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What's Bowen?

I get asked this a lot. I've asked it myself. Most people haven't heard of Bowen therapy because it is relatively new in the UK; it's been over here about 40 years having been developed in Australia in the 1950s and 1960s. For some reason it hasn't mainstreamed like other therapies such as chiropractic and reflexology, even though it's been around for longer than some of them.

When I did my training I was given a 'simple' explanation of what Bowen therapy is. It goes on a bit. It uses words like 'connective and fascial tissue' and 'the muscles on which one wishes to have the most effect'. I had to read it off a card. It didn't take long for me to notice that when I related that description, people's eyes glazed over by about word 6. I've spent the last few months coming up with a more user-friendly definition and I'm now ready to share that with you.

What is Bowen? Well it's awesome!

That is perhaps a little too simplistic, but even people with really short attention spans probably kept listening long enough for me to say it. If you're still interested, read on.

Bowen makes you feel the way you wish you felt. Even if you feel pretty good, it can make you feel better. If you feel bad, it can change your life. Let me explain.

Bowen can help with a list of conditions and problems so long that it's probably much quicker to say what it can't do. It can't fix broken limbs or torn ligaments, cure long term health conditions, remove growths or regrow parts that have been removed or stopped working. However it can help your body do all those things quicker and more effectively if it needs to, which has to be good news. It also can't do you any harm.

If you've ever gone to the doctor with a random pain that just won't go away, and the doctor has said you have an 'algia' or 'just rest and take ibruprofen' but you've done that and it still hurts, Bowen may be able to help you. The chances it can help you are actually very high, but of course there are no guarantees.

People with hormonal problems, period pain, insomnia, stress, stiff neck, back pain, knees that feel as though they're going to collapse under them, IBS, heartburn, fibromyalgia, loss of feeling in parts of their body, headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome, RSI, tennis elbow, bladder control problems, frozen shoulder, sprained ankles, fallen arches or Reynaud's disease have all been for Bowen therapy and found their pains and ailments either disappeared or got much better. Some of those issues had been prevalent for years. Sometimes it addresses pain that people have become so used to, they've almost forgotten they have it - but they certainly notice when it's gone.

If you have say, a bad knee, you will probably look for something to cure your knee pain and once that's happened you'll be happy. You may not consider the effect your bad knee has had on the rest of your body. You'll have been limping a bit, probably, which will have put more strain on your 'good' knee (and hip, and ankle) as it takes more weight. Limping also makes you lopsided so your back will be twisted a bit out of its normal shape. Your brain wants your eyes to be level, so if you're lopsided it will angle your head to get your eyes right and that will affect your neck. So having a bad knee actually affects your whole body. It doesn't take long for the body to form a new habit in terms of posture (it's a quick learner) so even if you were only limping for a short while it can still have had a permanent effect on you. You need something to remind your body that it doesn't have to stand or walk like that any more; enter the Bowen therapist.

You may be one of those lucky people who is free of all forms of aches and pains, and could be forgiven for thinking Bowen has nothing to offer you. But no. Athletes and sportspeople report they perform better and recover more quickly if they have a Bowen treatment a day or two before their event. You don't need to be an Olympic athlete to benefit. I went to my Zumba class the day after a treatment and found I had turned into some kind of demented Duracell bunny. I could have done the class twice over, and normally I need oxygen after 20 minutes. That lasted two weeks.

But, I hear you say, I'm a couch potato with nothing more to worry about in terms of physical activity than whether I can reach the remote. Surely I need nothing that Bowen can do? Even for you, my sedentary friend, Bowen can promote digestion of chips and other TV-friendly fast food, encourage relaxation, promote regular bowel movements and discourage you from grinding your teeth in your sleep (which can in itself cause a whole range of problems that may be the topic of a future blog).

I guess if you're still reading, you want to know a bit about how Bowen does all these amazing things. So here goes. Bowen is a soft tissue therapy; that means it works on your muscles and other squishy bits, rather than bones and joints. Not just muscles though; it also promotes healthy circulation of blood and lymphatic fluids, and softens the tissues that are wrapped round all the different bits of your body, so that you will feel healthier and more flexible afterwards (if you want to know about lymphatic fluids, Google it; this isn't a biology textbook).

Bowen is a hands-on treatment. So you should be prepared for some physical contact. Startlingly, it will work if I don't actually touch you. However, there are studies now that show being touched is extremely important for mental well-being and the lack of physical contact that's becoming endemic for fear of legal repercussions, and exacerbated by the Covid pandemic, is possibly contributing to the increase in mental health issues such as depression. There are parts of your body specifically designed to recognise that you're being touched and how, so it seems a shame not to use them. The touch can be extremely gentle though, so if it's painful to be touched you needn't fear that the treatment will make you more sore than you already were. (For reasons of full disclosure I have to say that sometimes it will, but not for long).

While Bowen is hands-on, it also has an important hands-off element. The times when I'm not touching you are just as important as the ones when I am. The 'Bowen move' has a unique effect on the body and the body needs time to assimilate what has happened to it, otherwise the treatment not only doesn't work very well but can make you feel pretty rubbish. You may therefore spend what feels like quite a long time lying on the couch with nothing apparently being done to you. That's not because I'm catching up on my Facebook notifications; it's part of the treatment.

The good news about the touch thing is that it happens through your clothes, so unless you've come dressed in every garment you possess, you won't need to take anything off or put on one of those fetching gowns that they've forgotten to put the zip in. And there are no implements involved; the clinic is called Magic Hands, not Magic Bits and Pieces you Don't Recognise and are Slightly Alarmed By.

But aren't there lots of other things that do all that?

Well yes, there are; you'll hear similar things said about a wide variety of other therapies and they're equally true. Bowen isn't for everyone; there isn't a therapy in the world that is. (If there were, I would have learned that one.) But the only way to find out whether Bowen is for you or not is to try it. What do you have to lose?

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