A Description of How Bowen Works by Patrik Rousselot
Tom Bowen’s Concept of Healing:
His main principle and belief was that the body is able to heal itself, he believed that good medicine was to assist the body’s natural ability to repair and regulate itself and that bodily dysfunction were the result of disturbances in the tissues. His underlying assumption was that structure governs function, and that disturbances of structure in whatever tissue within the body will lead to disturbances of functioning in that structure and, in turn, of the function of the body as a whole. His goal was to restore the structural integrity in the body in order to restore its optimum function.
He also believed in the universal life energy called Chi. In traditional Chinese medicine, this energy must flow freely throughout the body in order to assure a state of maximum health. Bowen’s gift was to discover a system of mobilization to rebalance the natural flow of energy.
He found books on acupuncture or shiatsu quite interesting and obviously influential in developing his technique. He would often refer to the effect of certain moves energetically. Some moves will have a stimulating effect while others will be more sedating. Some moves, called stoppers, are used to block, reflect or contain the energy in a certain part of the body.
How It Works
Tom Bowen never really explained how he came up with his remarkable healing modality nor how and why it worked so well. As he never wrote anything about his work, we are left with several theories and what Oswald Rentsch observed during his apprenticeship at Bowen’s clinic.
The Bowen Technique affects the body primarily through two of its main regulatory systems (the nervous system and the energetic system) to bring it back to a state of balance or homeostasis.
Most likely there is an overlap of all the following mechanisms (and others that we haven’t discovered yet) being activated at the same time with each Bowen move.
Autonomic Nervous System Rebalancing. To me this is maybe one of the most profound and important effect that the Bowen technique has on the organism and where the self healing mechanisms of the body are mostly stimulated.
The autonomic nervous system controls over 80% of bodily functions (cardiac, respiratory, peripheral circulation, reproductive, endocrine, gastrointestinal…) and is very susceptible to stress and emotional states. Most people living in our modern “civilized” society are in a constant state of high stress and sympathetic over stimulation.
This could explain why so many people can’t heal, or experience incomplete recovery from sickness or injuries. For healing to happen the organism needs to shift from sympathetic to parasympathetic dominance and for this to happen it needs time and space to literally unwind and digest physical and emotional stress.This is what the Bowen Technique does. This Technique is an antidote to modern living for both the practitioner and the patient!!!
During a Bowen Session it is very common that a patient will quickly fall asleep. They may drop in a deep state of relaxation or drift in a pleasant trance like state. Often loud peristaltic sounds can be heard just after doing a Bowen move. To me when this happens, I know that the organism as a whole is letting go at a very deep level.
Gerda Boyesen, a Norwegian physiotherapist and psychologist, has developed from her own researches and from the work of Wilhem Reich a whole therapeutic system called Biodynamic Psychology, which is concerned with the organic link between the body and the psyche, and addresses a wide range of psychosomatic manifestations. She discovered that emotions trigger a vast sequence of physiological changes at a cellular level. Once the emotional event is past the body has the capacity to revert to its normal state, and according to her theory, the peristaltic processes of the intestines plays a crucial part in this clearing process. She has coined the name psycho-peristalsis to describe this function of the intestines. Psycho-peristalsis can and will literally digest the physiological and emotional residues of a stressful emotional event, but this can only happen when the organism is not holding itself in a state of alert. If a person lives in a constant state of stress, psycho-peristalsis is inhibited and the body can never completely clear the effect of stress. This could explain why a few Bowen sessions frequently jump start the recovery, where healing from trauma, sickness or surgery has plateaued or stalled.
Another interesting benefit of this autonomic nervous system rebalancing is that clients report a change in their response to stressful situations where they don’t feel as pulled into other people’s drama, they feel more detached in a sense that they have clearer boundaries. A lot of people have had major psychological or emotional breakthrough following Bowen sessions and I often use it with this intent.
Stretch Reflex: Most moves are done either at the origin, insertion, or belly of muscles, where the Golgi and Spindle receptors are located, informing the nervous system on the state of tension, length or stretch in the musculo-tendinous tissue. These receptors are being stimulated during the “challenge” and the “rolling” part of the move. In case of a pain-muscle spasm loop, the Bowen Technique can break this vicious loop by changing the stimulus received by the nervous system.
Joint Proprioreceptors: All moves done around a joint are directly affecting the joint capsule and ligaments, which are richly enervated with proprioreceptors. Here again stimulus will be received by the central nervous system, inviting normalization of the joint function without the need for forceful manipulation.
Neuro-lymphatic Points and Lymphatic Circulation: The Bowen Technique stimulates lymphatic circulation and drainage, although without working directly on the lymphatics (except on the neck) using lymphatic type massage. Here again there is an overlap between the Bowen moves and the location of neuro-lymphatic reflex points which regulate the lymphatic system. This explains detoxifying reactions and improved circulation following sessions. These neuro-lymphatic reflex points have also shown a stimulating and strengthening effect on specific muscles.
Segmental Viscerosomatic / Somatovisceral Spinal Reflexes: Dysfunction of the internal organs will trigger changes in the muscles, skin and blood vessels connected to the affected organ. In a lot of the basic procedures, moves are done along the spine over the erector muscles and engage these reflexes to produce referred reactions to the internal organs. Tom Bowen claimed that by doing these basic procedures, about 80% of patients complaints would be addressed. Often patient will mention that conditions, other than the one they originally consulted for, were addressed even though the practitioner didn’t know about them (digestion, elimination, circulation, better sleep…).
Trigger Points: Several Bowen moves overlap with recognized trigger points location. By clearing these trigger points, referred pain will be alleviated, joint mobility and muscle coordination improved.
Fascia: Each Bowen moves is done at the level of the superficial fascia and will disturb and free the relation between the fascia and the nerve, muscle or tendon being mobilized. The main role of the fascia is to connect; it’s why it is also called connective tissue. It connects everything in the body: muscles, bones, internal organs and central nervous system. It plays a major role in muscle coordination, flexibility, postural alignment and overall structural and functional integrity, as shown by the work of Ida Rolf and many osteopaths form William Sutherland to Dr.Uppledger. Fascia also holds memories of trauma (physical as well as emotional) by literally shortening, contracting, torquing and dehydrating. Following a Bowen session it is not uncommon for patients to feel emotions related to old trauma resurface as adhesions loosen up, scar tissue soften, posture, flexibility and mobility improve without harsh mobilization, deep probing or stretching of the fascia.
Acupuncture points and Meridians: According to Oriental medicine the source of disease and pain is congestion, the result of blocked energy flow. The Bowen Technique stimulates circulation of energy (Chi or Life Force) and clears energetic blocks. Most moves overlap acupuncture points and some actually cross over 2 or 3 acupuncture meridians at once. In Bowen there is no need to hold or stimulate the points, just one move across the point is all it takes! Acupuncturists who took my seminars could correlate the indications of Bowen moves with similar indication for the use of the corresponding acupuncture points. They also commented on the speed to which the acupuncture pulses would respond to moves or procedures showing the rapid energetic response of the body to the Bowen move or procedure. Most of the moves from the basic rebalancing procedures are on the bladder meridian, which has many points affecting the internal organs. The overlap of these 2 systems could explain the very strong energetic component of the Bowen Technique and its balancing effect on the internal organs.
Chakra System and Auric Field Balancing and Clearing: The Bowen Technique affects very strongly the Chakra system and Auric field. From a clairvoyant point of view, a patient suffering from physical pain or psycho-emotional stress will show imbalances in the chakra system, and areas of dense, gray-dark, low frequency energy in the auric field. After receiving a few Bowen moves, the energy in the auric field will be instantly stirred up and gradually the areas of dense gray energy will clear and shift to white light or gold high vibration energy. The patient’s energetic field will become radiant. If the cause of the blocked energy was from an emotional origin, as the energy in the auric field get stirred up, emotions can and will come up.
What is interesting is that this clearing happens while the patient is left alone to rest in between sets of moves, while the practitioner is not working on the body. It is clear that the Bowen moves are triggering this self clearing mechanism within the body and that it is not the practitioner who is doing it In Bowen there is no intentional channeling or redirecting of the energy and there is no specific work that is done to rebalance individual chakra like in some other energetic techniques. Following is what Delphine Hano, a medical intuitive and long time practitioner of energetic healing who also practices Bowen, has to say about the Bowen Technique: “What I find amazing about Bowen is that I do not have to manipulate at all the energy of the patient. Once the Bowen moves are done, the patient inner wisdom resets the system to perfect health, I can just sit back and watch the auric field rebalancing itself. This is a very humbling and magical experience. Then I can tell the patient what I saw.”
Patrik Rousselot, PT, CBT was licensed in France in 1980 as a Physical Therapist. He became a Certified Bowen Practitioner in 1992 and a registered instructor for The Bowen Therapy Academy of Australia in 1994. He was part of the first group of Senior instructors authorized by the Academy to teach Tom Bowen’s original technique in the US. In 1996 he introduced the technique in Quebec and in 1997 in France. He was a member of the North American teacher’s committee, and regularly attended seminars and assisted the Bowen Academy founders, Ossie and Elaine Rentsch.
Although he has an extensive background with various physical therapy and hands on modalities, the Bowen Technique has radically influenced his therapeutic approach and is a major therapeutic tool that he uses in his private practice in the East Bay of the San Francisco Bay Area, CA. http://www.bowentherapytechnique.com