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The Bowen Technique - Gentle Touch Produces Miracles

by Gerri Shapiro, MS Ed.

My Story

For as long as I can remember, I've suffered from back pain. Although I have experienced some relief using heat, cold, massage, chiropractic and acupuncture, invariably the pain has always returned. Until one day I visited a friend who had similar back problems. She told me she had some body work done called Bowen. Her back and hip pain were gone after just one session!

I was definitely intrigued. I couldn't wait to find out more. When I arrived back home I got on the internet and learned that the Bowen Technique involves a series of very gentle rolling moves on the body using thumbs and fingers. It was developed in Australia in the 1950's by Thomas Bowen, a gifted healer who devised a simple but powerful method for releasing pain.

Hoping to find a Bowen practitioner near me, I emailed close to 40 practitioners and asked if they could refer me to someone. After 39 "no's" I got one "yes!" I arranged to have three Bowen sessions. After the third session, my back pain and sciatica were "history!" I got so excited I decided to train to become a Bowen practitioner.


Tom Bowen was a gifted natural healer from Australia. Late in life he discovered he had an unusual gift that allowed him to intuitively know what was ailing people and how to help them relieve their pain. His healing technique is unique in that it was developed without him having had any previous medical or healthcare training.

He claimed he could feel tiny vibrations in peoples muscles that helped him find the exact location to work on. He spoke of his skill with great humility and frequently stated that his work was simply a gift from God.

Tom had the capacity to quickly assess what was wrong with someone and where they were out of balance. He could look into a room full of people, glance at them for about 20 seconds, and know what their problems were. Although he never advertised, it was estimated that he treated over 13,000 people in the course of one year, and he claimed a success rate of about 88%!

Like Usui (Reiki), Palmer (Chiropractic), Rolf, (Rolfing) and Feldenkrais (Feldenkrais Technique),Tom Bowen had a unique talent. He dedicated his life to turning his gift into a practical application that has proven to be of great benefit to thousands of people all over the world.

A Unique Technique

The Bowen Technique is quite unique. There are several features that set it apart from other modalities

It is so gentle that you hardly notice youre being touched. People usually become very relaxed right away, and often fall asleep during a session.

Rapid pain relief is common. Most pain and injury will respond within two or three sessions.

Long-Lasting Relief
People often experience a deep and long-lasting relief. Two to three sessions spaced one week apart are usually enough to achieve lasting relief, even from long-standing pain or injury.

There is no one who cannot be treated safely with Bowen. It is so gentle, it can be used on babies, pregnant women, the elderly and the disabled. It is not dangerous to those suffering from chronic illness and it is ideal for treating children because it is non-invasive and non-threatening.

Two Minute Pauses
It is a unique feature of the Bowen Technique that there are two minute breaks in which the practitioner actually leaves the room. These pauses are crucial as they allow the body time to absorb the messages presented by the moves.

There is no cracking, no force and no needles. There is little discomfort or pain involved because there is no heavy pressure or hard probing into sensitive muscles or joints.

Less Is More
The practitioner does the minimum needed to bring about a healing response in the body. The more acute the pain, the less they do. The less they do, the more profound the effect on the body.

Great First Aid Tool
When you apply the Bowen Technique right after a fall, injury or accident, the release of tension acts in a preventive way to help correct any imbalance before it can adversely affect the body.

Easy To Learn
The technique is easy to learn. There is only one basic move.

How Does Bowen Work?

The gentle yet powerful Bowen moves send neurological impulses to the brain resulting in immediate responses of muscle relaxation and pain reduction. The moves create energy surges which are concentrated in specific areas of the body using "blockers" or "stoppers." These are released when you stand up.

The Bowen Technique helps the body remember how to heal itself. Electrical impulses sent to the nervous system remind the body to regain normal movement in joints, muscles and tendons. This helps relieve muscle spasms and increase blood and lymph flow. Several of the moves are located along acupuncture meridians or on specific acupuncture points which are known to stimulate and balance the bodys energy.

A Bowen Session

A Bowen treatment lasts about 30-45 minutes. No oils are used. Treatment can be done through clothing or directly on the skin. The practitioner "rolls" over the muscles with her fingers, which causes the muscles to relax. The moves are done in groups. Between sets, the practitioner leaves the room for at least two minutes to allow the body to relax and make its own adjustments.

The moves send out signals which:
* stimulate energy flow;
* facilitate lymphatic drainage of toxins and waste;
* promote good circulation;
* release tension;
* increase mobility;
* encourage the body to relax, realign and heal itself.

Some people feel shifts in their bodies during and after a Bowen session. While many experience immediate pain relief, improvement is just as likely to unfold over the next few days to a week. Two or three treatments are usually enough to achieve long-lasting relief. Even long-term conditions may respond very quickly.

The ideal situation is to give the Bowen Technique a try for 3 sessions, once per week, without having any other kind of bodywork in between.

Surprising and Unexpected Recoveries

People with chronic disabilities such as chronic fatigue syndrome, MS, fibromyalgia, cerebal palsy, muscular dystrophy and arthritis have been known to show a gradual improvement in the condition and quality of life. If someone has not responded to other forms of treatment, it is always worth trying the Bowen Technique because in many cases it has been known to trigger sometimes surprising and unexpected recoveries when nothing else has worked.

Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue - One Woman's Story

Exhaustion had become a stable part of her life, as had the pain. During a visit to a new doctor, a brief mention of the Bowen Technique was made and she was referred to a practitioner. She had no idea what to expect and she was very nervous during her first visit. The therapy was explained in a very reassuring way, even though she didn't really understand the part about "energy flow" and she found the whole thing a little weird. But she had come this far, so she thought she might as well give it a try.

The treatment itself was very relaxing. In fact, she almost fell asleep several times. Since she was accustomed to a life of conventional drug therapy, she tried to rationalize how Bowen could possibly help, especially after nothing else had worked. The week after her first session she remained skeptical, and so it was to her surprise that within a few days she began to feel different. Her pain was still there, but she felt different. Like she could do more. She decided it was probably a coincidence.

Over the next few weeks she began to take regular walks and without even noticing it, she slowly developed less reliance on pain killers. Gradually the time between Bowen treatments grew longer. It is now months since her last treatment and she still doesn't understand the whole process, but what does that matter? When did she ever understand how conventional medicine worked? All she knows is that without the aid of prescription drugs, she is slowly regaining much of the life she had lost for so long.

The main difference between Bowen and other modalities is how fast it works, how gentle it feels and how long the pain relief lasts. Anyone can learn how to do the Bowen Technique: there is only one basic move.

The technique has been successful in treating back pain, sciatica, headaches, migraines, arthritis, fibromyalgia, sports injuries and much more. For me, the miracle lies in the fact that doing so little produces such long-lasting relief.

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Gerri Shapiro, MS Ed, is a leading health educator and Bowen practitioner who has worked with the World Health Organization, Asian Development Bank, USAID and Management Sciences for Health in the areas of alternative and traditional medicine. She is a member of the American Massage Therapy and American Holistic Health Associations. She is the editor of and, two Bowen resource and information sites.

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