How to Live a Pain-Free Existence of Bliss
What is Bowen Therapy?
Part 3 of 3
In my last two posts, I introduced you to Bowen Therapy: briefly covered its history, what to expect, and a simple explanation of how it works. Today, I do feel I owe you an apology. You see, I started my story at the end, rather than the beginning (or even the middle, for that matter). I suppose I didn’t want to bore you with the details, but I feel that this story is important to highlight how following your passion can lead you to recognizing your purpose in life. My hope is that this story will ignite you to follow your passion and live a life of bliss, too.
Is Bowen Therapy the end-all-be-all of bodywork? Probably not. Certainly, it is one of the most effective known methods to relieve physical pain, but given the endless possibilities of healing yet to be discovered, these modalities will inevitably evolve over the years. As I walk this path of healing, continuing to make new and exciting discoveries for myself, I want to share them with you in this blog to help you in your mind-body, and spiritual path in the hopes that you, too, will be able to help someone you love when they are in need.
Thus begins the unlikely story of how I became a Bowen Therapist. Again, I hope that it inspires you to follow your passion, find your purpose, and live a life of full happiness and, well, purpose. This post is for the people at their desktop on a Monday morning who don’t see a way out; The dreamer who knows that the path they are on right now pays the bills, but drains the spirit; For the sensitive artist with a host of conditions that no Bowen Therapist, Chiropractor, Physiotherapist, Doctor, or Naturopath has ever been able to fully “cure” and you know it’s because you’re on the wrong path and it’s killing you. Literally.
As long as I can remember, I’ve always been a bit of a wild card, a rebel, a challenger, so to speak. I was also an artist, an entertainer, and a dreamer. I pushed the boundary and dreamed bigger than made my parents comfortable, but I took mischievous pleasure in it. My mother was proud of my artistic and bold personality but preferred to encouraged me in my academics, since a life of hard knocks had taught her that the world is cruel place to dreamers. My schedule from Monday through Friday consisted of a strict diet of mathematics, violin lessons, school projects, healthy foods, and sports activities.
The weekends, however, were quite a different creature altogether. This is where my right brain thrived. Weekends, yes weekends! Weekends were consistently blessed with a fairy godmother some call “Grandma”. The schedule (or lack thereof, more accurately) was a mad and wonderful flurry of painting and crafts, sewing and knitting, loud music on the radio, baking marathons, trips to the library, unsupervised biking adventures with childhood friends, singing, storytelling, writing, dancing, playing, horseback riding and jumping lessons, and far, far too much sugar. Grandma encouraged our spirits to shine, to appreciate our differences and unique gifts. She made the world seem alive with her creativity and endless possibilities.
Years later, when the magic of childhood fantasy had started to fade and my weekend visits became increasingly less frequent, she asked me a question that I had never before considered. She said, “Jessica, do you know why I took you horseback riding every Saturday?” I was befuddled because, in fact, I had no idea. I know she loved spending time with me and my sister and we loved her dearly for it, but for the life of me, I could not answer her question. She said, “I religiously paid for your lessons so you and your sister would see and believe that you can do anything you put your heart to.” After she said that my face went flush with heat, throat dried up and I choked out a weak, “thank you, Grandma”. She was on her death bed and it was the last time I ever saw her.
You’d think I would have taken a beloved grandmother’s last words to heart, wouldn’t you? I suppose I was a slower learner back then. The next five years after graduating university were characterized by half-attempts to follow my passion of dancing interspersed by quitting and picking up a corporate job when the going got tough. Every time I started following the path I would let the first disappointment knock me off my feet and I’d listen to the words of practicality and end up working in an office again. Towards the end of those five years I had almost lost all hope of ever living an exciting life. To top it all off, my body wasn’t cooperating, either! It seemed to pull me back at every direction with severe chronic fatigue, mild depression, and really just overall frustrated exasperation.
It was during those first few years out of school that I gained a lot of knowledge, learning from a myriad of holistic healers. I ran the gamut of techniques and modalities; some useless, some I still maintain as priceless wisdoms. The Bowen helped with my stiff neck and angry shoulders from sitting in front of a computer doing a job I hated, my nutrigenomics supplement made it possible to jump out of bed in the morning without extreme fatigue, and PSYCH-K afforded me an overall sense of hope and well-being. Even with all this support, however, I simply could not do it anymore and I quit my job to become a professional ballroom dancer - finally! With the support of close family to whom I am eternally grateful, I was able to finally follow what I thought I was meant to do on this planet. It was and still is my passion, after all! In fact, very little makes me much happier than to dance. But for some reason, it wasn’t working out. Again, I was frustrated! Why, God, if this is my passion, is it not working out?!?
The thing is, as I have recently internalized, passion and purpose are not one and the same. If I had followed my passion a little sooner, I may have realized that fact earlier on but they say hindsight is 20:20. I just wish I had been wearing bifocals, if that were the case. Your purpose is the reason you were put onto this planet and when you are in the flow of it, extreme bliss, success and clarity ensue. This purpose it can be mutually exclusive to one of more your passions. Your passions may be many, your purpose is typically one. It is one of the most relieving - physically, physiologically, and psychologically - feelings in the entire world. If you’ve felt it before, you know what I mean. It’s that feeling you get when you help someone and you somehow fill richer for it, even if you never get anything from them.
When the dancing never seemed to pan out, it was if all the forces in the Universe were figuratively giving me a kick in the butt to grow up and use what I had learned to help others in their path of healing. It was if God were saying, “Ok, you’ve graduated - now go and find a job. This is your purpose, get started. Enough playing around!” I know that if I hadn’t listened, I’d be very sick right now. Maybe this rings true with you, too, and I want you to know that there is no amount of holistic healing, naturopathy, or allopathic medicine that can replace a dose of bliss. Maybe, just maybe, this is exactly what the doctor ordered!
So, that is how I got into healing and every day I have to pinch myself to see if it’s actually real, that it’s possible to have this much happiness that constantly increases, with every passing day. I want this for you, too, dear friend. I will continue to write about different healing modalities I have come across, make holistic, emotional, even spiritual healing recommendations to the best of my knowledge and intuition, but I will also slip in stories and snippets of inspiration. Mostly, I hope that you decide to take back your life and really, truly, live it to your fullest potential.
Now, if you’ve read this far, you definitely deserve the article you were promised last week about what to expect after your first Bowen treatment. You might not want to hear this, but you, as the client, have far more responsibility in this regard. As you know, Bowen works by putting you into a parasympathetic (relaxed) state in order to induce your body’s natural healing mechanisms. As you’ve probably guessed, the most important post-care indication for Bowen is that you really, truly RELAX and continue to RELAX. Trust me on this one! A Bikram hot yoga class after a Bowen treatment will make you feel like you’ve been hit by a bus, that proceeded to drive over you, reversed, parked for a bit, and then spun its wheels before going over you like a human speed bump.
So, where does your responsibility begin, you may ask? The answer is, the moment you get off the therapist’s bed until the moment you come back to it. You have your body 24/7. I only have it for an hour, if that. Firstly, it is important to note, especially in a hippy-happy city like Vancouver that is intrigued with the next and newest best therapy, to not overdo it with other modalities. Although at times enhancing (especially if the modality is precise, gentle, and holistic in nature) oftentimes other bodywork may interfere with Bowen’s effectiveness. It is best to take a few weeks off other treatments during the first 5 sessions you’re taking Bowen to truly evaluate its performance. Although Bowen is quicker than most modalities, we are still working at the pace at which your body can repair. Some conditions that have taken a long time to develop may require repetition to reinforce.
As a bit of a forewarning, Bowen therapy may open up areas of old trauma that you thought had healed. Although the body may have been doing a good job of guarding the formerly injured area, it may not have actually healed it to its fullest potential. To guard against aggravation and flare-ups, your therapist will do a few simple moves in the first session as a general tonic to see how your body responds to Bowen therapy. If all goes well, they will continue into more detailed procedures in the weeks that follow. If the therapist does too much in the first session, the client’s system may be overwhelmed and their response will shut down, making it pretty useless. If this happens, wait a couple days for the energy to calm down. If the inflammation takes longer than a couple of days to die down, then you may return immediately to the therapist to treat that specific spot, but it’s generally best to wait.
In fact, you may even be told by your Bowen Therapist not to come for a few weeks, to allow the body to integrate the new changes in your muscle and tendon’s strength and tone. Since Bowen stimulates healing, it’s important to take that momentum in a positive direction to its full potential. Why put the brakes on your healing with an interfering massage or CrossFit workout that will increase your inflammation and thereby extend or even reverse the healing process? What a lot of people don’t really understand is that Bowen affects the whole body - fascial, musculoskeletal, nervous, endocrine, digestive, reproductive, and eliminatory systems, as well as the emotional body - and it is important to assess the whole as part of the treatment plan. It’s best to wait until the effect of the Bowen treatment plateaus before progressing to the next level.
Exercise and any strong physical exertion are factors that may reduce the effectiveness of the Bowen therapy sessions. Why is this? If you can imagine your musculoskeletal system has been programmed by the nervous system with a certain muscle memory, a premature exertion to areas of concern can allow this old muscle memory to take over the body’s response to Bowen therapy before the new program can take over and reform the muscles and tendons.
If you’re a gym addict (like I can be at times) and think this is absurd (like I did at first), you might want to meditate on this for a moment. I’ve found that the body actually loses weight during the week following a Bowen treatment. Muscles that weren’t working as well before will be strengthening and toning on their own to adjust to the new form of your body. So, you might feel and look like you’ve been to the gym, anyways. The best form of activity after a Bowen treatment is walking, as it allows the body to gently and symmetrically mobilize, stretch, and strengthen itself into alignment. Once the Bowen improves levels of pain, inflammation, and overall form and function of the body, it is time to start to recuperate and rehabilitate muscle tone, joint mobility and exert beyond the guarded limits of activity held prior to treatment. You will be amazed at the newly achieved level of flexibility and strength in your new muscles. It is well worth the wait.
If you’re at the opposite end of the activity spectrum, it’s important to stand up and move if you have been sitting or driving for long periods so as to avoid a return of old muscle patterns. This is especially important if you have lower back problems. Your therapist may also provide you with specific exercises for the joint mobilization to help the body integrate the new pattern of holding itself in an aligned manner, as well as to allow circulation in the joints and ligaments. To reiterate, try to avoid physiotherapy or overexertion at the gym too soon. You’ll also want to avoid any heat or cold applications since they are a therapeutic influence affecting the nervous system that might also interfere with the Bowen therapy.
Another important factor to reducing inflammation and recovery time is increasing your intake of water. Believe it or not, I don’t let my clients leave the table until they have consumed at least 8 ounces. To be honest, though, drinking more water will be a natural craving, as the body will be eliminating the by-products of inflammation and congestion after the treatment. It’s important to keep the body flushing itself efficiently. Headaches are also common afterwards, as the knots in your body relax and release the toxins they were formerly hosting, as well as a desire to increase your protein intake as your muscles reform to their new alignment.
Reactions to treatment are not uncommon and include tiredness, thirst, an increase in original symptoms, stiffness, headaches, flu-like symptoms, increased elimination, and increased dream activity. It’s important to not get scared when this happens. Your body is just cleaning house and it is important to continue treatment to finish vacuuming, so to speak. The moves are so subtle that if a strong reaction is experienced it demonstrates how profound the work can be and further treatments are essential if the full effect is going to be felt.
It’s best to book your first 5 Bowen sessions a week apart, although sooner is acceptable for more acute conditions, and then periodically thereafter. Most people will have noticeably positive results within the first three to five sessions, even relieving chronic pain conditions in that time. Although Bowen is a short protocol it is important for overall health and function to benefit from regular, periodic follow-ups - ideally 1 per month to maintain optimal health.
I have gone over the laundry list of what YOU can do to reduce inflammation in your muscles on a structural level but to be honest I have left out the most important thing you probably don’t know about yet, and that’s how to reduce inflammation on a cellular level with a unique nutrigenomics supplement. That is, nutrition for your DNA. Well, that will take a whole blog post on it’s own, so I’ve saved it for you for next time.
So, my friends, there you have it! A bit of my background of where I’ve been and why I want to help you be the happiest you can be and I hope to talk with you again soon. My next blog will be out Monday, March 28th at 6:00 am. Until then, much love and happiness! On that note, I will leave you with a laugh or two to wake up this morning:
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