The Bowen Technique

The Bowen Technique is a simple and powerful therapy that helps relieve all kinds of pain, so gentle that it can be used on anyone, from newborn infants to the elderly.

The Bowen Technique is a unique soft-tissue body work developed in Australia by Thomas Bowen (1916 – 1982). The work is gentle, safe, and cannot injure anyone if applied correctly.


There have been many theories on how Bowen therapy works, and in the past these have relied heavily on anecdotal evidence. However, with recent research a better understanding has been reached. There have been recent studies on postoperative pain relief and frozen shoulder and an ongoing study on glaucoma, among others.

The fascia is connective tissue that surrounds our muscles, blood vessels, and nerves. The different types of fascia have been studied, and it has been found that the interstitial fascia (just under the skin) is richly supplied by nerves. Very light pressure is required to affect the muscles, moving them gently and sending a message to the brain to promote a deep relaxation and parasympathetic response.

Basically the Bowen ‘move’ sends information via the sensory nerves to the brain about the specific structure being addressed. The brain processes the information and makes adjustments during the breaks between sets of moves. The information is sent from the body structures to the brain via an electrical charge called an ‘action potential’. An action potential is an all-or-nothing event, which means that its energy is derived from the nerve itself, and not from the stimulus. The strength of the stimulus does not change or alter the speed of impulse conduction along the nerve.

It can be compared with firing a bullet from a gun – the bullet won’t go faster if the trigger is pulled harder. Applying this principle to the Bowen Technique makes it clear that faster, harder pressure while performing Bowen moves does not stimulate a faster healing response in the body. If anything, too much pressure will send the body into overstimulation mode, and the response to that is not a healing one but a fight-or-flight reaction. This is the exact opposite of what’s intended, as we are trying to take the body out of sympathetic stimulation into parasympathetic stimulation to restore and sustain normal function. Light, slow work, with the important pauses in between, stimulates the body’s innate self-healing impulses. There is no imposing our agenda on the body with excessive pressure! The work is minimalist, in that as little as possible is done to promote maximum benefit.

One of the most noticeable effects of a Bowen session is the feeling of well-being that it induces. This is believed to be due to the powerful effect that the technique has on the autonomic (self-regulating) nervous system. Stress is a constant factor in our lives, and can lead to hyperactivity in the nervous system over time. This creates havoc with our immune systems, results in poor sleep and digestion issues, and can affect many aspects of our health.

Sympathetic vs Parasympathetic nervous system

The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems work in opposition – where one system stimulates an organ, the other inhibits it. The sympathetic system is the fight-or-flight system. Its nerves direct blood to the muscles, decrease blood supply to the gut, increase the heart rate and blood pressure, and activate mechanisms to provide immediate energy to face a stressful state. The parasympathetic system is the ‘rest and digest’ system. It increases the blood supply to the gut, reduces blood pressure and heart and respiratory rates, and conserves energy through relaxation and rest.

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