Bowtech, also known as Bowen Therapy, Bowen Work and Bowen Technique, is a therapy that uses a small series of precise moves on the body that results in a state of deep relaxation. This allows the body to reset and begin its own healing process, returning the muscles and fascia to their normal states.
Bowen Therapy is relatively new to this country, so many of the clients who discover Bowen, do so after all else has failed or by word of mouth! And yet Bowen’s success rate is remarkable. Of course, the younger the client or the sooner the condition can be treated, the quicker and more effective the response. Bowen is generally relaxing to receive, with each session lasting 30 – 60 minutes, depending on the age of the client and the nature of their condition. These precise Bowen Therapy moves can give more profound results than massage therapy and physiotherapy. Acute pain is often relieved instantly with long term injuries being cleared from the body with minimal effort and within only 3 to 4 sessions.
Between each series of moves, the body is given periods of rest, to allow it to absorb the information it has received and initiate the healing process. Many clients become so relaxed that they fall asleep during the treatment. Short-term (acute) injury is usually resolved in 1 to 3 sessions, while long-standing (chronic) conditions may require longer.
Bowen is ideal for any kind of injury and is loved by athletes and sports people alike. Bowen is not a form of massage or acupressure but a specialised method of stimulating the body’s own healing mechanisms making it very unique from other therapies. Bowen Therapy moves are made across muscles, tendons, nerves and joints in a gentle and deliberate manner to trigger the internal healing process. Clients are then allowed to relax in peace while their body begins to realign itself and begin the healing process. Once these moves have been performed they may give rise to a variety of sensations such as tingling in the feet or hands, heating or cooling in parts of the body, a feeling of heaviness, and/or a deep feeling of relaxation. These waiting gaps are the key to the deep work Bowen Therapy does.
Bowen can be performed through light clothing and is completely safe for application even for emergency injuries as the moves can be performed in a feather-light manner while still achieving the results needed. The gentle application of Bowen means it’s ideally suited for everybody from infants and children to the elderly. Treatments are generally performed lying down on a low bed or massage table but can also be applied in a seated or standing position. Clients can remain clothed with loose comfortable light clothing being the most suitable to allow maximum circulation and ease of treatment.
Your first session with me will include a brief consultation interview to identify the main areas of concern followed by a treatment time usually of 30 to 60 minutes depending on the individual’s response. Bowen can have profound effects where detoxification reactions may occur during the days following the treatment. It is highly recommended that you drink one glass of water per waking hour after a treatment and avoid other bodywork therapies (massage, physiotherapy, acupuncture, etc) that may reverse or disrupt the results of the Bowen.
Light exercise and walking facilitates the natural healing that will gradually occur in the body while the therapeutic moves continue to work for during the following 1 to 2 weeks. A break of around 7 to 10 days between treatments will produce the best results.
The Origins of the Bowen Technique – Bowtech
Thomas Bowen (1916 – 1982) The initiator of the Bowen Technique
Tom Bowen was born in Australia on April 18, 1916. In 1958 he was working at the Geelong cement factory, where he witnessed a coworker’s accident. Mr. Bowen assisted him, and found that his coworker recovered immediately. From this point on he developed and refined his technique/gift with the help of his friend and secretary Rene Horwood.
In the 1950’s Tom began his practice treating workmates and others that had heard of his reputation in the front room of a friend’s home in the evenings after work. Word of his healing hands spread throughout the region and soon he could not accommodate the number of people wanting his treatment in this part-time manner so he opened a full time practice. Not being formally trained in any bodywork modality, Tom, through his own study and practice, developed what we now call the Bowen Technique. With his amazing skills of assessment, he was able to alleviate many people’s problems with very few, relatively gentle, soft tissue manipulations.
In 1973 he was interviewed by the Osteopathic, Chiropractic and Naturopathic Committee (Victorian Parliament), where he stated under oath that he treated about 280 patients per week with the help of a receptionist and an assistant. Reporting that he never advertised but just relied on word of mouth, he estimated modestly his own success rate to be about 88%, and claimed that he could sense minute vibrations in the soft tissues and that the tension in the muscles helped him find the precise places to mobilize. By 1975, he was performing 13,000 treatments a year! This was verified by the Victorian government inquiry into alternative health care professionals. Considering that treatments were usually 7 days apart and that most people only needed 2 to 3 visits, that was an amazing number of clients per year for a one man clinic.
Tom Bowen allowed only a few therapists to come and learn from him. Oswald Rentsch was one of them. He met Mr. Bowen in 1974 while practicing massage and osteopathy. Over the next two and a half years he became Tom Bowen’s apprentice and scribe, documenting his treatment protocols, as Mr. Bowen had never recorded his work. He started using Bowen’s original technique in Hamilton where he and his wife Elaine ran their own clinic. In his later years, Mr. Bowen lost his legs to diabetes, but kept on treating his patients from his wheelchair and continued to refine his technique. Honoring Mr. Bowen’s request to teach the work after his death, Ossie and Elaine Rentsch held their first seminar of “The Bowen Technique” in Perth, Australia in 1986. By 1990 they were teaching full time. Since then, they have introduced the Bowen Technique throughout Australia, New Zealand, North America and the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, Norway, Austria, France, Italy, Israel and South Africa. Practitioners across the world are now using this amazing healing modality.
Tom was highly selective of those who wanted to watch him work and learn his technique. Only six people worked with Tom over his years of practice. One of these was Ossie Rentsch from Hamilton Victoria. After many months of following Tom and watching him treat his many patients Ossie began to understand the technique. Under Tom’s close supervision and his assistance Ossie documented the work (a painstaking exercise as there were no charts or explanations available), and this is an original record of Tom’s work.
What eventuated was a carefully documented and authenticated record of this amazing technique. The technique could be now taught and became what we know today as Bowtech, the Bowen Technique. They had promised Tom that they would make his work known throughout the world and they have more than kept their promise. Today over 26,000 people have completed basic Bowtech, the Bowen Technique course, in thirty countries and in six languages. Worldwide, there are now 90 instructors teaching Bowtech.
Credit given to the Bowtech Association for the above information
The Magic of Bowen and Making the Most Out of Your Treatment
Are you jumping off the table thinking everything’s great, its all done and let’s get on with what I was doing before this?
Or perhaps you were wondering what did I just pay for, I don’t feel anything?!
The magic of Bowen is not just what happens on the table, but what happens in your body in the days after the treatment.
“Bowen is designed to make you heal better”
It’s key to be aware that after your Bowen treatment, your muscles and fascia are going to continue to react. Some people feel lots of reaction during the treatment, so are quite conscious of things changed in their body as they leave. However, I find that many who don’t feel much during the treatment, sometimes feel their bodies reacting much more later that day or evening… or the next day… a few days later… or, for some, nearly a week later !
Treat your body well for a few days to ensure the results are as good as they can be!
This gives a quick summary of a few other things that help you get the most out of your Bowen session with me:
Don’t be a couch potato…
Is just lying around on the sofa going to help or going back to being stuck in a chair, tied to the desk ? No, it probably isn’t going to.
Try not to sit for more than about 30 minutes, especially on the day of treatment (that timer on the phone is a great idea!). Get out of that chair, even if only for a few seconds. Stand up for a moment, walk around just a little, have a stretch. Don’t let your body seize up! Of course, with every “rule” there is an “exception”… and, in this case that is:
A lot of clients feel tired after their session, and often sleep like a log that evening (while many succumb to an afternoon nanna nap).
Sleep and tiredness is the body’s way of saying STOP! When you’re sleeping, the body doesn’t have to take orders from your mind to keep you moving and doing things, so has time to do it’s own repairs. So, being extra tired after your treatment, or sleeping much more soundly, is your body’s way of switching you off so it can get on with doing it’s repair work – and I have re-energised your body into wanting to do more of those repairs. I have a number of clients who know that the morning after treatment is when they’re going to feel the real difference.
Walk 20 minutes a day…
Keeping the body moving in the days following Bowen helps… take a walk, a little brisk, moving and breathing… but, try and skip the contact sports, bootcamp or too vigorous activity for a little while…
Drink more water…
Ensure you’re drinking plenty of water and you’re not dehydrated. In fact, a lot of clients feel their body craving more water in the days after Bowen treatment. This is because your body’s nervous system needs the water, the lymphatic system, and your muscles and fascia need more water to help your body heal. The more water you have, the more your body will be able to heal better!
Bowen “signals” to the body…
I try to describe to clients that their body has just been given signals to go and act on, and the body will be busy responding for a few days. However, if the body is given new signals, then it will forget the original signal and follow the new orders.
What what kind of “new signals” will the body respond to? If you use extremes of hot or cold, then muscles and fascia are being given signals to relax (hot) or contract (cold), instead of continuing the Bowen signal. These include ice packs, or too-hot baths, hot water bottles on an area, or too-hot electric blankets. Try to avoid these for 10 days after the Bowen session.
Also, massaging a body part that is aching is giving the body a new signal to respond to, rather than finishing working through the signals the Bowen session gave, so no massages or any other bodywork for at least a week please.
Sometimes, some people feel a little stiff or achy after a Bowen treatment – some feel it in the evening after treatment, some the next day, and (only very occasionally) some for a few days. I see this more often after a client’s first visit, especially if they have many postural issues – and it’s sometimes surprisingly very little treatment that can trigger aches, or some help ease the pain that they have felt in certain areas in the past!
The aches aren’t something to be too concerned about – the body is clearly adjusting and changing. It’s important not to massage any aching areas, perhaps take a light painkiller or natural remedy if necessary. Definitely drink more water as this will help with those aches and help flush out the toxins. It’s likely the muscles and fascia trying to “untighten” and ensuring that you’re hydrated will help! However, if the aches are of concern, contact me to discuss what you’re feeling.
Remember… most of the healing happens AFTER you’ve left your Bowen treatment… so a little self-care will ensure you get the most from your treatment.
Tom Bowen was well aware of the universal life energy called Chi. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM); this energy must flow freely throughout the body in order to assure a state of maximum health. According to TCM, the cause of disease and pain is congestion, which is the result of blocked energy flow. Mr. Bowen developed his own way of mobilising the Chi and clearing energetic blocks. His technique was clearly influenced by his training in TCM. He often referred to the effect of certain moves energetically, as either having a stimulating or sedating effect, as acupuncture and herbs in TCM do. Most of the moves overlap acupuncture points and some actually cross over 2 or 3 acupuncture meridians at once. In Bowen there is no need to hold or stimulate the points; just one move across the point is all it takes! He also used moves, called “stoppers”, which are employed to block, reflect or contain the energy in a certain part of the body. It is no coincidence that most of the moves from the basic rebalancing procedures are on the Chinese bladder meridian, which has many points affecting the internal organs. The overlap of these 2 systems could explain the very strong energetic component of the Bowen Technique and its balancing effect on the internal organs.
Theories on how Bowen work include:
Meridian lines and the connection with acupuncture points.
Even though Bowen Therapy is not acupressure or acupuncture, 97% of Tom Bowen’s moves are immediately over meridian points. These points are abundant in beta endorphins which facilitate the communication between the central nervous system, as well as the endocrine and immune systems. Clients often comment on feeling a runner’s high during and after a Bowen session. The runner’s high is created from the release of beta endorphins during prolonged aerobic exercise, therefore it can be associated with Bowen Therapy as it goes over the meridian points that can also create the runners-high.
There is considerable thinking that most Bowen moves are done over acupuncture points and indeed many Bowen therapists are also acupuncturists. For those interested in knowing more about acupuncture/acupressure points, there is a lot of research for example: www.york.ac.uk/news-and-events/features/acupuncture.
Correlation between meridian and fascia
Fascia is also known as connective tissue. This is because it connects us within. It surrounds our muscles, bones, internal organs, peripheral and central nervous systems, and allows for free movement and “glide” between these structures as we move. It plays a major role in muscle coordination, flexibility, postural alignment and overall structural and functional integrity. The high level of fluidity within the fascia is also important for intercellular communication. Each Bowen move is done at the level of the superficial fascia and stimulates the freeing or releasing of restrictions between the fascia and the nerve, muscle or tendon, both in the immediate area as well as in distant areas.
Fascia also holds memories of trauma (physical as well as emotional) by literally shortening, contracting, torquing and dehydrating. Following a Bowen session it is not uncommon for patients to feel emotions related to old trauma resurface as adhesions loosen up and scar tissue softens. You will find that posture, flexibility and mobility will improve without harsh mobilizations, deep probing or stretching of the fascia.
The correlation between meridian lines and fascia emerged as part of Tom Myer’s work on Anatomy Trains who began mapping muscles through the fascia. After this initial work he realised that there were many earlier iteration of similar ideas in the meridians of acupuncture, but also in the sketches of Leonardo, in Hoepke, a German anatomist of the 1930’s, and in the work of Françoise Meziére in France. He then went on to correlate this with the work of Ida Rolf.
Layers of fascia run throughout the body. The video clip below of Dr Robert Schleip and Dr Heike Jaegor (conducting the Rolfing massage technique not Bowen therapy) explain how soft tissue therapies enable the body to make the changes it needs.
Thus we have a coming together of different techniques from around the world dating back in some cases thousands of years (Ötzi the Iceman thought to have died 3370 – 3100 years ago BC) which have all observed common lines, and points along those lines, of influence running through the body. These points can be triggered to bring about both local and distant changes leading to an improvement in health.
* An osteopathic basic principle is that structure governs function and vice versa. In layman’s terms, if the structure of the body is out of alignment it will affect the functioning of organs in the body, and vice versa. For example, tensions in the chest will restrict the ability of the heart and lungs to function properly, tensions in the tissues of an organ will affect not only its function but also the wider structure by pulling the body in around the tension whether by lines of tension or by virtue of the pain being felt in the area.
Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) Rebalancing
To me this is one of the most profound and important effect that the Bowen technique has on the organism and where the self healing mechanisms of the body are mostly stimulated. The ANS controls over 80% of bodily functions (cardiac, respiratory, peripheral circulation, reproductive, endocrine, gastrointestinal… ) and is very susceptible to stress and emotional states . Most people living in our modern “civilized” society are in a constant state of high stress and sympathetic over stimulation. The “fight, flight or freeze mode” which characterizes sympathetic nervous system dominance is where most of spend much of our days. Unfortunately, healing can only occur when we make the shift to the “rest, relax and repair mode” in which the parasympathetic nervous system becomes dominant.
This could explain why so many people can’t heal, or experience incomplete recovery from sickness or injuries. For healing to happen we need time and space to literally unwind and digest physical and emotional stress. This is what the Bowen Technique does. It seems to catalyze this shift or reaction in people. Essentially this technique is an antidote to modern living for both the practitioner and the patient!
During a Bowen session it is very common for patients to feel somewhat “spacey”, become deeply relaxed, feel very tired and /or drift off to sleep. This is a very good sign, as their body is shifting to PNS dominance. It is not uncommon to hear loud peristaltic or digestive sounds during a Bowen session. When this happens, we know that the patient is letting go at a very deep level.
This “letting go” on a deeper level can often support or encourage emotional, psychological and spiritual breakthroughs during or following treatments. It is now quite commonly understood that when traumas occur, whether they are physical or emotional they can be stored within the body tissues, and in a way tucked aside so that they don’t overwhelm the person or interfere with basic survival functioning. Unfortunately this doesn’t mean that they aren’t still having a negative effect on us. During a Bowen session it is quite common for the memories and emotions of a trauma to resurface as the tissue is healing /releasing. This is commonly referred to as a somato-emotional release, which can be facilitated by dialogue with the practitioner.
Most moves are done either at the origin, insertion, or belly of muscles, where the Golgi and Spindle receptors are located. These receptors inform the nervous system as to the state of tension, length or stretch in the musculo-tendinous tissue. These receptors are being stimulated during the “challenge” and the “rolling” part of the Bowen move. In cases of a pain-muscle spasm loop, the Bowen Technique can break this viscous loop by changing the stimulus received by the nervous system.
All moves done around a joint are directly affecting the joint capsule and ligaments, which are richly enervated with proprioceptors. Here again stimulus will be received by the central nervous system, inviting normalization of the joint function without the need for forceful manipulation.
Neuro-Lymphatic Points and Lymphatic Circulation
Without working directly on the lymphatics (except on the neck where we do use lymphatic type massage), the Bowen Technique stimulates and activates lymphatic circulation and drainage, thereby stimulating the immune system. There is an overlap between the Bowen moves and the location of neuro-lymphatic reflex points which regulate the lymphatic system. This explains detoxifying reactions and improved circulation following sessions. These neuro-lymphatic reflex points have also shown a stimulating and strengthening effect on specific muscles.
Segmental Viscerosomatic Spinal Reflexes
Bowen moves directly stimulate the skin, muscles and nerves. Many of the Bowen moves are done adjacent to the spine over the erector spinae muscles. When this happens, there is a reflexive response which affects the internal organs associated with the various spinal segments. Tom Bowen claimed that by doing these basic procedures, about 80% of patients complaints would be addressed. Often patients will mention that conditions, other than the one they originally presented with were helped, such as digestion, elimination, circulation, improved sleep, more energy, etc..
Several Bowen moves overlap with recognized trigger points’ locations. By releasing these trigger points, referred pain is alleviated, and joint mobility and muscle coordination improves.
Harmonic Vibration or Resonance Model
Bowenwork moves set up vibrational patterns which bring the body back into balance and harmony.
The Bowen Technique very strongly affects the Chakras. The word chakra comes from the Sanskrit word meaning “wheel of light”. Vertically, along the centre of the body are found seven main energy centers called chakras. Each chakra is connected to a part of the physical body and transmits and receives life force/ energy/ Chi/ prana. When we are in a state of ill health, the chakras may become distorted, out of alignment or even stagnant. When this happens, life force cannot flow in and out freely and the physical body suffers. With training and intuition the chakras can be assessed before and after treatments. From these assessments it has become clear that the chakras are positively affected after Bowen treatments, without the practitioner’s conscious or intentional manipulation to this system.
This is often initiated during a Bowen treatment, thereby improving the body’s ability to function at a cellular level. It is said that Mr. Bowen was very encouraged when a person had an aggravation of symptoms following a treatment – preferably for 24-48 hours. He felt that this was the body eliminating waste and rebalancing itself in a strong and healthy way.