5 Ways Bowen is Different to Massage Therapy

(AKA What the frick is Bowen therapy?!)

Bowen is a relatively new modality, created in Victoria, and only began being shared and taught since the late 80’s. Because of this, most people actually have no idea what it is or what it can do for you.

As it is a hands on modality people most often associate it with remedial massage, however the two are like apples and oranges. Bowen therapy is NOT a massage, although it can, like massage, also be incredibly relaxing, relieve aches and pain, support injury recovery and generally make you feel amazing!

If you are turning up to a Bowen session expecting a massage however, you might be disappointed… at first! Or until later when you feel amazing!

Here are some of the main things that make Bowen different to massage.

1. Holistic

No matter what the issue is that you come in to get treated, Bowen therapy always treats the body as a whole. Often there are several things going on in your body that are related and you don’t even realise! Perhaps you’ve been getting a sore shoulder, and the opposite knee? Maybe you’ve been having a sore neck and your period has been crazy? Maybe your digestion has been bad, and you’ve had anxiety, fatigue or aches? Having any or all of these issues might be actually be stemming from the same root cause in your body. And Bowen can support you in all of them!

2. Hands Off 

Bowen is incredibly gentle. It can be used on newborns, the elderly and even directly after surgery and injuries. Each session consists of several sets of small ‘moves’ across different areas of the body, with a few minute wait in between each set of moves, to allow the body to respond. Because no oil or long movements are used, it is possible to have a bowen treatment fully clothed if you are wearing loose comfortable clothing that isn’t too slippery/silky.

3. Nervous System

The majority of physical issues that people have an emotional component, and stem from the nervous system reacting to stressors in their lives. In order to really resolve the issues, Bowen addresses the nervous system directly, helping it to calm down, and become less reactive to outside stimuli.  As such, the psychological benefits of Bowen therapy are even greater than the wonderful effects that massage has for people. It is incredibly supportive for people with emotional issues such as Anxiety and Depression.

4. The 3 W’s

Because it’s your body’s innate wisdom that is doing the healing, it’s important to support this process after a session. Bowen has a few specific things that you can do after a session the make the most of the work.

The main things you can do after a bowen session to ensure the best outcome are:

Water – Drinking a lot of water is essential after a bowen session. A treatment can trigger a detoxification process in the body, and even if not, healing in general is greatly supported by drinking adequate water.

Walk – After a session, going for a walk around the block really helps to settle the treatment into your body. It’s also great if over the week, but especially the first day or two, if you dont sit for more than a half hour at a time.

Wait – wait at least 5-7 days for another treatment, of ANY kind of body work. Your body needs time to work through the input from the session and the benefits keep on developing over those 7 days.

It is also not advisable to apply strong heat or ice to the body for a few days after a treatment as this strong stimuli can interfere with the treatment.

It’s also important to note that some people have treatment reactions, although this can happen with any bodywork! This may include a day of fatigue, headaches, or aches. Usually this only lasts for a day, and then afterwards you feel much much better. It is the body processing what has happened, detoxifying and resetting itself.

5. Small and Specific

With Bowen, less is best. When working directly with the nervous system, its best to keep the input low and specific. Sometimes in the most powerful session, there might only be as few as 6 small moves!

Bowen talks to your nervous system and works using the bodies following systems:

  • Stretch reflex

  • Joint proprioception

  • Fascia

  • Acupuncture points and meridians

  • Lymphatics

  • Detoxification

  • Harmonic vibration.

Bowen is all about working WITH your body, it’s own innate wisdom, and using it’s own ability to heal. This means giving the body enough time and space to really, deeply, heal itself, instead of trying to force it to do what you want.