FREE US Shipping Over $250. Even More Supplement Options At Our Retail Location: (707) 528-HERB

Bowenwork: A New Approach to Bodywork

May 26, 2015

Bowenwork: A New Approach to BodyworkAuthor: Sandra Gustafson
Bowenwork is an established form of bodywork increasingly sought by clients who desire approaches to pain relief, postural realignment and relaxation; and by bodywork practitioners seeking an effective, hands-on modality that does not unduly strain their bodies when working on multiple clients a day. 

Bowenwork benefits

The technique originated in Australia, with self-taught manipulative therapist Thomas Bowen (1916–1982), and was introduced internationally by one of his protégés, Oswald Rentsch, in the late 1980s.

Bowenwork is a facilitative process, wherein the practitioner’s light, minimal moves on the body, plus pauses, coax its innate healing mechanisms toward self-restoration and relaxation. The technique notably affects the autonomic nervous system, shifting it from sympathetic dominant to parasympathetic homeostasis. During a session, clients tend to experience deep relaxation, may fall asleep, and often, tummy rumbling can be heard.

Bowenwork can be effective for recovery from multiple health issues: physical injuries, postural imbalances, illness, fatigue or stress-related conditions, according to Oswald and Elaine Rentsch’sBowtech – The Original Bowen Technique: Instruction Manual – Modules 1 & 2 (2013). The Bowenwork practitioner embraces a holistic approach to supporting the body’s intrinsic ability to heal from dis-ease, and does not only focus on areas of pain or dysfunction. The practitioner often performs moves on areas seemingly unrelated, to reset tissue-tension patterns throughout the body and support optimal function.

A Bowenwork session

The technique is performed with the client, lightly dressed, seated or lying comfortably on a massage table. When people initially observe and experience this subtle technique, it may seem a little mysterious in its minimal approach, with the practitioner applying some hands-on work, interspersed with hands-off delays.

A Bowenwork practitioner applies a series of gentle, rolling moves to specific locations, over skin, fascia, muscles, tendons or ligaments, in a manner not typically seen in other techniques. Sets of moves are followed by hands-off pauses for two minutes or longer, to allow the body to integrate multiple sensory signals, activated in proprioceptors and nerve pathways, within various layers of tissues.

In addition to feeling the practitioner’s hand movements, clients may feel a variety of sensations during a session, such as tingling, increased warmth in the extremities, tissue tension releases, increased relaxation, and less pain; or not feel anything at all. Effects of the work can be observed during a session, a little later, or even a few days afterward, as each person responds differently to the technique.

Principles of Bowenwork

A deeper look into some of the physiological mechanisms at play helps shed some light on the Bowenwork process, including an osteopathic principle put forth by John Hilton in 1863—over 150 years ago—that still holds true today.

Hilton’s Law, as quoted in “Hilton’s Law Revisited,” published in Clinical Anatomy (2014), states:

“The same trunks of nerves whose branches supply the groups of muscles moving a joint furnish also a distribution of nerves to the skin over the insertions of the same muscles; and…the interior of the joint receives its nerves from the same source.”

This concept helps us understand how gentle stimulation on skin, superficial fascia, muscles, and tendons can alter deeper tissue-tension patterns and joint realignment.

Bowenwork: A New Approach to BodyworkAnother neuromuscular principle is reciprocal inhibition. Part of the move involves applying pressure against muscle, tendon or ligament fibers, which activates proprioceptive spindle cells, Golgi tendon organs and spinal reflexes, resetting acute and chronic contraction patterns in muscles, tendons and fascia; and improving tone in tissues weakened by abnormal tension patterns. These outcomes are supported by the findings of the study “Human muscle spindle sensitivity reflects the balance of activity between antagonistic muscles,” published in the Journal of Neuroscience in 2014.

It is not clear how Thomas Bowen decided to wait two minutes between sets of moves; however, a clue lies in Lawrence H. Jones, D.O.’s Strain-Counterstrain research, which measured stretch reflex amplitude waveforms to various stimuli, according to a 2006 study in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association. Jones found, through electromyelograph testing, that it took up to 90 seconds for muscle tissue to relax after a stimulus was applied, according to the text Rational Manual Therapies (1993).

Getting started in Bowenwork

Bowenwork is safe for people of all ages, including babies, children, adults, pregnant women and the elderly. It can be used for people with acute or chronic health issues, not just musculoskeletal problems, according to John Wilks and Isobel Knight’s 2014 book, Using the Bowen Technique to Address Complex and Common Conditions. It is easy on practitioners’ bodies, and can be performed on more than one person at a time.

Bowenwork is taught by the American Bowen Academy. Professional Bowenwork Practitioner accreditation currently involves completing seven two-day modules, 100 hours of anatomy and physiology, 24 hours of business and ethics, and CPR certification. More information is available at

About the Author

Bowenwork: A New Approach to BodyworkSandra Gustafson, M.H.S., R.N., a Bowenwork practitioner for 23 years, is also a registered nurse and integrative health care practitioner at Farmacopia. She finds Bowenwork beneficial for supporting clients recovering from or managing physical ailments and illness, even people very sick with cancer and degenerative neurological diseases. Click here to learn more about Sandra and her services. 

Article orginally published at

★ Customer Reviews

Let customers speak for us

353 reviews
Got Sick - Respiratory Specific
Catherine - San Francisco
Extra-Level Respiratory Support

Nourishing Lung tincture has been our go-to during the now-annual fire season, reducing the impacts of smoke & polluted air, and for providing overall respiratory support.
Got Sick-Respiratory Specific is a great addition for the onset of URIs and other respiratory distress, as it seems to act rapidly and deeply. It's also very effective in combination with Nourishing Lung. My husband was developing a URI following surgery, and before calling the Dr for antibiotics, he opted to try using both tinctures, together with Got Sick regular formula. Significant improvement occurred within 12 hours and he was able to clear it without medication. Highest recommendation.

Thank you for letting us know how these worked for you!

GI Fortify
Kim Metcalf
G.I. Fortify

Like the ease of the capsules. Also use the powder. Excellent way to add fiber and help digestive track. Definitely use it daily.

Intolerance Complex
Kim Metcalf
Intolerance Complex

Helps some when eating dairy or gluten on a occasional basis. Have purchased several bottles over the past few years.

Life saver!

Recommended to me by 2 Naturopaths. this product has helped me out of SIBO issues and also maintained my body's natural gastric process.
Whenever I have a flare up of digestive problems, this product, in combination with garlic and probiotics has helped me restore things without the torment of antibiotics, which destroy your gut lining. I highly recommend staying on an assigned regiment of Candibactin BR for a cure.

Inflamyar Ointment
pam zimmerman

Woks great for pain. The best arnica product I've found.