As a physical therapist for nearly 10 years, I have learned that when treating pain, whether acute or chronic, it is nearly impossible to get any movement without addressing the fascial restrictions. We can do all of the exercises and stretches in the world, but when we get into a pain response mode, our nervous system needs to be addressed. I have tried numerous tools and techniques that have been beneficial including Graston or stainless steel instruments, cupping, and vibration massage guns. All of them have their uses and benefits, but I have found a completely different effect and sensation from my newest training in Bowen therapy.
What is Bowen therapy? It is a very gentle technique that uses the thumb and forefinger to target specific tissues in a particular order to stimulate nerve pathways. These moves promote a conversation between the different nervous systems in the body. Unlike soft tissue mobilization or typical massage therapy techniques, Bowen specifically targets the fascia, our true center of emotional storage. In order to impact the fascial centers, the therapist does not slide or flick the tissues’ surface but instead uses the slack in the overlying skin to move over the underlying tissue. Each move is defined by how far an individual’s skin can move over a very small targeted area.
Between each move, the therapist leaves the room to allow the body to integrate these movements, further increasing the effectiveness of the technique. Our brains are overstimulated every day. They receive hundreds of thousands of signals to respond and the number of signals is only increasing with modern technology and the immediate need for satisfaction. By leaving the room, the brain and body lack alternative stimuli and have no choice but to send nerve signals to the targeted area of the body for healing. It is during this time that the true work that is being accomplished is implemented. During integration, it is the patient’s nervous system and not the therapist that is stimulating a healing effect. This is similar to a Shavasana in our LYT yoga class. This is a time for true relaxation so the body can implement all of the movement and precise training of core integration. This allows us to take those principles and movement patterns out into our day-to-day.
Bowen therapy is even more effective when coupled with correct postural restoring exercise interventions from an online yoga class. The lasting benefits of Bowen therapy are minimal if the patient goes right back into whatever activity, movement, or stressful life situations and events that put them in this heightened sympathetic state of pain.
I have found that my patients experience the greatest benefits when teaching them about posture, performing some retraining exercises, activating the core, opening the chest and spinal spaces, retraining their triple S neutral spinal alignment, and purposefully stimulating some stress response through exercise in the body. Then, I transition to Bowen therapy to allow for a true state of relaxation into a parasympathetic state. This multidisciplinary approach shows the body when to turn on that stress mode and when to release and restore.
Who is Bowen therapy appropriate for? EVERYONE! Bowen is extremely gentle and suitable for all ages. Techniques and specific protocols exist for certain illnesses and diagnoses. I have personally seen it benefit conditions like Anxiety/Stress, Depression, Autism, TMJ, ADD/ADHD, Parkinson’s Disease, Scoliosis, Fibromyalgia, Infertility, Multiple Sclerosis, Fibromyalgia, Frozen Shoulder, Sciatica, Chronic Pain, Edema, Asthma, Migraines, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
I am an avid LYT yoga practitioner and instructor and do my best to keep my body aligned on a daily basis, but work and life’s many imbalances can make this difficult. When practicing at home by yourself, it can be challenging to see the small shifts, changes, and adjustments you are subconsciously making in your body that are preventing you from performing at your best. These issues may even be contributing to pain. I can honestly say that on days when I have received Bowen therapy, I can usually nail my yoga handstand with more ease, grace, and poise! Try daily yoga along with your Bowen therapy.
Find a Bowen therapist near you to experience the benefits for yourself. Or if you are in the Charlotte, NC area, book a session with me! https://ivyintegrative.janeapp.com/#/staff_member/18