The following  information on the Bowen Technique is provided courtesy of the European College of Bowen Studies—for further information visit their .  Although this site is dedicated to Human treatments it can be easily translated for the equine world.

The essence of Bowen

The unique Bowen moves

The need for stress? The need for Bowen?

The long term results of Bowen therapy

Bowen—a holistic therapy

The strengths of Bowen

The essence of Bowen

Tom Bowen was not an osteopath or even a physical practitioner in the traditional sense.  He did not treat presentations, but rather worked on people's bodies according to what he saw. The difference might seem subtle but is in fact huge.  The whole concept of Bowen is that in some way it prompts the body to start a process of change. The problem is that we aren't always sure what that change needs to be and if we address the specific problem we rarely if ever address the underlying cause.

Bowen was a man whose intuitive ability was such that not only was he able to identify and locate the imbalance, but was able to be certain as to where the starting point for change was.  As a result he could see what changes were obtained by certain moves.  Bowen's essence wasn't procedural, but was based on action.  The simple act of observation brings information and if we act on the information with clarity then we will see the changes.

The unique Bowen moves

Bowen moves are a form of gentle but precise soft tissue manipulation. The practitioner makes a rolling move with his or her thumbs or fingers. Circulation of the blood and lymph is stimulated. Crucial neural communication is facilitated and energy released by relaxing muscles and opening pathways. The Bowen moves do not create energy; they connect with energy already in the system. Blockages in pathways are freed. The practitioner can neither generate energy nor can he or she destroy that energy that exists within all bodies.

Bowen moves are focused on crucial junctions of muscle and of bone, of nerve pathways, of blood and lymph circulation and of energy flow. Communication cross-overs within and between these systems are facilitated. Reconnections are made.

The need for stress? The need for Bowen?

The myriad of tensions that occur as we move through the world are a consequence of our very existence - our bodies, if nothing else, are organisms beautifully adapted to coping with and adapting to an ever changing physical and social environment. Indeed our minds and bodies need change and stimulation to survive. To be unwillingly deprived of stimuli and sensation is a terrible and seriously damaging form of torture. Individuals vary in their need for stimulation; too much, especially when there is no sense of personal control over events or when there is no opportunity for physical activity and release, and the 'stimulation' becomes 'stress'. The Bowen Technique seeks to balance the body so that it deals with the tensions, rigidity and disease brought on by excessive stress. At the same time the treatment leaves the individual not just stress free, but able to enjoy the pleasures and challenges of jobs, sport and social life as much, if not more, than ever before.

The longer term results of Bowen Therapy

Occasionally there is an instant and dramatic improvement in back pain or shoulder mobility. More often the patient, days later, is suddenly reminded of an absence of discomfort and feels for all the world as if the problem had 'gone away by itself'; in the sense that the patient's recently tuned body had mended itself, this is true. This also explains why patients may experience unexpected improvements in other areas of their bodies.

Bowen - a holistic therapy

the impact on the musculature

Muscles, like body organs, contain so many nerve endings that they are virtually extensions of the brain; they remember sequences of movement so that a high diver can perform a complex sequence of acrobatic manoevres in mid air, musician move fingers or footballer dribble a ball almost more rapidly than the eye can follow. Training not only achieves this synthesis of brain and muscle but also enables the body to adapt instantly, in mid sequence, to cope with unexpected events (sometimes successfully, sometimes not, as any observer of ski or bike racing will note). The ability of the most skillful horse-riders or pilots to sense the need for corrective action before horse or plane has made any significant deviation verges on the inexplicable.

No form of physical therapy can expect to be consistently successful unless, like the Bowen Technique, the subtleties of the technique approach the sophistication of the human and animal body system.

For the Bowen practitioner a well-formed Bowen move has a sculptural feel as the thumbs or fingers make firm contact with and then roll over the chosen muscle; the practitioner will sense variations in muscle quality, sometimes broad and rounded with a softly fibrous firmness, sometimes a spiritless flaccidity, sometimes a cable-like tension.

the impact of Bowen at the cellular level

Every cell in our bodies has the ability to communicate with every other cell. Faulty communication between cells results in cancer. That cellular communication involves changes in chemistry and electrical potential has been recognised by neurologists for more than thirty years. The healing of the simplest cut or skin abrasion is not achieved by the body filling the wound with some kind of flexible epoxy resin. New cells replicate and replace the destroyed tissue until, unless scarring occurs, the original texture and contours of the skin have been utterly replicated - only explicable in terms of communication and feedback between cells.

The cells themselves have a limited life span; thus, as long as life animates a body, this recreation of cells ceaselessly takes place in every fibre of the body. The re-creation of cells is infinitely more sophisticated than textbook diagrams of mitosis (the subdivision and multiplication of cells) suggest. Far more than mechanical copying of one cell by another is involved. It is possible for parts of the body, from muscles to neurons in the brain, to take over muscular or cortical functions for which they were not 'intended'.  The Bowen technique aids the whole body to fully integrate itself, has a crucial role in such situations.

To diagnose is inappropriate. The Bowen practitioner does not focus on a single issue. He or she does not treat the cancer, the broken bone or the damaged brain, but the whole patient. The Bowen practitioner has no rigid idea of how the body will receive the moves and use them. Bodies are different and each body will have its own interpretation of disease and injury. No two bodies will be identical in their response, either to a named disease or injury or a specific treatment.

the impact of Bowen at the sub-molecular level

At the sub-molecular level the body is a completely integrated system of energy. At this level energy and matter are in a state of flux; energy and matter vibrate at varying frequencies. It is suggested that the Bowen Technique tunes the vibrational frequencies of the body to achieve essential balance. Theoretical physicists such as David Bohm even suggest that objects / bodies are not separate identities, save in our minds but are part of a Universe that is an interconnected whole system of vibrational energy. Common sense may insist that a body does have a separate, tangible quality though philosophers and logicians may delight in refuting the verity of common sense.

It is conceivable that the energy of a body may in some sense have a more enduring existence than the physical body, that it in some way is responsible for the concentration of molecules that create the objects \ bodies that we experience. There is compelling and startling evidence that the energy of a body may continue to exist for a time after the partial destruction of the body. Oldfield and Coghill designed cameras to record the electromagnetic energy fields emitted by human and plant bodies. One such photograph shows graphically the energy emitted by a complete leaf; another photograph shows the energy emitted by the same leaf after a greater part of the same leaf had been torn off - the visible energy field continues to occupy much the same space as it had before the 'surgery'.

The compelling sensation of limbs after amputation is well documented and has been explained as a purely cognitive phenomena involving misplaced memory. That the phantom limb is more than a memory is suggested by the successful use of Bowen treatment; this included moves 'on' the phantom leg, which successfully ridded the patient of both the pain and the persisting sensation of the amputated limb.

All problems that may occur within the body are a consequence of, or are related to, breakdowns in communication within the whole energy system. Such a modern perception of body function is not entirely novel; Anglo-Saxons identified health as synonymous with wholeness; hael in Old English meant whole and was the stem of haelth, giving us the word/name 'hale' and the term 'health'. The term synergy is appropriate for Bowen as the holistic achievement of the therapy is greater than the sum of the individual moves.

The strengths of the Bowen Technique

manipulation? - massage?

The Bowen Technique is very gentle and subtle - the practitioner does not seek to force or directly align the body to fit a preconceived ideal form or state of health. The focus of Bowen therapy is on helping you / your body to make its own adjustments to achieve relief which is long-lasting and without detrimental side effects. Manipulation can fail because the body slips back into its original misaligned state, especially with long-term injuries. Muscles in spasm can be eased by body or sports massage but numerous treatments may be necessary before tension and pain are dissipated. Anecdotal evidence from some members of the Football Association Medical Society, suggest that for a number of practitioners working in football, Bowen is becoming the preferred therapy. Not only is the technique highly effective but players need less treatment time devoted to them. Moreover the vulnerability of players to injury is substantially reduced - muscle and nervous tension results in asymmetry and rigidity which in turn diminishes the body's ability to deflect torsional forces and punishing blows.


Modern surgery can, and does, achieve wonders. There are however areas where it may, at best, be ineffective. Too frequently back surgery achieves no significant improvement or exacerbates the problem. A recent paper in the Scientific American claimed that herniated\slipped discs are the cause of back pain in only 2 out of 100 cases. Muscular damage due to physical injury or to stress-related tension is now considered the most likely cause of back pain, exactly the focus of Bowen therapy. The first few Bowen moves in a therapeutic session are always on the patient's back and located alongside the 'keystones' of the spine ie. alongside the outermost vertebrae of the concave and convex curves of the spine.

It has been suggested by some that a significant percentage of hip operations might not be necessary. When joints are misaligned it is usually, except in dislocation and degenerative diseases of the bone, the muscles and tendons where the problems lie. It is frequently forgotten that certain joints, such as the articulation of the jaw, have no significant socket and that alignment is therefore dependent upon the bilateral balance of muscle tension. Again the Bowen Technique offers hope to those concerned about the outcome of surgical operations with poor track records.

Recent medical surveys suggest that 90% of hysterectomy operations are unnecessary and that prostate removal in men often only accelerates cancer that might not spread otherwise - 30% of European men have some form of prostate cancer but only 1% die from it. If these findings are confirmed then the Bowen Technique is ideally placed to fill the gap; Bowen has helped many women faced with reproductive problems and men with prostate problems.


Many of us owe our lives to modern drugs. Too often however repeated use decreases their effectiveness - antibiotics leave the immune system weakened and vulnerable to infection, especially in children. Bowen practitioners, in common with other alternative practitioners are wary of a limited intent to simply clear symptoms - undesirable side-effects must be avoided if at all possible. The Bowen Technique can claim dramatic improvements in all these areas without any damaging side-effects.

Drugs, of course, may be essential to achieve a cure. In such situations the Bowen technique can be used as a genuinely complementary medicine, to aid the effectiveness of traditional\allopathic medicine. The better the body and its organs are balanced, the more effective the processes of self-healing. At the very least the amount of drugs necessary to achieve a cure may be reduced.

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