Can you convert a busy practice from massage to Bowenwork?
A post by American Bowen Academy Associate Instructor, Heather Boyle
While attending massage therapy school in 2011-2012, my class was told that the average career length of a massage therapist at that time was just two to seven years. This had much to do with many practitioners overworking and developing repetitive strain injuries. I vowed to be like the director of my school and many other therapists who were still going strong after ten to twenty years, with the help of proper body mechanics and good self-care. Little did I know, that in just five and a half years, I would be hanging up my massage hat. Thankfully, it was not because of physical burnout. It was because I had been introduced to a therapy that was much more effective for my clientele and substantially easier on my own body! (More on that shortly.)
After working for a popular massage therapy franchise, I started my own business and watched it grow slowly but steadily. I loved being self-employed and the flexibility it afforded me. My clientele was wonderfully loyal and appreciative of my work. It was frustrating, however, that my approach could only provide temporary relief rather than full resolution of some of my client’s chronic conditions. My awareness of the competition in my geographical area grew as well, prompting me to begin searching for a niche. It appeared that the only thing I could offer to my clients that was different to every other massage therapist, was me.
Feeling rather stuck and without much sense of direction, I recalled that a friend had mentioned something called ‘Bowenwork’ a few years prior. At the time, my research of the technique revealed that the classes would involve quite a bit of travel and expense, so the thought was put away. It was unclear to me what prompted the Bowenwork file to be pulled from the back drawer that fall (2016). Looking back over my entire bodywork career, however, I now believe it was a higher power guiding a progression of events with perfect timing because everything just fell into place. After resuming my research online, I contacted the American Bowen Academy to enquire about taking the ‘Wellness in Your Hands’ class.* I completed it in March 2017 with Michigan instructor, Dena Bowen.
Intrigued by the introductory class, I wanted to learn more from a Bowenwork instructor who had a background in massage therapy to see how the two therapies compared or might work together. In my very first conversation with Senior Instructor, Nancy Pierson, she said, ‘I haven’t done a massage in over 10 years because Bowenwork is more effective!’ Wow, what an impressive statement. I have to admit it left me bristling a bit. After all, massage therapy was a second career for me. I had worked hard to educate others about the therapeutic benefits of massage, to convince people there was more to it than ‘just relaxation.’ I simply could not imagine giving it up! Nancy’s energy and passion for the work were evident, however, and I signed up to take Modules 1 and 2 with her that April.
If there is such a thing as the Bowenwork ‘fast track,’ I jumped on it! Only a year after taking the introductory course*, I completed my certification in addition to Modules 8 and 9, then registered to attend the Associate Instructor training in May 2018. This work amazes me every single day and I want to do what I can to share it with others! Bowenwork aligns with every belief I have about bodywork: the body is what holds the healing power, and the practitioner’s role is to facilitate the healing process by inviting and allowing the body to respond how, when, and where it decides. Finally, I believe the body is more receptive to gentle work than heavy pressure and forceful manipulation. I thought I loved massage work, but with every Bowenwork session came a stronger realisation that this is what makes me feel at home. Bowenwork brings a sense of fulfilment I never experienced with massage. As my Bowenwork practice grew and I witnessed the self-healing power of the body, it became clear that there would be no peace for me if I continued offering massage therapy.
Converting my massage practice to Bowenwork seemed to happen quickly! After taking the first courses, I brought the new technique home and, at Nancy’s suggestion, encouraged each client to try it a minimum of three times. When new clients would call about massage, I would tell them about Bowenwork and suggest we try it instead. Since almost no one in my area had heard of Bowenwork, some were sceptical, so I made the price quite affordable, hoping to eliminate as many barriers and excuses as possible. Alexia Monroe’s article, ‘Reflections on converting a massage practice to Bowenwork,’ has also been a helpful resource.
The results spoke for themselves. Most of my clients fell in love with how simple yet complex, how subtle yet profound, and utterly effective Bowenwork is! Clients who had been coming at least monthly for massage for their chronic conditions were seeing longer-lasting relief, and sometimes, complete resolution of their symptoms. Almost all of them reported differences such as improved quality of sleep, an overall sense of wellbeing, more energy, and of course, less pain and restriction. A client who had been returning for massages every other week for two years prior to Bowenwork noted, ‘My conversion from massage therapy to Bowenwork therapy has given me a new perspective on my ageing body. It can, and does, work better. A massage provided short term relief from arthritic and skeletal disorders… (for a) few days to a week. Bowenwork provides immediate results that keep me going for weeks, and even if the arthritic conditions kick in, they are not as severe or activity altering. I feel 20 years younger thanks to Bowenwork.’ This client also no longer feels the need for chiropractic adjustments. Referrals from clients with personal success stories, along with unwavering support from my husband, family, and friends, have been paramount to a successful practice thus far.
My practice transitioned completely from massage to Bowenwork in just under a year since beginning my Bowenwork journey. With each set of modules, I gradually raised my fees to reflect my training and experience while still remaining competitively priced in comparison to massage. I even went as far as changing the name of my business! While ‘Kneaded Renewal’ worked well for my massage business, ‘The Body’s Way Wellness Center’ represents the therapeutic offering of Bowenwork. It also leaves room for additional services I may want to offer in the future, such as nutritional counselling or movement therapies that can accomplish the same goal: helping the body to heal in the way it which it was designed. A local marketing company assisted me with rebranding my business, creating a new website, and making new connections in my community. There have been days so busy with clients that I have considered adding a second room!
I write this article not to discredit massage or any other therapy for that matter. Certainly, any therapeutic touch offered with humility and healing intention can make a world of positive difference to someone in need. There will always be a population that prefers massage or other approaches, and if that is what works for them, great! My hope is simply to encourage anyone who may be trying to convert an existing massage practice to Bowenwork by sharing my personal story. If you are passionate and stay true to what you love, it will happen! And to those who offer other therapies in addition to Bowenwork, may you be blessed with the wisdom and intuition to know which of the available tools in your toolbox will best serve each client’s individual needs!
*The American Bowen Academy training differs to the nationally-recognised training in Australia. Bowen Training Australia RTO#41134 offers the Certificate IV in Bowen Therapy 10846NAT and the Diploma of Specialised Bowen Therapy 10847NAT in addition to continuing education workshops. Some instructors also offer introductory workshops. You can contact your local instructor here.