareness of post pregnancy posture, creating a sense of self again.
Women who are experiencing diffuclties conceiving may also benefit from one of these treatments, which can be adapted to suit the situation. Visualisations, healing and a space for grief and acceptance assist women undergoing fertilisation management or who have encountered loss through miscarriage.
Sometimes when we wait to 'fix' something the damage has already been done. It can take a lot of effort and commitment to to regain a sense of normality again. It is my hope that in reading this you may consider this as a treatment worth trying, even if only once, so that you may know whether you are truly missing out on something important on your pregnancy journey. Maybe you know of someone who would enjoy one of these treatments? Pregnancy and parenthood are definite times of giving, sometimes it makes sense to create equilibrium and restore balance to the ones that have been providing. Don't you think?
BELOW ARE THE WORDS OF:
Leslie Stager RN, LMT
Nurse, Body Worker and Childbirth Educator
During the early 90’s when I worked as a labor & delivery nurse, I
watched women waddling down the hospital hallways holding their aching
backs and bellies and complaining of round ligament pain and sacral
pain. I was in massage school at the time, and quickly understood that
these pregnant women would be my optimum massage clientele. The women
coming for prenatal tests or hoping they were in labor desperately
needed nurturing touch, yet there were few options for them to actually
receive it professionally in those days. The prevailing belief then was
that massage might be dangerous during pregnancy. How far from the truth
that was! The benefits of nurturing touch– from a brief touch on a
shoulder, to sessions of Shiatsu or Swedish massage–are far-reaching and
absolutely essential for the health and vitality of Mother, baby in
utero and for both after birth. Research has shown that even the
pregnant woman’s companions themselves gain benefits by offering
nurturing massage to the pregnant mom!
But in 1992, there were no books, few classes, and altogether very
little information available about massage during pregnancy. A few of us
around the world were gathering information though. As a nurse, doula,
and childbirth educator, I understood the physiological, hormonal, and
emotional layers impacting every pregnant mom. As a massage therapist, I
learned more about the structural and muscular issues, and was excited
to see how the work supported women and alleviated so many discomforts. I
was one of only two pregnancy massage therapists in Portland, Oregon. I
imagine Suzanne (Suzanne Yates - Well Mother U.K.) may have been fairly alone in the work then too over in
England. In those days, we had to convince obstetricians that massage
would be useful for their patients. Their response was often: “Why
would massage help? They are pregnant. Of course they are uncomfortable.
What do you expect!?!”
Suzanne Yates BA(Hons), PGCE(PCET), MRSS(T), DipHSEC, DipAPNT, CNHC registered, AOBTA®(Honorary)
Body-worker and Birth Educator,
human hand, acting in concert with the heart, mind and spirit, is
arguably the most sophisticated tool in the known physical universe.
With its pressure and warmth, guided by intelligence, care and
inspiration, we can work with muscles, fascia and the nervous system,
literally remodeling the human form and dramatically altering each and
every human function."
Deep Massage Book by David Lauterstein