Bowen therapy is a gentle hands-on technique that helps release tight or dysfunctional soft tissue. This is not massage, acupressure or energy work; no oils are used. It originated in Australia with Tom Bowen and spread worldwide.
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What is Bowen Therapy?
What is Bowen Therapy?
Bowen therapy is deeply relaxing and helps reset the nervous system from fight-or-flight (the sympathetic nervous system, which makes us not so sympathetic) to rest-and-digest (the parasympathetic nervous system). In a Bowen session, I strum you like a guitar with gentle cross-fiber moves across muscles, joints or tendons or ligaments.
What to Expect in A Session and Afterwards
If you wear leggings or shorts, there is minimal need to undress. If it is your first time, I take a thorough history and do a postural assessment to see where the stress lines are in your body. I start each session with a postural assessment and will often check during and after the session to see if we have yet achieved any noticeable changes.
I may show you some simple exercises that can be a helpful support for you in between sessions. I’ll also show you better ways to sit down and get up from a chair, or better ways to lift, stand or even breathe.
The session usually consists of a blend of Bowen and microcurrent – whatever it’ll take to get you out of pain faster. If you’re unable to lie on your stomach, I can do part or all of the session seated or even standing.
“The moves are so gentle but go so deep.” —From several of my clients.
I have seen the blood popping back into the hands of a hairdresser and laughed with a client when the chronic tension in his diaphragm suddenly dropped and he could breathe in a whole new way, which was the funniest thing he had ever felt.
Towards the end of the session, I help you get up and get you to drink water and walk around a little to make sure we’re not leaving anything undone that might be taken care of with a simple move or procedure.. The session may not yet be over – this is the time to clear any lingering pains and make sure you walk out feeling balanced and stronger than when you walked in.
You get sent off with a recommendation to drink plenty of water. As I’m getting deeply into studying microcurrent therapy, I am learning the importance of drinking plenty of water with electrolytes.
For many of my clients, at this point the pain is often reduced or even completely gone, but sometimes it will take a while for the inflammation to reduce even if the correction has been made. There is often a delayed effect of one or two days before you feel the benefit.
Your body may be responding over the next few days — if the pain isn’t gone it may have reduced or moved, giving a clearer indication of a trouble spot that may not be where you thought the problem was. It is not unusual for foot problems to be caused by a misalignment of knees or hips. Shoulder problems may have everything to do with jaw alignment.
Typically people start to notice reduction of pain and increased range of motion after one or two sessions.
How Many Sessions Will I Need?
No two people are alike. Some people just need one session or a short series; others have chronic issues that need ongoing care. Most people do well with at least 2 sessions to start. A 4-session package is highly recommended, which gives you and me a chance to deal with compensatory patterns.
What Is the Cost?
- A standard session is between 60 to 80 min. and is $55.
- Four-session packages cost $200.
- Short sessions, up to 30 min., are available for follow-up visits or specific injuries. Cost: $35.
So sorry, I am unable to take insurance. Please talk to me if you have special circumstances.
Bowen therapy is named after Tom Bowen (1916-1982) of Australia, who made a major name for himself as a manual therapist. In one year when the officials counted his sessions, he was clocked in at 13,000 patients! He worked in factories and massaged members of sports clubs in his spare time. He was mentored by another popular hands-on healer, but nobody quite knows where Tom Bowen branched off on his own with a novel and simple way to correct the soft tissues.
While he was alive he was not interested in teaching, but he allowed a handful of people to observe what he did in his clinic. After his death, one of the observers, Ossie Rentsch, brought the technique to the world. He and his wife Elaine, who are both at the age where people sit at home in a rocking chair in happy retirement with great-grandchildren at their feet, are still tirelessly traveling the world teaching advanced classes. I have had the great privilege of taking 4 classes from them. My Master Diploma is from their institute, the Bowen Therapy Academy of Australia (my classes have been in the US).
In recent years the world has gotten introduced to the next level of teachers, a whole slew of excellent teachers from Australia who have worked closely with other observers of Tom Bowen’s work and then went on to develop their own powerful versions. They have been coming to the US and teaching what they know. I have been very fortunate to get to take classes from some of them.
So the development and further refinement of this technique will be ongoing, but the basics remain: Simple little nudges to the tissues, done in strategic places, can bring big changes.
If It’s So Great, How Come I Haven’t Heard of It?
Bowen therapy is one of the newest of the big hands-on therapies and in a few short decades has spread from Australia to at least 40 countries. Sad to say, this kind of therapy has no support from the massive health/insurance industry that runs our health care. That doesn’t leave much money for marketing, not on the level where you would hear about it in the news. So the spread of this work is truly a grassroots effort, one session at a time.
In Hong Kong and Australia Bowen therapy is part of the official fabric of health care.
How I Became A Bowen Therapist
When I was introduced to the north coast of California, I promptly fell in love with the area; I felt at home in a way I haven’t felt elsewhere. That’s where I did my massage training, which was very much of the deep-tissue variety, which I was good at but it was too much hard work. I like to say that deep-tissue massage is a man’s job — the injury rate is right up there with logging and fishing, and I always had pains in a wrist or elbow.
When I saw the difference Rolfing (deep-tissue bodywork) made in the structure of a friend, and when an old back injury started to become a problem, I sought it out. After 10 sessions, I had no more back problems. Then my path crossed with Hellerwork, an offshoot of Rolfing, and I had the great good fortune to do trade where I helped the Hellerwork office with paperwork in exchange for a 2-week intensive training and a series of 11 sessions from Joseph Heller, the originator of Hellerwork.
The movement lessons that were taught in each session intrigued me. It surprised me that such little changes in my daily movements could make such a difference. The new ways of moving kept my back from going out. Now I teach this to my clients.
For 15 years I labored at deep-tissue massage, learning the Trager technique in the process, or, as I call it, the Wiggle-Waggle. It’s a lovely technique for highly stressed individuals who have no idea how to relax.
I kept wishing for a technique that wasn’t so physically hard, one that gave quick, great results and that didn’t cost an arm and a leg to learn. Enter Bowen therapy.
The first time I heard about Bowen therapy was in the 1980s — I was a deep-tissue massage therapist at the time and I was doing a trade with another massage therapist. She raved about a Bowen session she had just received. I said, “Oh, there are so many great modalities out there,” wistfully, because I really wanted to learn something that would give better results with less hard work and pain than deep-tissue massage, which I refer to as a man’s job because of the physical strength it requires. My trade partner responded, “NO, this is different!”
The second time I heard about it from a highly respected and dear friend, who was very schooled in hands-on healing techniques and tended to be 15 years ahead of everybody else in the natural-health field. She had learned a little of it and her husband no longer needed to see his chiropractor — his body was maintaining the alignment.
So I pondered it for another few years (I’m a late bloomer), read up on it a little, then made the decision to just sign up for 4 days of training, sight unseen, to see what the fuss was all about. The teacher was only 1.5 hours from my home at the time and the cost was doable.
The day after I signed up I received in the mail a medical newsletter that I was subscribing to, with the headline “The Gentlest, Most Effective Pain Therapy Ever!” It was all about Bowen therapy; the MD who wrote the article was compelled enough to get his own Bowen therapy diploma, and his teacher was the teacher I had just signed up with the day before! This article is now my main marketing brochure.
By day 3 of that 4-day training, I knew that I could no longer return to massage. Too many body parts had reset during those days — my bum knee made dozens of adjustments after another student practiced the Pelvic procedure on me, and that was the end of the thick feeling in the knee (until my recent injury, described in my page Microcurrent Therapy).
I came home after that initial training and declared, “I’m done with massage!” (after 17 years of deep-tissue massage practice). I told my clients that massage was no longer available, but they could come and get a Bowen session for $10(!) — I was desperate for people to practice on and the ridiculously low price made it easy for me to go toot my own horn everywhere I went (not easy when you have no experience), like the cashiers at the supermarkets wearing wrist bandages for carpal-tunnel pains.
My very first session out of the gate was my ever-skeptical husband, who had had a painful shoulder for many years; he kept saying he needed surgery. After the session, he came off the table looking even more skeptical. He said, “I don’t think your deep-tissue clients are going to be happy paying for this.” Then he lifted his shoulder and said, with puzzled wonderment, “What did you do to my shoulder?! It doesn’t hurt anymore!” (Later I found out that, typical for a new student, I had done a lot of the stuff wrong. I must have hit something right.)
The pain was gone for half a year; this time it took me 3 sessions to quell it; it became obvious that his shoulder issue was actually coming from the jaw.
In spite of these successes and others, my start with this therapy was a bit rocky. There were many who suffered afterwards because I severely overworked them. (Luckily they came back to square one after a few days.) My deep-tissue massage background was actually a hindrance for me — it took me two years to finally get how so little could do so much.
There were times when I considered quitting, but there were enough successes to keep me going, so I kept taking classes and practicing, practicing, and slowly my work got better and and the results more consistent.
My education has never stopped. I take several classes a year to keep my skills current and honed. Currently I’m undergoing training in Emmett Technique and microcurrent therapy. Please call me at (707) 357-5665 and find out how I may be able to help you.