N.B. The views expressed in this article are the personal thoughts of the author. They are not designed to be a criticism of any particular approach to Bowen but rather to spark a discussion about the pros and cons of very different approaches to the work. Bowen is a very new therapy and although our understanding of this work has come on leaps and bounds over the last 10 years, there is still so much more to learn about the depth and subtlety of Tom Bowen’s work. All practitioners and teachers have a role to play in increasing our understanding of what has come to be called ‘The Bowen Technique’ but this needs to be done in a calm, reflective way where even cherished beliefs are open to scrutiny.
The Bowtech Training Program
Over the last twenty-five years there have been a number of versions of Tom Bowen’s work that have been taught around the world. Although frequently not openly acknowledged, the vast majority of these are based on Oswald Rentsch’s interpretation of Tom Bowen’s work that resulted from observations and discussions with him over a number of years. Ossie Rentsch later called his interpretation of Bowen’s work ‘Bowtech’. So what is it about Bowtech and its curriculum that makes it so unique? And why has it been so successful?
The answer is simple: firstly, it works extraordinarily well in preparing therapists for clinical practice and secondly, there is no other training organization that offers such a wide-range of topics in its teaching program.
One of the areas that Bowtech has been keen to expand on is an understanding of how Bowen works, and how best to apply it in clinical practice. Bowtech instructors have been offering a range of classes in assessment for the last fifteen years or more. However, making assessment a useful tool in helping to know when and how to apply Bowen is a complex issue. It is not as simple as just applying standard chiropractic, osteopathic or orthopedic tests, as apart from anything else, an understanding of the complex way that fascia maintains posture and integrity in the body is vital. Recent concepts such as ‘biotensegrity’ and ‘fascial fitness’ need to be taken into account when assessing where someone’s pain or restriction is coming from and how that might be addressed.
Although factors such as symmetry and leg-length discrepancy are important and helpful factors to take into account, it is often the case that psychological and emotional issues are equally, if not more important, than purely structural considerations when it comes to addressing a client’s pain. It is clear that the relationship between pain, mobility and structural integrity is a complex one. For example, if our aim is simply to ‘straighten people up,’ then it is possible we might fail to take into account the reasons why they adopted important compensation patterns in the first place. There may also be psychological and emotional factors that need to be taken into consideration when addressing postural issues. Bowtech’s approach is not one of imposing a therapist’s view of how a client ‘should be’ but rather allowing the client’s body to respond to the work at their own pace and in their own way.
Although there are many parallels between Bowen, acupuncture and shiatsu, it is clear that this can only partially explain how Bowen works, as recent research on the physiology of fascia has shown. It is known that Bowen was interested in Traditional Chinese Medicine and meridians, but it is also obvious that Bowen work has an effect that goes beyond traditional acupuncture. Bowen was fascinated by osteopathy and chiropractic and there are some strong parallels with osteopathic principles. So although chiropractic and osteopathic assessments can be very useful in Bowen work, their value may be limited when it comes to understanding how Bowen initiates change on a deep level in the body. These changes can include increased hydration of the fascia, changes in proprioception and interoception (perception of pain), cellular health, fluid exchange, immune system changes, blood pressure changes, changes in sleep patterns, stimulation of the parasympathetic system (our rest and repair response), and increased efficiency in blood supply and nerve pathways to name a few. The mechanisms by which Bowen work initiates these changes is a complex one and is only just beginning to be understood by researchers.
Practitioners who have taken Bowtech courses are often astounded at seeing the extraordinary results that happen on a daily basis with their clients. The true skill of using the Bowen technique is when we take into consideration a client’s whole life history, their physical and emotional health and allow time for their body to respond to a Bowen treatment. Although it is tempting to test during a treatment until something is ‘fixed,’ this may not allow the body to respond at its own pace. Every client is unique so this approach may also unhelpfully impose a therapist’s own view of what a client’s body needs to do to heal. Although there is some debate about the importance of the two-breaks in Bowen treatments, important research by the neuroscientist, Dr. Bud Craig clearly shows that these breaks are vital for the body’s assimilation of Bowen moves on a neurological level.
The Bowtech training is based as far as possible on recent research and likes to keep fully abreast of continuing developments in fascia, body psychotherapy, immune system health, psychoneuroimmunology, understanding chronic pain, assessment and trauma, to name a few. To this end, as well as offering high quality training in the manual application of Bowen technique itself, it supplements the course with additional modules on the topics listed below. The range of courses is constantly being extended and are taught by highly experienced Bowen practitioners in their own right who have spent many years using these principles in their own clinical practices. All our teachers are part of a large international group of teachers who exchange ideas and developments.
Some of the topics offered in Bowtech-accredited courses* include:
- Assessment models, including Myofascial Lines Testing
- Understanding and Treating Back Pain
- Neck and Whiplash Injuries
- Ligament Stimulation Techniques
- Working with Pregnant Mothers and Babies
- Women’s Wellness
- Bowen for People Living with Cancer
- Chronic Conditions and Bowen
- Working with Stroke Patients
- Dental and TMJ-specific issues
- Kinesiology Taping and Bowen
- The Lymphatic System and Bowen
- Bowen and the Meridian System
- Bowen and the Ayurvedic System
- Body-Mind Approaches to Bowen
- Bowen in Palliative Care
- Understanding Fascia
- Deep Anatomy
- Bowen-specific Business and Ethics
- Communication skills
- Four modules of Advanced Bowen techniques only taught in the Bowtech system
We feel we offer the best balance of professionalism and expertise and aim to offer the most comprehensive approach to working with the Bowen technique in order to give the broadest possible benefits for practitioners. We pride ourselves on being inclusive and supporting practitioners with the highest quality training from around the world.
*Note: Not all workshops offered in Australia. BTA is committed to having International Instructors visit “Down Under” to present their workshops which include material not currently available in Australia. Visiting Instructor workshops will be announced on the BTA website here and Facebook page here. Visit www.bowtech.com to see worldwide offerings. Continuing education workshops are not part of the nationally-recognised training here in Australia, however they are Bowtech-accredited.
By John Wilks, Instructor UK