From Head to Toe

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by Carole Jackson, Bottom Line’s Daily Health News

Mike, a reader from Illinois, told me about the Bowen technique, a unique Australian bodywork, that has been used for years to treat a wide variety of conditions, such as asthma and other respiratory problems, low back pain, colic, carpal tunnel syndrome, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia, frozen shoulder, knee pain, sports injuries, headaches (including migraines) and gastrointestinal disorders. It is completely safe
and appropriate for everyone — from newborns to the frail and elderly.
Cynthia Rose, a Bowen practitioner in New York City, told me that Tom Bowen
developed the technique. It is based on the same premise as soft-tissue manipulation
used by sports team trainers. Today, the Bowen technique is practiced in 31

Bowen is a therapeutic soft-tissue manipulation technique that is applied to the
muscles, tendons and ligaments of the body very gently and with minimal pressure.
“It’s not massage, it’s not acupressure and it’s not chiropractic,” says Rose. What
Bowen practitioners actually do is gently roll the skin over specifically prescribed
points on the body. Rose describes it as a three-part combination move — the
practitioner takes some slack skin, applies a little pressure and then moves the skin
over the body structure.

A session may last 15 minutes to one hour. Clients wear loose, comfortable clothing,
although sometimes the maneuvers are performed on bare skin. Typically, a Bowen
session will begin with basic relaxation moves that are performed on the lower and
upper back and on the neck and shoulder areas. It eventually may progress to the
little hollow right below the sternum, which helps relieve asthma and breathing
problems. Rose teaches this maneuver to clients with asthma who use it when they
feel the tightness or constriction in their chests that signals an attack. Performing
Bowen on the temporomandibular joint in the jaw can help migraines, symptoms in
the eyes and, especially, emotional conditions.


What makes Bowen unique versus massage and other hands -on techniques is that,
for a good part of the session, the practitioner is not even in the room, says Rose.
Typically, the practitioner will perform one or two maneuvers or parts of maneuvers,
and then he/she will leave the room for a minimum of two minutes, but sometimes up
to 10 or 15 minutes. Why?

“This gives the body a chance to process the information that was just put in,” Rose
explains. “The resting time really is important. When I have had Bowen performed on
myself, it felt almost like the plucking of a guitar string, a vibration resonating out from
the spot of the initial contact.” Some people feel a warmth coming into the area, some
people feel a subtle shift. Very often, people will say that they suddenly feel a pain in
the hip or some other area of the body. That is a transitional correction during the
body’s response to treatment. The body needs time to integrate these changes in
order to heal, so the resting period is crucial.

Integration continues after the client leaves the practitioner’s office. Rose tells about
one of her clients, an 81-year-old man who came in with his back curved forward like
the letter C and his chest caved in. He complained that he did not have the strength
to hold up his head. He committed to two treatments. When he came back for his
second one, a week after the first, he was standing in an upright position, with his
head sitting perfectly on top of his shoulders. Rose says there had been some
improvement immediately following his first session, but the big changes happened in
the intervening week, as his body integrated the new information and adjusted itself.
As gentle as Bowen is, sometimes after session people will experience aching
muscles, mainly due to a release of toxins from the body tissues. “We always advise
people to drink a lot of water and walk at least 20 to 30 minutes a day in fresh air
following a treatment,” says Rose. In addition, clients are advised not to take hot
baths or use ice packs, or to participate in any other kind of bodywork or energetic
therapies while they are in the midst of Bowenwork or for a few days afterward. This
is because the Bowenwork is very subtle and other inputs can confuse the body’s
systems. Rose says that if she is seeing a client who is in physical therapy, she
schedules the Bowen session after physical therapy or has the client schedule his
physical therapy appointments four or five days later to allow for integration.


No one fully understands how and why Bowen works. Generally, it creates a balance
in the autonomic nervous system that increases relaxation and improves immune
system function. The Bowen moves seem to encourage a sort of ‘conversation’
between the brain and the muscles, Rose explains. Energetically, it works the same
way acupuncture does, she says — through the fascia of the body. The fascia is the
continuous material that covers all of our internal organs, every muscle, every bone.
It is continuous, there is no break in it, and this is why, in acupuncture, when a needle
is placed in the foot, a headache will go away. Bowen works in a similar way.
The fascia ‘transports’ the Bowen moves throughout the body, resulting in structural
corrections that may be far from the site of the actual maneuver.

With Bowen, as with all energetic medicine, Rose says, the practitioner is just
facilitating change. The body already has all the information it needs to correct itself.
We are simply taking away blockages to facilitate communication between body and
mind or making corrections in patterning. Once we make those corrections, the body
is free to return to homeostasis, to balance, and an optimally healthy climate.
There is no standard number of sessions. Depending on the individual’s condition
and receptivity, one session might be enough. Typically, Rose says, she will
prescribe at least two Bowenwork sessions, so she can check progress in between
and monitor the changes. For more information on the Bowen technique, and to find
a practitioner near you, visit the Web site There are
practitioners throughout the US.

Be well,
Carole Jackson
Bottom Line’s Daily Health News

Help from Head to Toe
• Cynthia Rose, certified Bowen practitioner and acupuncturist, New York City.

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