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Bowenwork® is a soft-tissue relaxation technique developed by the late Tom Bowen (1916–1982) of Geelong, Australia. Bowen was never formally trained in any health-care profession, but by closely observing people’s postures and health conditions, he intuitively created a modality that has treated people for many different physical ailments, not necessarily just those limited to musculoskeletal conditions.
Through years of exploration, Bowen identified certain areas of the body as more responsive to the application of moves than others. He had a profound understanding of the innate ability of the body to heal itself and its interconnectedness, both in a structural and energetic sense. He discovered that minimal sets of moves could affect the whole body in a dynamic way, not just at the locations where they were applied. Observers in Bowen’s clinic reported that he would sense areas of tension or dysfunction by “feeling” the energetic fields surrounding the body before deciding where to apply the moves, or when and how long to wait between sets of moves.
The Bowenwork move can be described in four distinct stages: contacting the skin, taking the slack, applying the challenge, and rolling over the tissues. Many of the Bowenwork moves are done either at the origin, insertion, or belly of the muscles where the spindle cells and golgi tendon organs are located, so as to stimulate the spinal reflex mechanisms. This reaction results in a subtle, yet dynamic, effect in altering the resting length of muscle tissue fibers, not only at the point at which the move was made, but also within muscles of the corresponding dermatome and spinal reflex arc pathways.
Bowenwork is described as minimalist—only applying a few moves at a time—and yet able to create simultaneous relaxation responses in multiple areas of the body. As a result of repetitive use, injury, or chronic pain, the body can accommodate abnormal states of tension and perceive them as a normal adaptation. The Bowenwork movements subtly override the state of tension in the muscles and tendons, and relax the surrounding tissues, leading to improved mobility and function. Via proprioceptive stimulation, Bowenwork moves are able to address dysfunctional motor and recruitment patterns in muscles and tendons that contribute to poor postural alignment and improve optimal posture.
Bowen realized that the body needed time to respond to the specific neurological signals of the moves he was using in his work. He believed that a minimum of two minutes was required between sets of moves. The delays also encourage the client to tune in and “listen” to their own body’s responses.
Bowen was a man of few words, and did not formally document his technique, nor give detailed explanations of how they worked. Since his passing, Bowen’s work (now known as Bowtech/Bowenwork) is practiced worldwide, largely due to the efforts of one of his protégés, Oswald (Ossie) Rentsch. As one of six people trained by Bowen, Rentsch documented his teacher’s work and, in 1986, started teaching Bowenwork around the world, along with his wife, Elaine. To date, the Bowen Therapy Academy of Australia has trained practitioners in more than 25 countries, including the United States.
A Bowenwork practitioner uses fingers and thumbs to apply light pressure through a minimal number of precisely located moves or touches over tendons, muscles and nerve bundles. While Bowenwork can be performed anywhere, practitioners usually have offices where clients can relax on bodywork tables or chairs during the session. The work itself is extremely gentle, non-invasive and deeply relaxing. Clients may receive the work through loose, light-weight clothing.
A Bowenwork session consists of one or more procedures (groups of moves) which are done in a particular sequence and interspersed with pauses where the practitioner leaves the room. The pauses allow the body time assimilate the neurological impulses created by the moves. They also help the client to tune in and “listen” to their own body’s responses. Some clients report feeling a variety of pleasant sensations during the pauses, some don’t. But the vast majority of clients become deeply relaxed.
The length of each session can vary from 20–45 minutes. After the initial session, clients are encouraged to reschedule a week later for a follow up and then continue weekly until symptoms resolve. Many clients respond within the first two sessions and then return on an as-needed basis for “tune ups.”
Certification is for those practitioners who intend to practice Bowenwork professionally. The certification standard is uniform throughout the world.
The minimal level of training required to become certified as a Professional Bowenwork Practitioner is:
- The satisfactory completion of Modules 1 through 6, including 10 case studies and 50 hours of hands-on practice completed between classes.
- The satisfactory completion of a two-day Module 7 class with an assessing instructor. This thorough practical assessment covers every procedure taught in the Modules 1-6.
- Written proof of:
- At least 100 hours study of anatomy and physiology
- Business experience/skills or study (20 hours minimum)
- Current certification in CPR
In order to maintain certification, practitioners are required to participate in a minimum of 32-hours of continuing education coursework every two-years.
Credentials and Regulation Bodies
Professional Bowenwork Practitioners are certified by Bowenwork Academy USA (BAUSA).
Bowenwork Academy USA is the only organization in the U.S. that is recognized by the Bowen Therapy Academy of Australia to teach and certify professional Bowenwork practitioners. To date, hundreds of Bowenwork practitioners have been certified through our program, and are currently practicing across the country and abroad.
As the official U.S. affiliate of Bowenwork®, (also referred to as Bowtech®, the original Bowen Technique), our courses are endorsed by recognized bodywork boards from across the country, including the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, the California Board of Registered Nursing, the American Occupational Therapy Association and the Oregon Board of Naturopathic Medicine.
Our instructors meet the standards set by the Bowen Therapy Academy of Australia as well as various national boards, and help the Bowenwork Academy USA foster a professional, inspiring and cooperative environment for our students.
Bowenwork courses and modules are taught across the U.S. and internationally.
The American Association of Bowenwork Practitioners (AABP) was formed in 2006 to:
- Create a community of professionals committed to the ethical practice of Bowenwork.
- Educate the public about Bowenwork.
- Share strategies, experiences and what works best for our clients.
- Share and coordinate research ideas, and create research partnerships.
- Be a dynamic organization that will be supportive and responsive to practitioners’ needs.
- Develop regional groups to support, share and provide strength to one another.
- Give strength to our voices in obtaining special education resources, and, where possible, effect legislation favorable to Bowenwork.