Understanding The Bowen Technique
The Bowen Technique is a very gentle treatment. In order to appreciate its subtlety & depth, the therapy really needs to be experienced. A Bowen session involves only light moves, applied to very specific points on the body or through light clothing, with significant pauses or rests between each series of moves. However, what may not be seen by the casual observer is the dramatic & relaxing effect of a Bowen session can have on the whole body. After their first session people often wonder how such a gentle moved can have so powerful an effect – not only in their structural problems (e.g. bad back, frozen shoulder, etc.) but also their general wellbeing.
Studies of various ‘light touch’ therapies have shown that one does not need to use forceful manipulation to achieve significant changes. In fact, it seems that often the lighter the touch, the more effective & profound the effect.
How It Works
The Bowen Technique is based on a number of core principles that were observed by its pioneer, Tom Bowen.
You may have noticed white, translucent sheets of very tough tissue when preparing meat – this is fascia. Fascia consists of tough sheets (sometimes tubes) of connective tissue, which provide coverings of variable strength & thickness for every structure in the body. All muscles are surrounded by it. It allows flexibility & movement between the various parts of the body. One function of these bands of fascia is to maintain upright posture. Consequently, fascia receives a lot of attention in a Bowen session, as it has such a profound effect on posture &, in particular, the way we hold our spine. Imagine that your spine is a tent pole, being held in position by guy ropes (in this case the band’s of fascia that support the back). It is easy to see how undue tension or weakness in any one of these might cause a bend or create tension in the pole. Such an effect on the spine could result in reactions, such as pressure on nerves as they exit the spinal column, tension in the musculature on one side of the body, and compensation patterns being set up in the rest of the body. Meaning effects of the fascia by the spine can effect & be felt in many other parts of the body (e.g. the pelvis, shoulder etc.) Some complementary therapies manipulate the spine to address the relationship between individual bones (for example, free a trapped nerve.). In contrast, a Bowen session addresses the muscle & fascial relationships that are holding the spine in that particular position. By changing the way in which the muscles & fascia relate to each other, a change in structure becomes inevitable, forcing the spine to adopt the better position. This approach usually has a longer lasting effect.
The Bowen Move
A classic Bowen Move over a muscle or tendon consists of the therapist’s fingers or thumbs being placed on the body. The skin is drawn lightly away & a gentle challenge (push) is made on the muscles or tendon. The challenge is held for a few seconds before a ‘rolling’ move is made over the muscles itself. The action of this type of move elicits a powerful effect on the body on a number of levels, not just the musculoskeletal system.
The Brain & Nerves
There are many thousands of stretch receptors or muscle spindles in each muscle (approx. 7-30 per gram of muscle tissue). Thousands of times in each second, they send information to the brain about the status of individual muscles. During a session, a stretch on the muscle is maintained for several seconds before the move is made. During & after the move, further sensory information is sent via nerves to the spinal cord & then to various areas of the brain. A similar procedure occurs when working in tendons, although the sensory nerves in tendons are sensitive to resistance rather than to stretch, & a slightly slower, firmer pressure is used. After the sensory information induced by the Bowen move reaches the spinal cord, it passes through the nerve pathways to different centres of the brain. Here, the information is shunted back & forth via a complex, self-corrective feedback mechanism. This information is sent back down the spinal cord to individual muscles. When we are moving around, positional information from our muscles, tendons, joints, skin & fascia is being processed by the brain. While lying down, there is very little activity happening within this self-corrective system. For an effective Bowen session, it is essential that there is as little interference as possible from the conscious part of the brain or from our muscles, so that the feedback mechanism can re-orient. Bowen moves are made at key structural points in the body, which the brain uses as natural reference points to determine the body’s posture. As a result, Bowen moves have a profound effect on the way that the body holds itself.
Ultimately the technique helps the body to balance & realign itself on many levels. The moves used in the Bowen session work directly with the body’s fascia & send signals via your nervous system which helps your body retrieve it’s memory of a relaxed & balanced state of being.
Conditions that can be addressed with The Bowen Technique
- Anxiety/ stress related conditions
- Back pain, sciatica & spinal problems
- Digestive & bowel problems (such as IBS)
- Fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue & ME
- Gynaecological conditions (such as painful periods & fibroids)
- Headaches & migraines
- Hormonal imbalance
- Joint problems (such as tennis elbow, frozen shoulder, ankle & knee injuries)
- Post-operative recovery
- Respiratory conditions
- Repetitive strain injuries & carpal tunnel syndrome
- Sports injuries
- Whiplash injuries