The Bowen Technique is still fairly unknown to most people, though those who have experienced it tend to quickly become advocates of this amazing treatment. It is a holistic therapy, meaning it treats the body as a whole, promoting the balance of both body and mind.
The technique is named after Tom Bowen (1916 – 1982), an Australian who was inspired by observing that certain moves on the body had particular effects. He began to develop a new treatment based on these observations in the 1950s, and ran a very successful clinic treating 13,000 patients a year. He shared his work with a small number of colleagues who passed on the work after his death. ‘Bowen’ is now practised all over the world, and modern science continues to explore and validate the technique, including how and why it works.
The technique primarily works on fascia, the thin layer of connective tissue situated underneath the skin. Fascia binds skin to underlying tissue, and surrounds every muscle in our body (think of the thin layer surrounding a chicken breast). Healthy fascia provides support and structure, while also allowing us to move freely, and is interconnected in the body. Therefore if there is a bio-mechanical imbalance in one part of the body, it can cause pain or dysfunction elsewhere. This helps to explain why you may attend for a treatment with a problem in one area, and I perform moves over different areas of the body to treat it!
A treatment typically consists of a series of moves made over very precise points on the body. A move involves the shifting of soft tissue in a specific way, typically a rolling-type move of the thumbs and forefingers, designed to stimulate the tissue and nerve pathways. Each move is firm but gentle, and there is no forced manipulation. The moves are designed to create impulses in the fascia which are carried to the brain, seeking a response where it is needed. Fascia responds as a single, coherent system and will therefore respond as a whole to a Bowen move, not just locally where the move has been made.
Each series of moves is followed by a short break of approximately two minutes before the next set of moves is made. The length of the breaks will vary from client to client, and with different procedures. The breaks are probably one of the least understood parts of Bowen and yet it is at this point that the work starts to take effect. The breaks encourage the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) to take over from the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) which kicks in when the body is in pain or under stress – the commonly-termed ‘fight or flight’ response. When the body is back in parasympathetic mode, it can rest and start the process of repair.
Bowen can be helpful for a whole variety of problems from musculoskeletal issues and sports injuries to systemic concerns such as digestive or hormonal problems, stress and anxiety, and pregnancy-related issues. Most clients report feeling relaxed during and after treatment, and it is safe to use on people of any age including babies. Each treatment aims to release tension in the body and encourage realignment. Acute injury may respond within just one to three sessions, while chronic conditions may require several. An initial course of three sessions is recommended to establish whether the client is likely to respond to treatment, ideally seven days apart. Clients often find a ‘top-up’ treatment helpful to maintain good health and wellbeing.