Interesting article from the Head of European College of Bowen Studies (ECBS) Julian Baker
The Bowen Technique & Yoga practice
Many people practising Yoga will have heard of Bowen or perhaps seen flyers and leaflets for the technique around. Introduced to the UK in the early 90s, it has become one of the fastest growing therapies in Europe and especially popular in the Yoga community. Yet it is not just physical aches and pains which can be addressed by Bowen. n much the same way that someone might feel more positive or energized after a yoga session, we often see a similar ‘well being’ response after a Bowen treatment.
Clients will often report at follow up sessions, that apart from changes in their measured pain patterns, that they have somehow shifted, mentally and emotionally. This rarely manifests in a conscious release, but in more subtle but noticeable shifts. Several clients over the years have reported that they have stopped smoking that week. Not from a specific effort to do so, just that they didn’t feel like doing it any more.
“I handed in my notice this week” is another one that I here reasonably regularly. Again not from an explosive response or a knee jerk reaction to a specific incident. Instead the realization has come that, similar to smoking, what they are doing is another form of destructive behaviour and that they need to move away from it.
Shifts in relationships, both personal and professional are not uncommon and from a whole body perspective this is perfectly rational . With physical treatments we are often fixated on a measurable outcome in terms of pain reduction, range of movement and so forth.
Yet our emotional and mental trauma is played out moment-by-moment in our bodies. If we are stressed, or upset, we don’t think stress or upset, we feel. It’s part of our language of comforting another. “How do you feel?”
This feeling is as much a part of our pain as our bad back or twisted neck and more likely to stay with us and become part of our being than any kind of physical injury. We will all be able to recall instantly a time when we have felt hurt by a remark, heartbroken in a failed relationship or over the death of a loved one. There’s that feel word again!
A response to these events might be to go into ‘therapy’ where we explore our emotional past and present with a sympathetic counselor and a box of Kleenex. “How does that make you feel?” we might here. Instead perhaps the question should be “where do you feel that?”
The loading of the neck, shoulders, back, knees, pelvis amongst other areas in times of emotional impact is something we can all appreciate and the feeling of release through yoga postures is well documented and personally appreciated. It stands to reason therefore that if we associate these regions as where we will store our stress, it’s probably a good idea to gently move them and release them.
The Bowen Technique has often been called physical homeopathy as well as the Yoga therapy. Rather than aim specifically for a dramatic physical or emotional ‘release’, the shifts are often just incorporated into the psyche. One day I felt like a doughnut, the next I didn’t. No shift, just a gentle sea change.
A well designed Yoga session might aim to address the whole of the body and its ranges of movement. Similarly, a basic Bowen treatment will cover virtually all the major stress loading areas of the body with a few simple moves.
The moves are consistently small and kept to a pressure which should be mutually acceptable to both client and therapist. Once a series of moves is applied, the therapist backs off and lets the body do its own thing. This has been compared to the practice of allowing the mind and body to ‘become one in stillness.’
I was reminded of a Vanda Scaravelli quote recently “Movement is the song of the body. We sing when we are happy and the body goes with it like the waves of the sea”
A Bowen session does not seek to impose the will of the therapist on to the body of the client. Instead the tensional relationships that exist in the human form, are touched and moved gently, then rested, to allow for the movement to begin. Even in the stillest sea there is always movement.
From a practical perspective, Bowen is a physical first aid kit or structural tool box. Once the basic application and understanding of the technique is mastered, the principles can be applied equally well in an active yoga environment as in a more passive therapy environment.
Many Yoga teachers and practitioners use Bowen moves during yoga sessions to enhance movement, deepen asanas and breath and allow release. The now famous pelvic procedure has been used more than once on frustrated yogis struggling with a lotus, with jaw dropping consequences and long queues afterwards!
Julian Baker ECBS