The Healing Arts of Birth have been practiced by wise women, midwives, traditional healers, and shamans for thousands of years. Healers around the world have integrated bodywork, energy techniques, healing food and herbs, and natural therapies to support women in the childbearing year to have healthy pregnancies and births. 

Natural healing arts can offer effective pain relief and support for labor and birth without any of the negative side effects that narcotic and pharmaceutical pain relief can cause. Birthworkers, birth partners, and pregnant women can all benefit from learning techniques and practices from energy healing, massage, craniosacral therapy, rebozo, dance, yoga, sound healing, and holistic nutrition for improving labor experience and outcomes. 

There are skills from the healing arts that can provide prevention of common pregnancy and birth discomforts, as well as improve labor experiences, and reduce pain in the birth experience. Energy healing and rebozo are two areas of natural healing arts that offer simple and powerful techniques that anyone supporting a birth can learn quickly and effectively.

Energy Healing can relax a woman in labor, ease pain, and provide comfort. Vibrational medicine can be used for a woman experiencing a natural birth or with an epidural or during surgery. It is applicable to all labor and birth situations to improve and ease the experience. One birth that I attended, a mother had an epidural and was experiencing great anxiety and nervousness, and her baby was needing to rotate more in her pelvis to be born. I simply put my hands on her hips and sent the baby and her pelvis loving energy. Within a couple minutes the mother turned to me and said with a calm voice how amazed she was that she could feel that energy and warmth and how calming it was, even though she was numb to a pin poke in that area due to the anesthesia. The energy was greatly beneficial and she went on to have a healthy birth.

Rebozo massage is a comforting and diverse skill from the art of Traditional Mexican midwifery using a long woven shawl to sift or rock the mother and baby for comfort, relaxation, and to improve the position of the baby. When I teach workshops the rebozo part is often a favorite of everyone attending. It's incredible what a versatile tool the shawl is for bodywork and positioning for pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and beyond! The rebozo can be used to relax the mother, align the uterine ligaments, calm the nervous system, encourage baby to move into an optimal birth position, alleviate hip pain, support the belly, balance the musculoskeletal system, carry a newborn baby, and so much more! There are basic techniques that can be used with a rebozo or any shawl that are simple and effective for anyone to learn. 

Learn techniques from Energy Healing, Rebozo Bodywork, and much more at the:
Healing Arts of Birth Workshop 
with Kara Maria Ananda
September 22 & 23 in Mount Shasta, CA
November 10 & 11 in Cypress, CA

---> Find out more about the workshops and how to register by clicking here. <---
KaRa demonstrating the manteada with the rebozo at the Juneau Birth Center in Alaska
The Rebozo: Traditional Mexican Woven Shawl

The rebozo is a traditional Mexican scarf that has a rich history among the women of Mexico. The rebozo is traditionally strong, long, and handwoven with cotton or rayon. Women are well-versed in a variety of ways to utilize the rebozo - from being worn as a garment to protect against sun and to provide warmth, as a carrier for babies, groceries, and more, and as a tool for massage, movement, and positioning during pregnancy and birth. Traditional Mexican midwives have practiced rebozo massage techniques for fertility, pregnancy, labor support, and postpartum for centuries and the rebozo massage has been passed from mother to daughter, and midwife to apprentice. The rebozo is a tapestry of women’s wisdom, craft, and function.

Rebozo Bodywork for the Childbearing Year

The rebozo is an effective massage and bodywork tool for pregnancy and labor. In 2007, I studied the rebozo techniques for massage from Traditional Mexican midwives at the Midwifery Today conference in Eugene, Oregon. It was amazing to learn rebozo techniques from midwives from several different regions of Mexico. Each midwife had a huge repertoire of rebozo uses for fertility through birth and postpartum.

The rebozo eases severe back pain in pregnancy and birth, dramatically shortens labor, provides comfort for natural birth, and can rotate posterior babies in labor. I was a doula at a birth and the mother was dilated at 5 centimeters for several hours without progress. With 20 minutes of gentle rebozo rocking in between contractions, with her leaning forward and her belly in the hammock of the rebozo, the baby rotated from occiput posterior to anterior, she dilated fully, and began pushing. 15 minutes later the baby was born. This is one example of how powerful the simple tool of the rebozo can be for birthing families, doulas, nurses, and midwives.

The Manteada

The manteada is the basic rebozo movement, of rocking the mother back and forth in the hammock of the rebozo. Manteada means a rocking or sifting motion. This is ideal for a women in later pregnancy, to alleviate back pain, relax the nervous system, relax the ligaments of the uterus, and allow more room in the uterus for the baby to move into the best position for labor and birth.

The rebozo is laid out on the ground, and the mother lays perpendicular to the length of the scarf with her lower back and bottom on the center of the scarf. Pick up the ends of the scarf in either hand, while standing over the mother, and gentle hold her weight in the scarf so that her body is still on the ground but she feels wrapped up and held. Gentle pull the ends of the scarf simultaneously up and toward her feet, creating a traction on the low back and lumbar spine. Pregnant moms in their third trimester usually go "Ahhhh..." in relief at this moment.

Coming up to center above the woman, began gentle rocking her hips side to side by creating a rhythmic movement with the rebozo by pulling up with the left hand, then the right. Begin slowly, then gently increase in the speed and movement of the rocking, so that the mother is completely relaxed and comfortable. Be sure to check in and ask how the women feels. 99% of the time women LOVE this, unless they are very uncomfortable being on their back. However, because of the rocking motion and comfort for the spine, having a woman lie on her back in pregnancy (or early labor) for the manteada is safe and feels great.

Rock the mothers hips for 5-15 minutes, until your arms get tired. This is a great technique in the third trimester and in early labor.

Rebozo & Epidurals

I have performed the manteada technique with a woman in advanced labor who had an epidural and posterior baby, and it effectively turned the baby. I let the nurses know what I was going to be doing and had a circle of intrigued nurses and the doctor around the hospital bed, while I was standing on the bed above the woman. Everyone loves learning about the rebozo, and as a doula I wanted the staff to know what I was doing so they wouldn't just walk in the room and find me standing on the hospital bed over the woman rocking her in my shawl. Even with an epidural the rebozo is a fabulous tool for enhancing labor!

Labor Rebozo

There are a multitude of ways to use the rebozo in labor. The manteada may be comfortable for a woman in early labor, but as labor becomes more active, the mother instinctively feels called to be more upright, leaning forward, or on hands and knees. This is a great way to use the rebozo with the mother leaning forward and holding on to a counter, bed, or chair and standing behind her with her belly in the center of the rebozo. In between contractions you can gently rock back and forth. When a mother begins a contraction, I will wait to rebozo her and gentle place my hands on her back and massage. Also, the rebozo can be moved down to below the belly and around the hip bones and pulled tightly for a nice compression on the illiac crests and sacral bone creating a pelvic press movement that is much easier to hold with the rebozo than with your hands.

There are a variety of ways to use the rebozo for fertility massage, pregnancy comfort and health, easing and facilitating labor, postpartum massage, and babycarrying. I will cover more techniques with the rebozo for the childbearing years in further articles.