Myth #5 - Will the real Bowen technique please stand up?
In honour of Tom Bowen’s 100th birthday on 18 April, today’s blog takes a look at Tom Bowen’s legacy.
Bowen therapy is named after Tom Bowen, the man who ‘created’ the technique. While Mr Bowen never taught anyone what he did, he did allow a handful of men to watch him in his clinic for a number of years as he treated hundreds of clients. Mr Bowen seems to have taken aspects from a number of different modalities but overall he was self taught in his healing technique now known worldwide as Bowen.
All of the men who shadowed Mr Bowen in his clinic took away their own interpretation of his work. They translated what they saw into their own language. That’s what we do, as humans. Ask six people to describe the same scene and you’ll get six different answers. Is one description more right than another? One perspective more valid? My answer would be no. We all interpret our own reality.
It’s not surprising that it’s no different with Bowen. Each of those men have their own interpretation of Tom Bowen’s technique. We need to start working with that and seeing it as a positive for this amazing healing modality.
The Bowen world is divided. There are strong factions within the community. This school believes that; and that one believes this. One school believes they are the real Bowen technique while another school believes they are more in tune with how Bowen worked. And here’s another man claiming his technique is more true to Bowen and on it goes. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? For me, it’s more: Who cares? Certainly our clients don’t care. They just want to feel better. And that’s what we should be focusing on. How to support and grow this technique for the health and benefit of our clients.
Politics are generally divisive and that’s no good for anyone. Especially the client. If a practitioner is worried that they are doing Bowen wrong or aren’t being true to their original teacher or teachings then ultimately it’s the client who suffers. Let’s agree to disagree on who thinks they are the only ones teaching the real Bowen therapy and get on with helping humanity, shall we?
I am Bowtech trained which is, admittedly, quite prescriptive in its teachings. The beauty of this is that anyone can be taught the basics of this amazing technique. The simplest of moves can result in the most profound results and this can be achieved by a body worker as easily as a car mechanic, accountant or astronaut. Bowtech teaching brought Bowen to the world in an easily teachable and repeatable form. Bowen therapy would unlikely be a known technique throughout the world today if not for Bowtech teachers teaching Ossie Rentsch’s interpretation of Tom Bowen’s work.
Those who teach Bowen therapy offer their own interpretations of how Tom worked. They argue that Bowtech is far from how the man worked. And I believe that is most likely true. But how do you teach a technique that was created by a man who didn’t know how to explain what he did? Tom Bowen wasn’t a teacher. He was a healer. The world is just lucky that Mr Bowen allowed those few men to watch him so they could further his technique and results. It has been said that Tom was very gifted at reading bodies. He worked intuitively to shift unhelpful patterns in clients. He worked quickly and efficiently. It would also appear he worked without ego. Just saying.
The thing is, though, who cares whose interpretation of Bowen therapy is the ‘right’ one? All the infighting takes away from the focus of sharing Bowen with the world.
I don’t think we are honouring the man by denigrating those teachers of Bowtech. While I am proud to be Bowtech trained, I am also grateful to other names in the field who bring their own interpretation to the game. I love the different perspectives they bring to the Bowen table. They encourage thinking outside the prescriptive teachings of Bowtech. They share their interpretations and like anything - it’s up to us, as practitioners, to take on what resonates, question what confronts us and look to provide each and every client with the best Bowen therapy for their condition and situation.
I don’t think Tom Bowen had prescriptive sets of moves he used. I think he assessed the body and applied the least amount of moves needed to get the best job done. One of the things everyone in the Bowen community agrees on is the ability of Bowen to heal profoundly and wholistically. This is what we need to keep as our focus - making a consolidated effort to work together to continue sharing Tom Bowen’s legacy with the world. We believe in what we do because we see results time after time. We see the quality of life in those we treat increase as their pain and dysfunction decrease. What a gift! Thank you, Tom Bowen. And Happy Birthday.
More about me and what I offer at www.balancingacttherapies.com Appointments available on the Coffs Coast. Give me a ring on 0426 241 435. Thanks for listening. I’m off now to bake Mr Bowen a cake…
Myth #4 - Rule of three (sessions)
Recently I saw a post on Facebook from a woman asking for recommendations for doctors in her area. She said she was looking for a doctor who would listen to her. The woman had multiple issues, both chronic and acute. She had limited mobility and what sounded like autoimmune issues, as well. When I read the post, there were already about 40 comments. When I see posts like this, or from people looking for relief from symptoms conventional medicine hasn’t, or isn’t, helping, I want to chime in about Bowen therapy. But I never do. What I do though sometimes is read down through the comments because I am interested in hearing about what people are recommending.
Almost all the comments in this post feed were helpful. The woman who posted the question was active in participation, wanting to find out more about why someone liked a particular doctor, or where they were located etc. Then came a comment recommending a particular doctor because they listened to what you presented with and they were a conventional doctor but also a naturopath and homeopath. The response? “I don’t believe in naturopathy or homeopathy.”
I was dumbfounded. This woman is suffering from multi-system issues, wants a GP who will listen to her, is being let down by conventional medicine and she doesn’t believe in complementary therapies? She doesn’t believe in an alternative which will assess her wholistically?
She wants to be fixed. And she wants someone else to fix her.
So, what does this have to do with the Rule of Three (sessions)? Well, often people are after a quick fix. If you’ve read my blog on Myth #2 - Bowen will fix anything! - you will know that often there is no quick fix. And you will also know that Bowen doesn’t ‘fix’ anything. Bowen helps the body to ‘fix’ itself.
Bowen can take a longer time [then, for example, other healing modalities] to integrate in your body because it is working with the body at a pace it can handle. It helps unblock systems gently and effectively. If a symptom has taken years to present itself into the issue you take to a Bowen session, is it a bit unfair to expect the body to completely rid itself of the issue after one treatment? I’m not saying it can’t be done. It’s just putting a lot of pressure on your body and on a technique which is designed to unravel patterns down to the issue. And get rid of them permanently. Isn’t that worth taking the time to do?
Bowen helps the body help itself. We are whole beings. This is the beauty of Bowen. It’s going to help you on all levels - physical, mental and emotional - because the moves go where they need to go. Bowen can be targeted to an area or issue, but it doesn’t mean that’s the only place you will feel a benefit.
Think of aspirin. You’ve got pain in your body and you take over the counter pain relief for it. You don’t have to tell the aspirin where to go. Its job is to find the pain receptor and dull it. It breaks the pain connection for you so you feel better. Your body allows the aspirin, and its effects, to go to the area it is most needed. It’s the same with the Bowen move.
Many clients ask how many sessions they will need to come for. We are taught that a good answer is three. I understand this answer but I don’t like the answer. What I don’t like is putting a limit on it. What I really want to tell people is - it will take as long as it takes. Have patience. Have trust. Take part in your own healing journey and I am here to help.
I find it frustrating, the clients who come only once. Mostly because I never get to find out how they went but also because I feel like they haven’t given Bowen a chance. This is where the three session recommendation comes in. To me, if by three sessions you are not seeing a benefit, then maybe you need to look at another option. Three sessions will give you an idea of what the technique can offer. It’s not for everyone. No modality is. Three sessions isn’t asking a lot, though. You have been living with your symptoms and issues. Ultimately, how you go about healing is up to you. We all need help at times with the healing journey. I believe Bowen therapy is some of the best help you can ask for.
Trust the technique. Trust your body. Both are infinitely wise in their ability to heal.
Help me help you. Book your appointment today on 0426241435. More about who I am and what I offer at www.balancingacttherapies.com
Myth #3 - So, what's the deal with the two minute waits?
More so than any other ‘myth’ surrounding Tom Bowen and Bowen therapy, I think the topic of the two minute wait causes more discussion, among practitioners and clients alike, than any other aspect of the man and the technique credited to him.
Just today on one of the closed Bowen groups on Facebook there was yet another post on the waits - Are they necessary? Do you observe them? Why does one school teach mandatory two minute waits in between nearly every move? The debate can run hot between practitioners and those teaching Bowen content.
Then there is the client’s perception of the two minute wait - Why do you leave the room? What do you do when you leave the room? And my personal favourite - Tom was a smoker and he needed cigarette breaks.
It all remains, in a way, conjecture because the man isn’t around to ask. And the men who were in his clinic, watching him and learning his methods? Even they aren’t on the same page about it. What most practitioners do agree on, though, is that the waits between moves allow the body to process the inputs it has received.
Here’s my take on the waits. They are necessary but not prescriptive.
First of all, I am a big proponent of putting in waits between sets of moves. This isn’t because it gives me a chance to check email, or cook lunch, or nip outside for a fag drag. Nope. I’m a fan of waits because it’s what is best for the body.
Let me explain. Who out there has a computer? And who out there can get impatient with said computer? Who gets frustrated when you give the computer an input and that little ‘I’m thinking’ dial comes up indicating that it would be best to WAIT before trying to input another command? What happens when you don’t listen to the little ‘I’m thinking’ dial? The screen locks or freezes and the whole computer needs to be rebooted. And what happens when you wait for the computer to finish its thinking before adding another input? The computer works more smoothly and efficiently. Yes?
Well, my friends, guess what? Our body is a sophisticated computer. Too many inputs without enough time to process means computer jam. Wouldn’t it be better just to give the body a few moves it can process and then step away for a few minutes to allow the moves to go where they need to go and do what they need to do? Yes. I think it would.
Why two minutes? I don’t think this is a random amount of time. I read somewhere (and damned if I can find the reference now) that it takes ~ 90 seconds for an impulse on the fascia to move along the nervous system to the brain and then for the brain to relay the impulse to where it needs to go in the body to facilitate a healing effect. Pretty cool, eh?
Why leave the room during the waits? To allow the body the time and space to do what it needs to do without my energy distracting it. A bit of privacy for the healing to occur, if you please.
Are the two minute waits mandatory? I believe not. They are necessary but as your skills increase, so too does your awareness of tension in the body. Sometimes I leave waits after two moves; sometimes 10. It’s how the body is responding that informs the session. Also, sometimes the wait is two minutes but sometimes longer. It all depends on the client. And each client is different.
I love Bowen therapy and what it can offer a client. It can be easy to get caught up in the myth debate but personally I would rather spend my time working on my skills and listening to each client’s body as it presents with symptoms.
Our lives are busy. We multitask our way through the day. We forget what it’s like to shift from fight/flight to rest and digest. How beautiful that we have this therapy available to us that helps the body to remember to slow down and take a deep breath. The waits in between moves help facilitate this. In this busy day and age do we really have to rush through our healing treatments as well?
More about what I do and what I offer at www.balancingacttherapies.com
I am available for appointments on the Coffs Coast.
Myth #2 - Bowen will fix anything!
In my training*, we were told from Day 1 that we, the practitioner, don’t ‘fix’ anything. It’s the body which ‘fixes’ itself. Bowen moves just help facilitate the process. (Go, Bowen!)
So when a client asks me, “Can you fix this?” my answer is no. I don’t fix anything. I facilitate. I do Bowen moves on specific areas which then allows the body to tap into its own innate healing wisdom to start correcting patterns to lead to a change which hopefully leads to the body feeling better.
(You can see why it would be so much easier to say, “Sure! Bowen will fix it!” if this is the kind of response you need to give every time someone asked you if Bowen can fix something. But I digress…)
There is so much that Bowen does. I thought that understanding how it does what it does, might be helpful. So, I’m taking this opportunity to talk more about how a Bowen move works in the body.
Bowen isn’t manipulative. It works with the body to heal itself. The Bowen move is usually performed across fibre and often only needs to be firm enough to stimulate, or engage, the fascia (connective tissue) just under the skin. That move sends an electrical impulse to the brain and the brain relays that signal to where the body needs it. It’s kind of cool and amazing. Our bodies are pretty sophisticated and can do wondrous and miraculous things given the chance. Bowen helps give the body that chance. It helps the body to remember a state of health and well-being.
Bowen moves can be targeted to specific areas but ultimately the brain will send the stimulus of those moves to where the body needs them first. Because we are whole beings and one thing affects many things, we can present with symptoms that may not be directly related to the underlying issues. Our symptoms are usually layered. What is actually presenting may be streets away from the actual cause. Bowen unravels the mystery of the symptoms. As an example, our neck might not come right from the chronic pain and stiffness until the imbalance in our pelvis is addressed. Our bodies are smart. They know that once our pelvic alignment is better, work around our neck will be easier to sustain. Makes sense, right? So I’m not fixing you; your body is fixing you!
As a practitioner, I listen to what a client tells me and I formulate the beginning of my treatment plan from that information. But sometimes, often actually, the body will also be giving clues which help inform the treatment. By working with the wisdom of the body the moves help facilitate change at an issue level. That’s the beauty of Bowen - it can help alleviate the symptoms at the same time it is working at eliminating the underlying cause.
When someone is asking you to ‘fix’ them, it’s because they are in pain and they want help getting out of that state. While Bowen may not ‘fix’ all that ails them, it certainly will go a long way towards helping them to heal and feel better. Because of Bowen’s unique ability to facilitate healing at a whole body level, I do believe there isn’t any issue Bowen can’t help. Fixing implies something is broken. We are whole beings so unless it’s a bone that is broken, our symptoms are often the manifestation of an unbalanced body. Bowen is amazing at helping the body to balance itself.
So while I won’t say ‘Bowen will fix everything!’, I do believe Bowen can help heal the body on a number of levels from a myriad of issues. Bowen helps to give the body the chance to heal - on the physical, mental and emotional levels. Every body truly is better with Bowen.
Bowen therapy is the most wholistic treatment available. If you’re on the Coffs Coast and would like an appointment, please contact me on 0426 241 435 or visit www.balancingacttherapies.com to find out more about me and what I offer.
* In the spirit of full disclosure: I am Bowtech trained. Why this even needs to be mentioned will be a future myth to de-bunk.
Myth # 1 - That's the thing with magnets, right?
I work in a multi-disciplinary wellness centre that is heavy on massage therapists and light on “weird, esoteric” modalities like Bowen therapy.
People know what massage is. They generally know what acupuncture is and chiropractic and osteopathy, and even reiki. But Bowen? Not so much. When people ask me what Bowen therapy is, I find I spend time explaining what it’s not. It’s not like a lot of things, it turns out.
You know when you are trying to figure some life things out (work, relationships, where to live etc) and people ask you, ‘Well, what (job, partner, address) do you want?’ and it’s easier to come up with what you DON’T want than it is to actually drill down to what you do want? Well, that’s the same with explaining Bowen therapy. And just like listing all the things you don’t want isn’t helpful, it’s the same with ticking off all the things Bowen therapy isn’t. It still doesn’t answer the question of what Bowen therapy IS.
It can be hard to convince people to try Bowen therapy because they want to know what it’s like. The thing is, though, it isn’t like anything. It’s its own healing modality, just like acupuncture isn’t ‘like’ anything else; it’s just acupuncture.
This means there are a lot of misconceptions about Bowen therapy. My favourite is that it has something to do with magnets. When a person walked into the wellness centre wanting to see a practitioner to help with her back problems, the receptionist recommended Bowen. It took a lot of convincing this person to have a Bowen treatment because for some reason they heard from someone who heard from someone that their friend had Bowen and the practitioner used magnets on them. And they didn’t like that.
So let me set the record straight: if ever a Bowen therapist uses magnets on you, you are not having Bowen therapy.
I can talk for ages on what Bowen therapy isn’t but instead I will focus on what Bowen therapy is: Bowen therapy is a soft-tissue healing modality which helps the body to heal itself. Bowen moves help to shift the body from the sympathetic (fight/flight/freeze) to the parasympathetic (rest/digest) nervous system. Because the Bowen moves work with the body’s innate ability to heal, deep levels of healing can often be felt on the physical, mental and emotional levels. Bowen is non-manipulative so instead of the practitioner imposing moves on a system which may not be able to handle it, the practitioner instead facilitates change by applying small moves where the body needs input.
It’s simple. It’s wholistic. And it’s certainly not magnets! It’s also not particularly weird or esoteric but that will be a myth to debunk at a later date.
For now, just know that Bowen therapy is probably the safest, most gentle and wholistic treatment you will ever come across. It will most likely also be one of the most effective therapies your body can experience. It works equally well on chronic and acute conditions and there are few contraindications.
Interested in a session (without magnets) or want more information about what Bowen is? Contact Susan on 0426241435. Bookings essential but same day appointments often available.