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Fascia & The Bowen Technique

The Bowen Technique was developed by Australian Tom Bowen, who passed in the 1980s.

His work has been taught around the world since, and continues to develop. In 2007 research work into Fascia became a science in itself and this is helping to explain one of the many ways the Bowen Technique may work to achieve results.

Firstly, what is the Bowen Technique? A very simple answer is that this is a ‘restorative body treatment’. Clients often use the treatment to help with aches, pains, joint problems, headaches, stress, energy levels…. But actually the list is endless. The treatment is mostly relaxing and lots of clients drift off to sleep. The treatment continues to work long after the session is over (about 5 – 10 days after) and usually a course of 3 treatments is needed. The benefits gained from Bowen can be long lasting, as the treatment triggers the body to make it’s own changes.

But how does the treatment tell the body to make it’s own, long lasting changes, especially when a treatment is so gentle?

Understanding Fascia may help provide one (of possibly many) explanations.

What is Fascia?

Humans are approximately 60% water. So why are we not a puddle on the floor, and what stops this water falling into our legs? Fascia is the ‘web’ that runs through our bodies, holding our muscles, bones, organs etc together. It forms the structure of our bodies. Think of an orange. When peeled the juice doesn’t run out of it as it Is contained in pockets within pockets within yet more pockets. This is similar to the human body. We are both protected by fascia and connected by fascia.

Until recently science tended to understand the human body by separating specific muscles, ligaments, bones etc to understand their individual role in the body. Recent (and emerging science) is studying the body in a ‘functional’ way instead, observing the webbing that holds everything together and how this communicates throughout the body.

The scalpel is being turned on it’s side in dissections and we’re discovering that actually ‘fascia’ connects and communicates with every part of the body. Hence why a client with knee pain on the left side will often present with shoulder pain on the opposite side. And also why a raised pelvis on one side will often result in neck pain, or other corresponding yet seemingly unrelated complaints.

The Bowen Technique views the person as a whole, and rather than focusing on resolving one complaint, will assess the whole body and treat accordingly. The changes from one week to the next for a client are often remarkable, even though the treatment can be very gentle.

Lets understand Fascia

This body web is made from Collagen (gives strength), Elastin (gives stretch) and Ground Substance (lubricates). Naturally, fascia differs in thickness and strength in different parts of the body. It should provide ‘glide’ so structures within the body move freely within an individuals range of motion. Movement helps keep fascia healthy. The collagen fibres have loose ends with binding sites. The body has a choice, these binding sites can either stick to water (helping flexibility – so keep well hydrated) or to other ‘ends’ which can be experienced as stiffness. Limited movement and dehydration encourages fascia to ‘stick’ together and this can result in restricted movement.

Similarly a treatment has the effect of releasing tension and helping to ‘unwind’ fasica. Within fascia are certain receptors. Some of these receptors respond only to light touch, Ruffini receptors also respond to cross fibre moves, which form many of the typical ‘Bowen Moves’. The moves enable the body to release tension and release compensatory patterns in the body that may have built up over many years. The receptors send messages to the central nervous system, and help shift the body from the Sympathetic to the Parasympathetic state, ie. Out of the ‘fight or flight mode’ and into the ‘rest and digest’ or ‘feed and breed’ mode. This is imporatant as the Parasympathetic Nervous system controls hormones, digestion, heart rate and many other key core aspects of health. Thus we are accessing our body's own self healing mechanisms.

The results gained by Bowen Therapists and similar light touch treatments around the world are putting an end to our outdated thinking of ‘no pain no gain’. Painful treatments release endorphins that feel good in the moment (and can become addictive having a similar effect to morphine), but we are now asking if this is necessary. As a therapist, I find that a tense area of the body will resist heavy touch, however using light touch in such an area prompts the tension to melt, and allows access to the receptors to allow them to do their job in ‘unwinding’ fascia. To allow access to the deeper structures of the body we need the tissue to melt rather than resist.

Bowen therapists assess the body for tension, and treat accordingly. We are looking for overall symmetry in the body, as structure governs function. If the structures of the body are working optimally, the body can work at it’s best both physically and emotionally. The treatment will usually address all meridians, and therapists may increasingly look to the work of leaders in the field of fascia to understand fascial connections. A number of experts on this subject are leading the way including Julian Baker, Tom Myers (Anatomy Trains) and Dr.Robert Schleip. Bowen schools are also incorporating this work into their teaching, a notable leader in this field is Howard Plummer who has now passed his teaching to Jo Wortley at The College of Bowen Studies.

Bowen Therapists at Therapy Organics are highly trained by world experts. Have a look at testimonials to see some of the outstanding results that the Bowen Technique has achieved.

The Bowen Technique

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About the Author

Kylie Williams is a Co-Director of Therapy Organics, and also a Bowen Technique Therapist. She is passionate about natural medicine to optimise health.

See more Articles by Kylie

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