The Bowen Move
The Bowen move is very distinctive and is applied at very precise points on the body. It involves the movement of soft tissue in a specific way. The move is a rolling-type move of the thumbs and forefingers, and is designed to stimulate the tissue and nerve pathways, creating a focus for the brain.
The move does not slide or flick over the surface of the skin, but uses the slack in the overlying skin to move over the underlying tissue, so each move covers a small area, defined by how far an individual’s skin can move over a targeted area.
The Importance of the 2 Minute Breaks
Tom Bowen was a man who had a great ability to accurately observe the often very subtle imbalances in the body and could therefore start the process of correcting these very quickly. Once he had started the process with a few well-chosen moves, he would leave the client alone in the treatment room before returning some minutes later to check how the body had responded and determine what more, if anything, needed to be done.
This element of allowing the body to rest for a few minutes initiates the process of repair and is important. The length of the breaks will vary from client to client and with different procedures, but on average we will leave clients for around two minutes in between each set of moves. The implications for these breaks become more apparent for experienced practitioners, but at the start of training many people find this a very difficult concept.
The breaks are probably one of the least understood parts of Bowen and yet it is during the breaks that the work starts to take effect and changes are implemented. The most fundamental principle of Bowen is that it is the client that is doing the work, not the therapist, and for this to happen the body needs time and to be left alone.
How Does It Work?
One of the most interesting areas of the body is the brain. The basic function of the brain is to receive information from our sensory organs and interpret this information, such as light, sound, pain, movement. This enables conscious communication within our body. Neuroplasticity which is the brains ability to recognise itself by forming new neural connections, allows the nerve cells in the brain to adjust their activities in response to new situations or changes in their environment. This includes a stimulus through touch. There is something like 600,000 signals that travel from the brain into the body every second and these in turn come back to the brain with information which is then interpreted and sent back out. Whenever we feel, hear, see or even think something, the brain brings in past experience in order to categorise the sensation and create an appropriate response.
In the case of the Bowen move, the brain is unable to do this instantly and needs more information to form a response. As it is, just when the brain is asking for more information, the therapist has left the room, and therefore the brain has to send specific signals to the area in order to gauge a response. If the client is lying down, the immediate response is nearly always rapid and deep relaxation. The client will also often report that they feel a tingling sensation or warmth in the area just worked on. “It felt like your hands were still on me,” is a common comment.
One of the more difficult elements to come to terms with is how little ‘hands on work’ is done during a session. In addition, the client may well walk out of the treatment room having felt little or no improvement over and above a sense of relaxation.
However, the reactions to Bowen in the days following a treatment can often belie its soft and gentle approach. Stiffness, soreness, headache and feeling like “I’ve been run over by a bus!” are common, demonstrating that the brain and body have started the process of repair. This process, when started, is generally rapid and it is not uncommon for even longstanding pain to be reduced or resolved in two or three treatments.
Although musculoskeletal problems such as frozen shoulder, back and neck pain account for the majority of conditions brought for Bowen treatment, it can also be helpful with more organic problems. Clients have reported significant improvements with asthma, migraines, irritable bowel, infertility and other reproductive problems.
There are no such things in this life as guarantees and this can be said of Bowen as well. If the body responds to the treatment, then it can and will start the process of repair. If it doesn’t respond, then no harm is done.