The Bowenwork technique is a soft-tissue approach that helps the body heal itself. The goal of a Bowenwork session is to help the body heal better so it can feel better, promoting balance in all systems of the body, including the nervous, musculoskeletal, and energetic systems. Bowenwork operates on the philosophy that “less is best.” Practitioners aim to only provide enough manipulation or input to activate the healing mechanisms already in place within the body, allowing time for the autonomic nervous system to respond with healing and “resetting” messages.
The Bowenwork technique consists of a series of “moves” interspersed with brief pauses, or “waits.” The movements are typically gentle and light and are sometimes described as a “stretching and rolling” feeling. The moves are specifically placed over muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, fascia, or acupoints and meridians. They activate specialized receptors or nerve endings which relay information to the brain about the condition of the body. The practitioner will pause or wait after a set of moves because the nervous system operates on a feedback loop, or two-way communication. This pause, which is typically 2-5 minutes, is important because it allows time for the body to respond with messages of change and balance without overwhelming it with too much information at one time. Bowenwork is very much like having a conversation with someone. Rather than one participant doing all the talking (in this case, the practitioner providing constant input), each party takes turns listening and responding to effectively communicate a message. During the waiting periods, the client will often experience sensations like brief changes in temperature, waves of movement or energy, deeper breathing, relaxing into the table, and may even fall asleep.
Watch a demonstration of the Bowenwork technique by Ossie Rentsch, one of Tom Bowen's students and founder of Bowtech.
History of Bowenwork
Tom Bowen (1916-1982) of Geelong, Australia is credited for the development of the technique we now refer to as Bowenwork. He had a keen interest in the body and had a remarkable ability to determine the root cause of someone’s pain just by observing their posture, movement, and gait. He enjoyed watching sports and took note of how professional manipulators like massage therapists and chiropractors worked with the athletes. Mr. Bowen began developing his own technique in the 1950’s, first working on his colleagues at his skilled labor job as well as athletes. He often said his development of the technique was a “gift of God.” Although he did not promote or advertise his technique, word of his success spread quickly, and he soon quit his day job, rented office space, and began seeing clients.
Over the years, he allowed a select number of people to observe his work and felt that only six of those observers had a good understanding of his approach. One of them, Oswald “Ossie” Rentsch, had undertaken the study of massage in 1959 to help his wife, Elaine, who had suffered from a childhood neck injury and was in constant pain. Because of the severity of her spinal injury, she fully expected to become an invalid.
Still searching for help for her fifteen years later, Ossie met Mr. Bowen and began traveling two hours each way to observe him work in his clinic. Elaine became a patient of Mr. Bowen’s, and her health and mobility gradually returned. In 1976, Ossie opened a clinic modeled after Mr. Bowen’s. After Mr. Bowen’s passing, with his prior blessing, Ossie began teaching his interpretation of Bowen’s work in 1986, which he called “Bowtech.” Bowtech is known as Bowenwork in the United States and is taught in over 25 countries today.