Unlike some manipulative therapies Bowen Technique addresses the fascia tissue and muscular structure to bring about postural change and skeletal alignment. Tom Bowen noticed that the body maintained structure through the inter-relationship of certain key structural bands of muscle via what is known as fascia. Fascia consists of tough sheets (sometimes tubes) of connective tissue, providing a covering of variable strength and thickness for every structure of the body. All muscles are surrounded by it and it allows flexibility and movement between 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 Bowen Technique, as it has such a profound effect on posture and, in particular, the way we hold our spine. By changing the way in which the muscles and fascia relate to each other, a change in structure becomes inevitable, forcing the spine to adopt a better position. This approach usually has a longer lasting effect on the alignment of the body than those of manipulative therapies.
Gently Does It
Bowen Technique is not a form of holistic massage therapy A classic Bowen move over a muscle or tendon consists of the therapist’s fingers or thumbs being placed on the body (or on light clothing). The skin is drawn lightly away, and a gentle challenge (push) is made on the muscle or tendon. The challenge is held for a few seconds before a ‘rolling’ move is made over the muscle itself. The action of this type of move elicits a powerful effect on the body on a number of levels, not just the musculo-skeletal system.
Pathways to the Brain
One way of explaining how the technique works is to look at its effect on the nerves within the muscles. Firstly, as a challenge is placed on a muscle and the muscle is gently stretched, the stretch receptors (which lie alongside muscle fibres inside the muscle) begin to send sensory information along the nerve pathways to the spinal cord. There are many thousands of stretch receptors or muscle spindles in each muscle (approximately 7-30 per gram of muscle tissue). Thousands of times a second, they send information to the brain about the status of individual muscle.
During a session, a stretch on the muscle is maintained for several seconds before the move itself is made. During and after the move, further sensory information is sent via nerves to the spinal cord and then to various areas of the brain.
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 backwards and forwards via a complex, self-corrective feedback mechanism. Following this, information is sent back down the spinal cord to individual muscles.
Bowen moves are usually carried out in short sequences of two or four moves, leaving a gap of two minutes between the sequences, when the client is left in a quiet, relaxing, and warm atmosphere. During the session the client is only spoken to briefly, if they have feedback to give the therapist about sensations they are feeling.
Bowen moves are made at key structural points in the body, which the brain use as natural reference points to determine the body’s posture. As a result, certain Bowen moves have a huge effect on the way that the body holds itself.
Waiting for Science
Research has shown that stretches of the facia produce small electrical charges and studies in the USA have identified them as being created by tiny collagen fibres that make up the bulk of fascia. Other neurological research has shown that the brain has areas of ‘body maps’ which contain ‘blue prints’ of homeostasis. It seems possible that the sequences of Bowen moves stimulate the re-instigation of certain protocols that produce rapid repair of body tissue as well as re-alignment. The taking of blood samples before and after a Bowen treatment has shown raised levels of chemical activity, and it is common for all body systems to show marked improvement in function. Variable Heart Rate studies have shown a rapid normalising of fluctuating heart rhythms, and clients commonly report sustained lowering of stress levels and a greater feeling of well-being.
A research study into the effectiveness of the Bowen Technique in treating frozen shoulders, was undertaken by the University of Central Lancashire. It showed that, after only a few sessions, frozen shoulder sufferers showed significantly improved mobility and pain reduction. Other research projects underway, include the treatment of pelvic pain during and after pregnancy, and in post-mastectomy recovery.
Kindly provided by The Bowen Association UK.
(Thanks to John Wilkes for text used from his book “Understanding the Bowen Technique)
Bowen Technique Links:
The Bowen Association UK – information and services for both practitioners and the general public.
Bowen Therapists European Register – an independent, professional association of Bowen Therapy practitioners.
You can search for holistic therapists practising Bowen Technique on our directory of therapists. Why not also use our Health Forum to find out whether Bowen Technique is right for you.