An introduction to Bowen – the therapy that makes you do all the work

It’s still a relatively new modality in the holistic world, but Bowen can work wonders to help relieve pain and restore natural balance, writes Janey Lee Grace

I first encountered the Bowen technique nearly 20 years ago when I was seven months pregnant with my second son. I was feeling great and literally ‘blooming marvellous’ until back pain struck. 

Janey Lee Grace

Midwives assured me it was common in pregnancy and would go away after the birth, but I didn’t fancy two months of mild agony.

I tried aromatherapy, saw an osteopath and a chiropractor but nothing helped.  Then I tried Bowen therapy – named after Tom Bowen, the Australian who devised it, initially as part of his work alongside osteopaths on horses. 

As I lay fully clothed, the therapist gently ‘rolled’ and stimulated my muscles. She explained that Bowen works by prompting your body to take action. 

I was sceptical and when she left the room after only a few minutes to allow my body to ‘cook’ I wondered if there was a charlatan at work.

But she explained that this treatment can take the body out of ‘fight or flight’ mode and take it towards a sleep state to allow it to start to repair.

Half an hour later, I was done. I had to walk around and drink lots of water. Then something amazing happened. Despite having limped down into the treatment room, I found I could literally leap back up the steps. It felt like a miracle.

Now I recommend Bowen to lots of people. I even won a live ‘bet’ with Tim Smith, my co-host on Radio 2. I told him that a session of Bowen would work for his tennis elbow and it did! 

What is Bowen therapy?

Bowen is a soft tissue treatment which uses a series of ‘moves’ on different points of the body, to work with the connective tissue and relax the muscles, ligaments and tendons. This, in turn, allows them to find their correct length, and enables the body to find and regain its natural balance and function. The treatment influences the physical body, but also calms the nervous system and helps with hormonal imbalance.

“The beauty of the treatment is that it looks at the root cause of why you have the issue in the first place,” says Emma Ross, who is a Bowen therapist at Aberdeen Bowen Therapy.

Emma Ross

“When you have mild aches and pains, it’s your body telling you it’s a bit out of balance. But you ignore it. Life adds some slips, trips or falls, and emotional and environmental factors to the mix, and then somewhere down the line, the body decides it pushed to the limit and you feel pain.”

Being non-invasive and with no strong manipulation, Bowen is suitable for everyone, from babies to the elderly and, of course, pregnant women. It seems to be able to help lots of physical issues, such as chronic pain, neck issues, sports related injuries, back and pelvic pain, TMJ (Temporo-Mandibular Joint) issues, and migraines. 

It can also be beneficial for menopause symptoms, fertility, digestive problems (including colic in babies), anxiety and grief. There aren’t many therapies around that can cover such a broad range of ailments and it’s not something you usually need to do for any length of time.

“We generally look for responses and changes in the body after three to four sessions, but it’s a bespoke approach for each client,” says Emma.

“We may might find that with chronic, or longer-term issues we need six treatments or more.”

So, does Bowen work for everyone? Well, therapists tell me it’s not always a total cure, but most people find their symptoms are alleviated to some extent. One thing for sure is, in the hands of a good therapist, it won’t cause any harm. 

Many of us forget the importance of self-care and ‘maintenance’. We regularly take our car to the garage for a service. We don’t forget to top it up with fuel and, of course, the MOT is compulsory. But it’s just as important to recognise that our body needs this regular care too – and a Bowen treatment is an excellent self-care maintenance ‘treat’!

Once you have had Bowen therapy, you will become more aware of your own alignment. Then you will start to feel when your body is going out of sync and that’s when (if you haven’t booked in for your MOT) it may be time to give your therapist a phone.

To find out more about Bowen therapy, or to find a practitioner in your area, click here

Janey Lee Grace is an Amazon No. 1 best-selling author, commentator and co-presenter on BBC Radio 2’s Steve Right in the Afternoon. She has twice been voted the number one personality in the Natural Beauty Industry Yearbook and runs a busy recommendations website.

She has written five books on holistic living, including the Amazon No. 1 bestseller Imperfectly Natural Woman, writes columns, runs workshops and hosts the annual Janey Loves Platinum Awards to recognise the best in natural and organic products.

Since ditching the booze, Janey also runs Alcohol Free Life, a podcast focusing on sober self-care. 

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