Like DD Palmer (Chiropractic), Ida Rolf, (Rolfing), Moshe Feldenkrais (Feldenkrais Technique) and Mikao Usui (Reiki), Tom Bowen had a special talent. He claimed he could feel tiny vibrations in people’s muscles that helped him find the exact location to work on. Tom had the capacity to quickly assess what was wrong with someone and where they were out of balance. He could glance into a room full of people for about 20 seconds and know what each of their problems was.

Although he never advertised, it was estimated that he treated over 13,000 people in the course of one year, and he claimed a success rate of about 88 per cent! He spoke of his skill with great humility and frequently stated that his work was “simply a gift from God”. He dedicated his life to turning his gift into a practical application that has proven to be of great benefit to thousands of people all over the world.

A Bowen Session

A Bowen treatment lasts about 45 minutes. The practitioner ‘rolls’ over the muscles with her fingers, which causes the muscles to relax. No oils are used. Treatment can be done through clothing or directly on the skin. The moves are done in groups. Between sets, the practitioner leaves the room for at least two minutes to allow the body to relax.

The moves send out signals which:

  • Release tension;
  • Stimulate energy flow;
  • Facilitate lymphatic drainage of toxins and waste;
  • Promote good circulation;
  • Increase mobility;
  • Encourage the body to relax, realign and heal itself.

Some people feel shifts and changes in their bodies during and after a Bowen session. While many experience immediate pain relief, improvement is just as likely to unfold over the next few days to a week. Two or three treatments are usually enough to achieve long-lasting relief. Even long-term conditions may respond very quickly. The ideal situation is to give the Bowen Technique a try for three sessions, once per week, without having any other kind of bodywork in between.

What Happens?

A Bowen move consists of mild finger pressure against the side of a muscle or tendon for about three seconds, then a rolling movement over the top of the muscle or tendon, then a release, which allows the muscle or tendon to spring back to its normal position. Bowen moves are often performed in pairs, called ‘stoppers’ that contain the effects of subsequent moves within a limited area. Then muscles or tendons are moved to create an impulse that rebounds from the stoppers back and forth for about two minutes until the area relaxes completely.

How Does it Work?

The Bowen Technique affects the body primarily through the nervous and the bioenergetic systems, to bring it into a state of balance.

Autonomic Nervous System Rebalancing

The autonomic nervous system controls over 80 per cent of bodily functions. For healing to happen, the body needs to shift from sympathetic parasympathetic dominance, which encourages the body to let go of physical and emotional stress. The Bowen Technique facilitates these positive shifts.

Stretch Reflex

Most Bowen moves are done either at the origin, insertion or belly of muscles, where the Golgi and Spindle nerve receptors are located. These receptors inform the nervous system of the state of tension, length or stretch in the muscles and are stimulated during the rolling part of the Bowen move.

Joint Proprioreceptors

All Bowen moves done around a joint directly affect the joint and ligaments, which are richly innervated with proprioreceptors, nerves that sense the position of the body.

Lymphatic Circulation

The Bowen Technique stimulates lymphatic circulation and drainage.

Spinal Reflexes

Many Bowen moves are performed along the spine over the erector muscles. These moves appear to produce referred reactions to other areas of the body. Often people will mention that conditions were addressed, other than the one for which they originally sought consultation, even though the practitioner didn’t know about them.


The fascia plays a major role in muscle coordination, flexibility, postural alignment and overall structural and functional integrity. Bowen moves free the relationship between the fascia and the muscle being addressed.

Acupuncture Points and Meridians

Bowen moves stimulate circulation of energy which helps to clear energy blocks. Coincidentally, several of the moves are located along acupuncture meridians or on specific acupuncture points which are known to stimulate and balance the body’s energy.

Bowen Technique Hailed by Health Professionals

Dr JoAnne Whitaker, MD was facing a hip replacement and back surgery when she discovered the Bowen Technique. After receiving Bowen treatments, not only was she able to walk, but she went back to playing golf, all without surgery. She was so impressed that she flew to Australia to train in the Bowen Technique and now treats patients with ailments ranging from bunions to heart disease.

According to Dr Whitaker, “Bowen Therapy is the single, most important hands-on healing technique in medicine”.

Brenda Williams, Director of the Quiet Miracles Program in North Carolina, chose the Bowen Technique as the sole hands-on component of her hospital’s pain management unit.

Audrey Butko, MD considers the Bowen Technique to be a blessing in her medical practice because of its simplicity, positive results and patient satisfaction. It has nearly eliminated her need to use cortisone injections.

Dr Christine Staub, a family physician with a special interest in the treatment of chronic pain, has seen the Bowen Technique ‘unlock the door’ for patients who had reached an impasse in their pain treatment. “I am thrilled to have Bowen Therapy as a resource for myself, family, friends and patients”, she said.


The main difference between Bowen and other modalities is how fast it works, how gentle it feels and how long the pain relief lasts. For me, the ‘miracle’ lies in the fact that doing so little can produce such profound and long-lasting results.


1. Whitaker, JA, Marlowe, S. The Bowen Technique: A healing modality alleviates myofacial pain of fibromyalgia (FM) and balance the dysfunctional changes of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) as measured by clinical assessment and heart rate variability. In MYOPAIN. Silvi Marina, Italy. 1998.
2. Tim Willcocks. Effect of Bowen Treatment on fibromyalgia sufferers. 1997-98.
3. Whitaker, JA. The Bowen Technique: A gentle hands-on healing method that affects the autonomic nervous system as measured by heart rate variability.