The Bowen Technique (submitted to Massage & Bodywork Magazine Feb 2020)

The Bowen Technique

The Bowen Technique is a soft tissue therapy developed in Australia in the 1980’s by an Osteopath named Thomas Ambrose Bowen. Today the technique is practiced in over thirty countries and taught in more than twenty.

The four basic tenets of Osteopathy may be summarized as follows:

1-The human body functions as an integrated, interrelated whole unit.

2-Structure and function share a reciprocal relationship.

3-There exists in the human body an innate capacity for self-regulation and healing.

4-Therapeutic intervention is based upon an understanding of these three points.

Structure and Function

In his book A Textbook of Bowen Technique Mr. Graham Pennington, Australian Bowen therapist, Naturopathic physician, and Acupuncture physician writes:

From the perspective of a Bowen therapist, we are particularly interested in recognizing the interrelationships that exist between the nervous system, muscle tension and the skeletal system, and how the interplay of these factors can create or compromise the structural integrity of the spine and its related structures. The following points illustrate this complexity:

-The tension within a muscle or tendon is produced by the nerve which supplies it. The nervous system is ultimately responsible for the tension of the muscles and tendons.

-The muscles and tendons exert force upon the bones and joints and thus abnormal tensions in the body may lead to joint dysfunction.

-Joint dysfunction at the spinal level (vertebral subluxation) may result in changes in the way the nervous system operates. The resulting nerve dysfunction may generate abnormal tensions in the muscles and tendons…and so the cycle continues.

-On the one hand, the structural integrity of the spine may be disturbed by the presence of a vertebral subluxation, but, on the other hand, dysfunction of the related tissues can result in the development of a vertebral subluxation.

The relationship between function and structure is particularly important to the Bowen therapist, who seeks to identify and correct dysfunction within the various systems of the body. Observation of symmetry forms the basis on which the therapist can develop  specific therapeutic interventions and target them to resolve any abnormal tissue tensions. Correctly applied, these interventions restore function and associated symmetry.1

Fascia

Fascia is currently being widely researched as it is now evident that it plays a key role in the structure and function of the body.  French surgeon Jean-Claude  Guimbertear’ s ground breaking discovery that fascia, due to its piezoelectric nature, governs thousands of processes throughout the body- a true engineering system. Strolling under the skin’ 2, a documentary made by Dr. Guimbertears and his colleagues, visually depicts the tremendous array of processes that occur in the human tissue simply due to the pressure of the scalpel. Blood vessels disappear and others appear, fluid exchange occurs- all due to the piezoelectric nature of the fascia.

The Bowen Technique relies heavily on this fascial system.  Piezoelectricity is defined as the electric polarization in a substance resulting from the application of mechanical stress.  The fascia consists mainly of collagen and elastin- both peizoelectric materials.   For bodyworkers this translates to the application of pressure applied to the fascia creates an electrical impulse that is sent to the brain.  The brain in response sends a host of chemical messengers back to the origin of the electrical impulse with the result being the restoration of homeostasis. During a Bowen session the client is visually and tactally assessed.  Functional asymmetry is determined followed by treatment.  At the end of the session a reassessment is performed to determine that functional symmetry has been restored.  Structure and function have been restored.  Pharmaceutical and surgical intervention is no longer required.

The work of Tom Myers , author of the book Anatomy Trains3, maps out the main fascial lines in the body teaching us the important connections throughout the body.  In recent years due to several important discoveries it has become evident that the meridian system may in fact run through these fascial lines.  This work is evolving our knowledge of how the human body is put together and how it truly functions on an anatomical, mechanical, chemical and energetic level.

As Mr. Myers quotes in his book, “the close relationship between acupuncture and  similar meridians and the anatomical basics of these continuities is inescapable.”   Significant overlap between fascial lines and energetic continuities of the various meridians are obvious. Additionally, Mr. Myers states that Dr. Helene Langevin and others have shown that connective tissue winds around the end of the acupuncture needle when it is rotated in place, creating detectable mechanical tissue effects.  3Drawing these fields of study together we find a “unified field” theory appears and we begin to understand the intricacies of the body’s self-regulation with proper mechanical stimulation.

Meridian Theory

Graham Pennington’s evolution of the Bowen Technique resulted in his most recent class titled “Targeting Primary Dysfunction” in which he introduces meridian theory  into the technique.  As an acupuncture physician he understands how deeply connected these bodies of work are.  As he states “meanwhile East and West continue to collide…”   Many scholars now believe the meridians of Chinese medicine are actually ‘pathways’ through the fascia.  In his book, A Textbook of The Bowen Technique,  Mr. Pennington declares that fascia serves to provide structures which transmit mechanical tensions, whether generated by muscular activities or external forces through the body.   Andrew  Taylor Still “Philosophy  of Osteopathy” (1899)….”all… nerves go to and terminate in that great system, the fascia.”  Osteopathic theory holds that, in a state of health, fluids  flow freely from one fascial compartment to the next states Mr. Pennington.  As a result of traumatic injury the fascia may twist, constrict, and compress.  The exchange of fluids through the fascial medium becomes compromised.  Osteopathic treatments (as in the Bowen Technique) attempt to unravel these fascial strains to re-establish fluid continuity throughout the body.

By its action (the fascia) we live and by its failure we…die” Andrew Taylor Still, founder of Osteopathy 

The Bowen Technique

Many Bowen therapists follow a standardized approach to treatment. Today however, the technique has evolved because of some brilliant therapists such as Mr. Pennington. Mr. Pennington teaches these advanced techniques worldwide and has a handful of students who also teach his work. The first vast difference between the original Bowen method and today’s technique used by Mr. Pennington and his students is the visual assessment which allows for a more intelligent approach and effective outcomes. Fascial strains occur in the body and result in asymmetrical patterns. These asymmetries can be seen visually as leg length discrepancy. Leg length discrepancies are a key aspect of this visual assessment. As we now know the fascia dictates the stresses and strains put on the various tissues. These stresses and strains result in functional asymmetry throughout the body. Mr. Pennington’s technique uses this information to determine where in the body the restrictions are so that they can be targeted and released using the Bowen “move.” The Bowen “move” is unique in its simplicity and complexity. It is a very simple move across muscles and tendons yet the complexity comes with palpation skills which develop over time with intention and practice. This tactile recognition skill is the second difference between the original technique and that used by Mr. Pennington and students. Tactile recognition is the ability to delineate between various conditions of the tissue being palpated. The condition of the tissue determines the speed and depth of the Bowen move that is required. Tissue that has become hardened or stuck requires more time and depth than tissue that is soft and pliable. Differences in temperature of the tissue also lend information. The quality of the move determines the quality of the electrical signal sent to the brain and Central Nervous System. Every “move” is an assessment. Continual assessment during the treatment is a must to determine the course of treatment. Being able to put the pieces of the puzzle together along the way during treatment is what allows the therapist to determine the appropriate approach to treatment and to achieve desired results. Applying these skills to the practice exponentially increases the success of the therapy.  Once identified, the asymmetry can quite simply be remedied using The Bowen Technique. Important fascial connections are addressed in a hierarchal order and the body is systematically brought back into balance, aka symmetry.

We seek to find the site at which we can deliver a targeted intervention that will activate and benefit the nervous system and illicit a profound healing response from the body.” Graham Pennington

The pathology (examples: disc herniations, torn meniscus, tennis elbow, plantar fascitis, migraine, back pain, knee pain) results from compressions in the fascial system clamping down on nerves creating pain, dysfunction and deterioration. Restoring symmetry using The Bowen Technique balances the tensional forces in the various planes of fascia and releases the compression on various nerves eliminating pain. The result visually is leg length symmetry validating the therapists success in restoring symmetry to the body. The number of treatments required to remedy a chronic or acute situation vary but often a handful of treatments is all that is necessary to remedy the condition. This is another remarkable trait of The Bowen Technique. Once a client comes in for treatment (once per week typically) with no pathology and visual assessment shows symmetry is still in tact, the condition is remedied. The pathology no longer resides in the body and the condition no longer exists. There is no need for further treatment. This distinguishes The Bowen Technique from virtually all other therapies. Most therapies in practice today provide only temporary relief treating symptoms but never accomplishing healing. With The Bowen Technique a true remedy is accomplished. Maintenance appointments are encouraged to keep the body in alignment.

Notes

1. Graham Pennington, A Textbook of the Bowen Technique, 2012, A Comprehensive Guide to the Practice of Bowen Therapy. Www.bowenseminars.com

2. Dr. Jean-Claude Guimbertears, “Strolling under the skin”, 2015 , www.youtube.com.

3. Thomas W. Myers, Anatomy Trains, 2014, Myofascial Meridians & Movement Therapists.www.myersmyofascialmeridians.com

 

About Penny:

As an engineer, educator and bodyworker for thirty seven years Penny Michaels brings a unique combination of science, technology, and bodywork skills for an intelligent conversation on the state of bodywork. She teaches nationally as an NCBTMB Approved Provider for Continuing Education to massage therapists through The Cortiva Institute. She holds private practice in Vero Beach, Florida. Visit her website at www. pennymichaels.com to read more of her articles and email her.

The Bowen Technique: What are we doing??

Simply put, we are releasing restrictions in the soft connective tissues in the body.  When there are restrictions in these structures nerves get pinched, joints get compressed or pulled away from their natural track, and subluxations occur.  This is what causes the pain and inability to function.  Once tensional balance is restored to these structures, evertything is allowed to return to a normal position thus eliminating pain and dysfunction.  Sounds and looks simple but it is not.

Understanding the complexity of the how these structures are interrelated is my endeavor, my expertise.  There are often layers of dysfunction that must be identified and “unwound.”  That’s my job and sometimes results are immediate, more ofthen than not it takes some time.

This system of bodywork is brilliant!  It is effective and efficient and most times a handful of weekly treatments is all that is required to achieve complete recovery!

I’m honored by the continuous stream of clients coming to me through word of mouth- that’s the best acknowledgement for my work I can get!  Not only that but if it weren’t for all the new clients coming in, I would put myself out of business! Thank You!

Penny

 

The Body Is One Whole, Not Pieces and Parts

It is very unfortunate for us Amercians who were taught about all of our anatomical pieces and parts but were never taught about the interconnectedness of all these pieces and parts.  Today, in Western medicine, the condition of a  foot for example, has nothing to do with the condition of the neck. And the gallbladder certainly has nothing to do with a vertebral subluxation at thoracic vertabrae T12-L1. A podiatrist is not going to look to your neck to fix an ankle problem-ever! But guess what? A Bowen Therapist would! And, yes, a Bowen Therapist just may be able to remedy your sciatica by working on your jaw.

I know, this is where people think we”oh brother, here we go…” but at least read on a little about Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) before closing your mind.  I use TCM as an example because hopefully it at least carries enough weight for some consideration outside “The Box.”  It’s been around for many thousands of years, much longer than Western medicine.

“TCM, above all, sees the human body as an organic whole, a complete system made up of physical structures, emotions, mind, and spirit. It does not separate your body into parts, nor does it just treat one part of your body. In the TCM view, everything in the body is seen as woven together into a seamless whole; all parts have a relationship with one another.” (www.tcmworld.com)

It is the same with  Bowen Therapists.  We understand that the connective tissue structures in the body are continuous and interconnected in a multitude of ways.  The very same connective tissue that runs down the right side of the head also runs down the left side of the body.  Low back pain can absolutely be caused by a problem in the cervical (neck) AND vice-versa!

It would behoove us Westerners to embrace this idea.  We would benefit greatly- we would be taking less pharmaceuticals and having less surgeries and enjoying all of our pieces and parts working and playing together in one WHOLISTIC , highly functioning and painfree body.

Time for a Tune-up!!

Bowen Therapy is great when you’re hurt, for sure.  It’s also a good idea for maintenance- you know, self care.  We do lots of great things for our bodies here at The Boulevard- tennis, workouts at the gym, stretching, maybe even yoga??  Nothing better than yoga and stretching to help keep us balanced and fully functional and pain-free: EXCEPT Bowen!!

Just like we take our cars in for regular maintenance or we regret it later- same goes for our bodies! If we don’t keep them “balanced and lubed” we are going to regret it later- with injuries.  Trust me, nobody loves stretching and yoga more than me, but Bowen Therapy balances our bodies like nothing else!

Our soft tissues that we hardly even notice- are the most important structures that need to be balanced tension-wise so that we can remain fully functional and pain and damage-free.   Soft tissues such as muscles, tendons, ligaments, and FASCIA (no need to understand the structure just the function) are what keeps the bones where they need to be and gives our joints the room they need so that nerves don’t get impinged, pain doesn’t happen, and we are able to play as much tennis as our hearts desire!

Structure and function have a reciprocal relationship and if our structure isn’t balanced, function deteriorates and we are in pain and not on the courts.  Then there are pills and doctors and oh no- surgery.

So, you want to be one of those “lucky” people that never gets hurt?? Come in for a tune- up regularly!

Yours in Health & Happiness,

Penny

New Bowen Therapy I Class with Elements of IOS & TPD

Bowen Therapy Class with Elements of IOS and TPD

Penny Michaels, Bowen Therapist, will be teaching a revolutionary Bowen Therapy class in Vero Beach, February 10 & 24, 2019.

This 16 hour class will cover the Basic Bowen Therapy Protocol along with elements from Graham Pennington’s (A Textbook of Bowen Technique) revolutionary work-The Importance of Symmetry and Targeting Primary Dysfunction.

This class is first in an upcoming series of classes for the serious Bowen Practitioner. In this class the student will be taught pre-assessment techniques to locate the site of any dysfunction, appropriate therapeutic techniques for resolving the dysfunction, and assessment techniques to determine if function has been restored and if further therapeutic intervention is required.

If you are ready to bring your practice to a new level, this class is for you! Begin an exciting journey of empowerment gaining insight into restoring proper form and function!

Www.pennymichaels.com

Penny Michaels is an NCBTMB Approved Provider#451451-10 MA37679

$350 , 16 CE credits reported directly to CEBroker

1620 Village Blvd. Lane, Vero Beach, FL 32967 772-643-5199

Why/How Does Bowen Therapy Work?

In order to begin to answer this question I have to explain a bit about fascia.  Fascia is soft, connective tissue that runs continuously throughout the body. (We will forego the discussion on duramater for now),  Fascia wraps around and criss-crosses EVERYTHING.  It’s like a stretchable fabric- somewhat stretchable in some directions.  Looks kind of like a spider’s web.  And as I said, it is CONTINUOUS  throughout the body- lliterally.  For example, some of the fascia that starts out on the left side of the head ends up on the outside of the right ankle. When there is a “kink” in the fascia in one or more places, the restriction can transfer to a completely different area.

So. It IS possible that a sore, stiff neck could have started from rolling the opposite ankle.  I know that is hard to imagine but it is the way it is.  It’s hard to imagine that as I work to get the neck unstuck your plantar fascitis can release but this is a very real possibility.  So, when you come to me for a neck problem and I am working on your tailbone- don’t think I’ve lost my cookies- just remember it’s all  connected!

 

~At Your Service~

Penny

Bowen Therapy In Plain Language

Mike Williams from The Center for Massage and Natural Health in Asheville , NC  wrote this amazing explanation of Bowen Therapy after several conversations with me while I was teaching there about this system of bodywork .  Thank you Mike!   I honestly could not have done a better job myself.  Actually, I’ve tried over and over!  This just puts in so that I believe everyone can understand.  Enjoy, and thank you Mike!

BOWEN in plain language:

We know that our body responds and reacts to about 6 million signals coming to and from the brain every second.   This is a beautiful yet very complex communication that enables our bodies to function.  Bowen therapists believe that the fascia system is heavily involved with this process.   Fascia wraps around all of our muscles, tendons, ligaments, and organs and provides a protection layer and a communication vehicle between the brain and our body systems.   In the communication process, there are times when the body may incorrectly learn and adapt new patterns that create unnecessary tension that becomes locked in place.  This may cause the client to experience structural or emotional misalignment.  Traumatic events such as injuries, or even systemic patterns that emerge (e.g. sitting at a computer with forward posture) are examples of how the fasica may learn to hold on to incorrect tension.  Unnecessary tension creates misalignment that can result in dysfunction.  In these situations, the body needs to un-learn these incorrect patterns to that it can re-learn correct patterns.  Bowen bodyworkers help the body to unlearn patterns through light touch of the fascia.  This sets into motion the unwinding of unnecessary tension patterns that are observed in each client.  As a result of this unwinding, the body is able to return to correct patterns and significant and positive healing shifts may be achieved.  Examples of shifts include, pain reduction, improved mobility and range of motion, reduced anxiety, improved sleeping patterns, improved breathing, and overall function of the mind-body connection.  

During the Bowen treatment, the body presents evidence of muscular tension and the therapist can unwind this through a series of light touch maneuvers.  These actions signal the brain to recognize and unwind the tension and to release the affected areas by communicating through the fascia system.  

The best way to experience Bowen is by participating in 3 weekly sessions over a 3 to 4-week period.  Each session takes about 20-45 minutes and may last up to an hour.  After these three sessions, the client and therapist will be able to determine what shifts have taken place and then can work with the therapist on maintaining this new balance.  Often a maintenance sessions every 4-6 weeks are helpful.   

Bowen is not a specific treatment for a specific condition.  The treatment is a method of unwinding the patterns that may be interrupting the normal function of the body.  All clients should fully disclose all health issues that they are dealing with.  As a rule, due to the light touch of the Bowen technique It really cannot harm the body.  That said, it is important that all clients fully disclose their medical history so that the therapist and client may determine how the technique may be most helpful.  Awareness of the whole body and the external factors a client is experiencing enables improved body scanning and better awareness of shifts that occur as the client participates in the various sessions.

Mike Williams

Owner- Center for Massage & Natural Healing

 

Reiki On!!

I found Reiki a gazillion years ago. Or it found me.  And it changed everything. There are lots of people who have experienced and  wrote about “dark nights of the soul”- these are real events in life that change us forever.   We are usually completely lost – don’t know what to do times in our lives, And we know real change is required, if we are to know any peace, health, happiness.  And at these times, we reach out.  That’s how it happened to me.

I’m not interested in talking about where I have been.  I really enjoy talking about where I am going. That being said, I will share a bit about Reiki and how I experience it..  I came back to Forida after one of “those” life-altering experiences. And I moved into a small town and thought ‘what am I doing here’?   I walked into a Reiki circle with Patricia Williams at a store called The Inspired Heart” and knew I came home.  I felt I had done this before.  And I stuck to it like glue.  and it stuck to me like glue.  and I have been delving into this Spiritual practice ever since.

I’ve taken Reiki lots with Patricia, and lots with other teachers like Pamela Miles, author of Reiki in Medicine.  She’s all about getting Reiki into conventional medicine which I had hoped to do in a big way.  That in itself is an uphilll battle so to speak as it is unusual for one to think that a “weird” Spiritual practice could help anyone in the midst of a condition that is robbing them of health and happiness.

But, it does.  The National Institutes of Health  NCCAM (the alternative therapy parts that they recognize), call Reiki a “biofield therapy”.  As you can read for yourself in NCCAM documents and other parts of this website, the NIH does  claim that patients currently involved in conventional medicine tolerate their protocols better, heal faster, require less medication, when engaging in regular practice of Reiki with a qualified practitioner.

Wow!

Let that sink in.

For me- it is a daily practice- I literally never leave home without it.  And have I seen miracles happen? Many.  I AM ONE, And I am pleased to say that everyone I “touch” with these high vibrational frequencies benefits from it too.  We all have the ability to heal- anything. The physical, the emotional, the Spiritual- it’s all intimately connected, and so are we.  And Reiki  is a wonderful, effective, and beautiful tool that we can use to accomplish our desires for a healthy, happy, vital life.

A big, heartfelt thank you to all of my teachers, and to Dr. Mikao Usui- Reiki On!

Much Love,
penny

 

Targeting Primary Dysfunction

 

Targeting Primary Dysfunction with Graham Pennington:

Graham Pennington, Australian Bowen Therapist, Naturopath, and Acupuncturist and Author of “A Textbook of Bowen Technique”, delivered yet another stellar instruction of further advances in the world of Bowen Therapy.

I recently attended his new class, Targeting Primary Dysfunction, in Chicago.  It was a unique, one-off, opportunity not to be missed by any of us who are passionate about Bowen Therapy.  Once again, his instruction, knowledge, and experience has brought my practice up several levels in efficiency and effectiveness.  He has been immersed in and enthralled by the challenge of restoring people’s body’s to proper form and function through the Bowen Technique (as many of us are), maintaining a robust practice for the last three decades, constantly focused on the study of the body and its patterns.  As he states, (and I completely agree) ‘as one delves into this practice on a daily basis, over many years of practice and study of the human body, certain “patterns” of dysfunction become more and more apparent’.   Graham has been able to categorize these patterns and recognize their origin.  With each patient, his constant search is for “the primary cause of the dysfunction”.

Through his practice, he has identified a long list of ‘usual suspects’ and he has recognized an “order of priority” exists with regard to the origins of the “primary dysfunction”.

Using his system of priority, we can clearly see “what comes first”, what is primary and what is secondary, and what is simply compensatory.  With this knowledge, we are able to “target” our treatment to the root cause of each pattern of dysfunction.  We can do some simple (and sometimes not so simple) assessment techniques and rather quickly (usually) we can determine the root cause.  As an engineer, I understand the concept of “root cause” and how vitally important it is in the success of any research or inquiry.

If we go about treating a person’s symptoms we may get some immediate benefits but it is likely we won’t achieve long lasting results.  That is the very important distinction.  In order to get lasting results the root cause must be ferreted out and addressed.  Graham has done this and through his teachings he has enabled us to target/hone in on the “Primary dysfunction” and address that directly.  The rest of the dysfunctions or abnormalities or imbalances for the most part simply “unravel” on their own.  The secondary patterns, the compensatory patterns are just that secondary and compensatory- they dissolve in the midst of addressing the Primary Dysfunction.  It is brilliant work which I am thrilled to have benefited from (and so are my clients!).

Bravo Graham, and thanks for sharing!

~from Penny and her clients! We salute you!

 

 

New Science shows how Bowen Therapy works!

New Science demonstrates how Bowen Therapy works!

I am constantly looking for new and better ways of describing how and why Bowen Therapy works.  Clients call it “odd”, “strange”, they don’t know why it works, they just know it works.  Often, a client will say to someone who is in pain, “Just go see Penny, I don’t know what she does-it barely feels like anything- but she is able to fix a lot of stuff.” Thankfully, I have worked on enough people that the word has spread and more clients keep coming- albeit usually out of desperation!

So, once again I am going to refer to my two favorite hands-on bodyworkers: French Hand surgeon Dr. Guimberteau and Anatomist Thomas W. Myers, Author of my favorite book Anatomy Trains.

My background is in Materials Science & Engineering, so when Mr. Myers anatomy-train-picstarted talking about the soft tissues in the body being mostly collagen (and elastin) and that this is piezoelectric substance- my brain fired.  You see adding mechanical pressure to these materials produces an immediate electrical charge.  Same with quartz crystals, for instance. So yahoo- what does this have to do with the reason the light touch of Bowen Therapy creates such profound changes in the body? When we touch lightly on the fascia (that surrounds our muscles, tendons, and ligaments) , that is piezoelectric in nature, it sends off electrical signals to the brain and the brain instantaneously responds with a host of signals that changes/corrects the environment of the muscle, tendon, or ligament that we just touched.  Changes in tension or density-tensegrity-for instance are made. The muscle that was too tight clamping down on that nerve or pulling that bone off center is now brought back to balance- bye bye pain and dysfunction!

This is about as simple as I can get on this subject- I hope it helps you to at least begin to understand that this is how the body works, and this is why Bowen Therapy is so Billiant!

I will leave you with this paragraph from Mr. Myers in his brilliant book Anatomy Trains: “Guimberteau’s work brings together the tensegrity concepts on both a macroscopic and microscopic level.  It shows how the entire organismic system is built around the pressure balloons common to both cranial osteropathy and visceral manipulation.  It suggests a mechanism whereby even light touch on the skin could reach deeply into the body’s structure.  It demonstrates how economical use of materials can result in a dynamically self-adjusting mechanism.”

And this is how ‘I fix stuff’ 🙂

Penny Michaels, Bowen Therapist