What is Bowen Therapy and Can it Help Me?!
Part 2 of 3
Last week we began to introduce the relatively unknown modality of Bowen Therapy and this week we’re going over what to expect and how Bowen compares to other modalities of naturopathic healing.
"Musicians are healers and Healers are musicians; the human body their instruments; the tendons, their strings; the spectrum of human emotion, the beautiful reverberation of the music made." Jessica McGuire
I BOOKED MY FIRST TREATMENT!
WHAT TO EXPECT
In a Bowen Therapy session, the patient lies on a bed, wearing loosely fit clothing, and relaxes, while the therapist applies a specifically located series of gentle movements along the body. The pressure of the moves vary according to the strength and tone of the structure and the client’s condition.
A Bowen move may be compared to the picking of a stringed instrument, such a violin or guitar, where the human body is the instrument and the therapist is the musician who plays the right Bowen ‘notes’ onto it. These ‘notes’, or moves, vibrate through the nervous system and send a clear signal to the area of the body being worked, causing the muscle, tendon, or nerve to release tension. This affects not only the muscles, joints, and skeletal alignment, but also functional systems: digestion, respiratory, lymphatic and vascular. The result is a balancing not only on the structural level and functional systems, but also at the level of the individual’s overall well-being.
Bowen is systematic, targeting basic symptoms in the first few treatments, then honing in on more acute, specific issues in later sessions. Often the more acute the injury, the fewer moves may be performed at that time. Doing too many moves may overload and aggravate the patient’s system, which is also congruent with Mother Nature's “less is more” principle.
Treatments usually last one hour, and often no more than three to five sessions are required to treat most conditions. Follow-up treatments are generally scheduled a week apart for the first 3-5 weeks, where possible longer intervals are applied to allow time for healing. Though Bowen Therapy is often a short treatment protocol of very few sessions, it is important for overall health and function to tune-up regularly throughout the year.
WHY DID YOU LEAVE THE ROOM?
THE PURPOSE OF BOWEN PAUSES
If you think of how long a note can carry after a violin or guitar string has been played, similarly the pause after a Bowen move is the time needed to fully carry the note through to the structure being worked. The reason for this is there are approximately 600,000 signals that travel from the brain to the body every second these, in turn, come back to the brain with information which is then interpreted and sent back out. Whenever we feel, hear, see, or even think something, the brain brings in some past experience in order to categorise the sensation and create an appropriate response.
In the case of the Bowen move, the brain is unable to do this instantly and needs more information to form a response. As such, just when the brain is asking for more information, the therapist has left the room, and therefore the brain has to send specific signals to the area in order to gauge a response. If the client is lying down, the immediate response is nearly always rapid and deep relaxation. The client will also often report that they feel a tingling sensation or warmth in the area just worked. “It felt like your hands were still on me,” is a common comment. We believe this demonstrates that because the move is out of the ordinary, the brain is looking for information about what happened.
I ALREADY HAVE A MASSEUSE, ACUPUCTURIST, CHIROPRACTOR, AND PHYSIOTHERAPIST.
HOW IS BOWEN ANY DIFFERENT?
Similar to most naturopathic modalities, Bowen stimulates the body to heal by treating it holistically, helping the whole person rather than delving into a specific disease. Thus the benefit of its treatment is long lasting with a simple, yet large and integrative scope of use.
If you are familiar with these bodywork modalities, here are some ways Bowen Therapy compares and/or differs:
Like massage, Bowen involves relaxation and physical touch. However, the treatment is interspersed and the ‘hands-on’ input from the therapist is precise and minimal in comparison. The massage therapist will stay in the room with the patient during the entire treatment session, whereas the Bowen Therapist must leave the room in order to give the autonomic nervous system an opportunity to integrate the messages sent to specific structures on which the body is being worked.
ACUPRESSURE AND ACUPUNCTURE
Like acupressure or acupuncture, some of the areas of focus of Bowen Therapy coincide with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) acupuncture points and meridians. The major difference one may notice is that Bowen Therapy decongests blockages or stagnation in energy flow much more efficiently and completely. Often the patient will feel a warmth or tingling through the body as energy blockages are released.
CHIROPRACTIC AND OSTEOPATHY
Similar to chiropractic and osteopathy, the body’s skeletal structure is profoundly affected by Bowen Therapy. Most of the Bowen Therapy moves are performed on areas of proprioreceptors, which are sensory neurons that the body uses for proper movement, balance, and sensation. Through the stimulation of these specific areas, the body remembers to regain normal movement and articulation in joints, muscles, and tendons. Because this places the body in a parasympathetic relaxing state, the body no longer has to guard against perceived stress and inflammation, allowing for realignment and changes to take place in the musculoskeletal and visceral systems. The main difference is that the joints will correct their alignment without forceful manipulation and long-term treatment plans.
Similar to physiotherapy, Bowen retrains the body’s neuro-muscular system effectively. Unlike physiotherapy, it encourages old patterns (neurological feedback loops) of inflammation and dysfunction to be removed first. In fact, the best preface to physiotherapy after injury or surgery would be Bowen Therapy to reduce the inflammatory responses before reeducating muscle groups. It is best to wait at least a week for the body to integrate the changes in its musculoskeletal structure before retraining and toning the muscles, as doing so too early might interrupt the healing momentum and the body may regress into old patterns of holding itself.
EMOTIONAL RELEASE AND SOMATIC BODYWORK
Not only does Bowen affect multiple systems in the body such as the musculoskeletal, nervous system, endocrine system, digestive, reproductive, and eliminatory systems, it also strongly affects the emotional state of the patient. Bowen has a profound positive effect on emotional causes and blockages within a person, reminding the body not to hold back or remain stuck in patterns of emotional responses. Of course, this only happens when the client is ready and willing, in a gentle and natural manner.
Other bodywork therapies recently performed before and especially after may interfere with its effectiveness and it’s logical for the client to use Bowen Therapy alone for a time to gauge how well it helps their problems and how they respond to it overall.
WOW! IS IT MAGIC?!
Bowen Therapy has often been distinguished from other forms of bodywork treatments as being something different, unique and somehow special - It isn’t magical (well, maybe a little); it is simply an incredibly efficient form of bodywork that positively stimulates the body to heal quicker than most. Clients should expect a very clear positive response after their first treatment.
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Stay tuned for our blog next Monday, March 21st at 6:00am where I will discuss how to maintain and integrate your Bowen Treatment at home for the longest lasting effects.