Shining A Light

One of the first post qualifying courses I did was with Howard Plummer from Cardiff. His amazing work with children and his Fascia Bowen technique was transformative in the way I now work with people. On top of his “Sedately, Mary sedately”  his recommendation of Duane Juhan’s wonderful book of how touch heals helped form the principles of my working holistically “with” someone, not trying to “fix” the person or the condition. I thought I would share this quote with you.

“It is not the bodyworker who is ‘fixing’ the client. The bodyworker is not attacking a localised problem with specialised tool, confident of achieving certain results.

Instead, she is carefully generating a flow of sensory information to the mind of the client, information that is not being generated by the client’s own limited repertoire of movements – new information that the mind can use to fill in the gaps and missing links in its appraisal of the body’s tissues and physiological processes…

The bodyworker is not an interventionist; she is a facilitator, a diplomatic intermediary between a physiological processes that have lost track of one another’s proper functions and goals, between a mind that has forgotten .

Touch ( administered through Bowen & Emmett moves)  is not like pharmaceuticals or scalpels. They are like flashlights in a darkened room.

The medicine administered  is self awareness. And for many of our painful conditions, this is the aid that is most urgently needed.”

— Deane Juhan in his book, Job’s Body.

Tensegrity – understanding body movement

When I was doing my training in the Bowen Technique, tensegrity was often discussed. I  bought one of these baby’s toys to help me understand it.

tensegrity baby

The principles of the tensegrity model are just simple tension and compression. Imagine this as a model which is self organizing, hierarchical and self stabilising.  Apply this principle to the body, think of the rigid connections as our bones,  visualise the dance as the body moves through a day. As one muscle contracts or is under tension, the rest of body adapts.

When it cannot regulate to the “normal” healthy position, or homeostasis, the body will adjust in order to function. This is when function affects structure.  If, in order to walk with our eyes level, which we are predisposed to do, our body may need to adopt a different posture which in turn may affect our structure over time.  Without intervention the hierarchical  layers of our body become asymmetrical and often lead to pain, somewhere. Hurt ankle affects opposite knee, affects hip, affects shoulder, affects neck, affects head. Get the picture?  Ida Rolf said it better  “Where you think it is, it ain’t.”

Tom Myers, Anatomy Trains developed a model of the hips, a classic example of using tensegrity to explain “the unique motions of the pelvis, sacrum, and hips in walking.”   When the connecting tissue around the bones stops moving fluidly, we often experience pain.

tom myers tensegrity model image

Techniques like Emmett or Bowen can soften the tissue so fluidity can be restored. This 2 minute video explains more.



Used clinically for decades by many body workers including Bowen Therapists,  Chiropractors & Osteopaths,  I was fortunate enough to attend workshops in the last few years with some wonderful Australian expert teachers and learn the theory of the Lovatt Brothers and more ways to bring changes to the body. The main theory is that if there is dysfunction at one end of the spine, it will reciprocate with problems at the other end, as per the diagram.
In the most simplest of explanations when there is a rotation in L5 there will always be a rotation in C1, its ‘Lovett Partner’, even in the absence of symptoms of pain or lack of function at C1. With all the listings they can work both ways. For example, a  dysfunction at L5 can cause a C1 dysfunction and a C1 dysfunction can cause an L5 dysfunction. When one is out of neutral so will its partner. Often it is necessary to address the Lovett Partner as well to get a lasting or even successful correction. Remembering that the joint above and below at the dysfuction is also likely to be affected you can see the cascade of musculoskeletal problems that can arise. This is why treating TMJ and sacrum/coccyx together in some people is so important.  Anything that disrupts the mechanics of the sacrum and the coccyx can create adverse mechanical tension in the central nervous system leading to all sorts of musculoskeletal, neurological, visceral and hormonal problems that seem very confusing and hard to figure out.  Early treatment before a problem becomes chronic is paramount. Always consult your doctor for medical assessment and diagnosis.

lovatt brother relationship

Diagram and content courtesy of John Garfield

Emmett&Bowen Techniques-Tools for Pain Management

Gentle touch big change

Hippocrates held the belief that the body must be treated as a whole and not just a series of parts. A belief  I hold dear when treating those in pain.  I treat the whole person using  Emmett or Bowen working with people who are often at the end of their patience, having tried everything. Symptoms such as headaches, knee, back or neck pain, frozen shoulder, bladder problems can all respond very quickly to treatment.

Earlier this year I received my certification as an Advanced Emmett Practitioner to EP2 level, bringing a whole new perspective in using the EMMETT Technique for effective pain management.

What affects on the body does Emmett have? While using Emmett moves  I have felt muscles relax, pelvis shift, seen posture change,  limb mobility increase. All wonderful effects of Emmett. The knock on effect is increased energy as the body is better balanced and moving easier. Ultimately the more balanced the body is the more autonomic functions like circulation and breathing improve and a sense of wellbeing is restored.

Gentle touch big change
Easy muscle management with Emmett Technique

“Overwhelming feedback from Bowen Therapists is that the Emmett Technique has transformed their practice; in particular the speed with which they can bring changes to clients, dramatically improving client outcomes. The Emmett Technique is applied with either light touch at 2 holding points simultaneously or a one directional moves over specific locations on the body which affects . Emmett & Bowen Techniques can correct body alignment problems quickly, with minimal client pain and therapist effort. It isn’t physiotherapy or massage. Advanced practitioners are trained in assessment skills and how to tailor treatments precisely to their clients’ individual needs”.

I now use both Emmett & Bowen Techniques while working in clinics, depending on the clients need at that time, to greater and often quicker affect.  As always, long term problems need more sessions, like peeling an onion, to come back to the source of feeling well. Three or four sessions usually brings relief and repair.

Watch these videos of Ross Emmett demonstrating posture and function changes. Seeing is believing





If you love Yoga, you’ll love this!

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