The modern malady spans everything from the physical (that pain in your back, headaches and indigestion) to the mental (stress and anxiety) – often many, noticed or unnoticed, at once – and it’s nigh on impossible to find a treatment that will aid each and every one of them. But could Bowen Therapy just be it? I think so.
What is it?
A holistic technique that consists of different rolling ‘moves’ performed at different pressures, speeds and directions on small areas of the body – that could be anywhere from your head to your toes – it works to target the soft connective tissue, otherwise known as the fascia.
“We target areas that are ‘frozen’ by releasing restrictions in the fascia,” says Michael Patrick, Director of Bowen Therapy UK, who I see for my treatment, “as well as resetting different type of nerve endings and receptors that control our movement, balance and muscle tension.” Unlike a massage, which uses muscle-moving kneading that can take the body into the stress-inducing fight or flight mode, these ‘releases’ are made at a pressure that the body doesn’t resist and don’t provoke its natural defence system.
What it treats
“Put simply, Bowen initiates the healing response in the body,” says Patrick. The movements intervene with the brain’s signals to prompt the body to let go of tension, stress and emotional baggage, as well as restoring our posture back to the ‘blueprint’ alignment that we have stored innately in our brains. Fundamentally, Bowen Technique is all about the body doing the work; the therapist gives you a message, and the body does the rest.
But what issues does it tackle? As well as neck and back pain, migraines and your body’s alignment – the common complaints of a desk-bound office worker – Bowen can help treat issues in your joints, respiratory and digestive systems, as well as fertility issues. It’s an exhaustive list, sure, but you name it and Bowen will help treat not only the symptoms but the causes, too.
What to expect
Each appointment follows a similar format. Each time you go, the Bowen therapist – Patrick, in my case – asks how you’ve been feeling and if there are any obvious aches and pains you want to address. I don’t have any huge issues but if you do, they will be taken into account. From how I stand naturally – a little hunched, legs not totally straight – to how my jaw moves, he visually takes into account any issues I haven’t even noticed.
During the treatment is no different; he notices I have extremely tight hamstrings, which would make sense after an operation on one of them a few years ago. He suggests that the tighter they are, the more they "drag you down" both physically and mentally. I would have had no idea, though it seems logical that many of the body’s physical issues can be so closely intertwined with how we feel.
The treatment involves lying on a bed (like you would a massage) for 45 minutes to an hour. Between each ‘set’ of moves, your therapist leaves the room for a certain period of time. This can seem disconcerting at first but Patrick tells me that the breaks allow time for the body to integrate the effects of each set of moves. The trick, I am told, is to be aware of my body instead of freaking out.
Over the coming month, during which I go back on consecutive weeks, Patrick works on any issues he finds. Most noticeably for me, it was my jaw. You store a lot of emotion in your jaw, which can manifest in clenching or teeth grinding, for example, and it’s held until it gets released. When he first worked on this area, I could actually feel the strange release of toxins whooshing over my entire face, once even resulting in a headache. Afterwards, I was told I might feel emotional thanks to a whole host of pent-up feelings being released, and that’s exactly what happened. Add to that a host of weird, lucid dreams and restless sleep – as he predicted – and Bowen had me convinced.
It can also help tackle a colossal hangover. After a big night, I had a strange pain in my middle back – my kidneys – for which Patrick set about doing some lymphatic drainage. After 45 minutes, I felt 10 times more energised and the fatigue I couldn’t get rid of had lifted; my hangover was cured.
Why you should give it a go
In just five sessions, my posture was significantly improved, along with a refreshed complexion (yes, it does that too) and a less tense, prone-to-headaches head. I went with no expectations and came out with a much greater awareness of the power of my body and a new way to dispel stress.
You can find Michael Patrick at Triyoga with 45-minute sessions starting at £80. For a therapist in your area go to www.bowen-technique.co.uk