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Wonder From Down Under: The Bowen Technique

© Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman ND, MSW

Tom Bowen was a genius-a natural healing genius from the land of koalas and kangaroos, aborigines and Crocodile Dundee. Until recently, the only healing secret that had been imported from Australia was tea tree oil. That changed when Dr. Oswald Rentsch, Tom Bowen's only apprentice, started to teach the Bowen Technique-one of the most effective forms of body work ever developed.

Few people in this country have ever heard of Bowen and his work, but the technique is quite well known and widely appreciated in Australia.

Bowen completed some medical training before World War II, but took up chemical engineering after the war. He developed his own healing methods by studying physics, and anatomy and physiology in order to help his co-workers, friends and neighbors. Dr. Rentsch describes Bowen, in his colorful Australian accent, as "a genuine backyarder," ie. a self-made healer. Bowen gave up his engineering for full-time practice after too many people started coming to see him on evenings and weekends. Bowen's practice was fully booked for more than thirty years, treating nearly 13,000 patients a year. People came to him from all over Australia. He died in 1982 of diabetes, working from a wheelchair right up to the end, after both of his legs had been amputated. His apprentice, Dr. Oswald Rentsch, known as "Ossie", an osteopath and massage therapist, studied with him for two years. Ossie carefully watched, made diagrams and wrote down the moves as he and Bowen treated patients together, to produce the very systematic Bowen Technique. Ossie continued Bowen's work after his death, and only left his own busy practice a few years ago to teach the technique full time. With his wife Elaine, Ossie gives four- day seminars and refresher courses throughout Australia, and more recently in the U.S. and Canada. A number of naturopaths, chiropractors, massage therapists and body workers, mostly in California and the Northwest have taken the Bowen training in the last two years and are already making a significant positive impact on the health of their clients.

Yet another form of body work? Isn't it enough to have to choose between massage, chiropractic, osteopathy, craniosacral, Hellerwork, Feldenkreis, Rolfing and Trager? What makes the Bowen Technique so special? There are four aspects which have impressed me while practicing the Bowen Technique on my patients: simplicity, gentleness, depth of healing, and rapid results.

The Bowen Technique is easy to learn and to apply correctly right after being trained to use it. While most people will go to a practitioner for treatments, the simplicity of the technique allows it to be readily learned for self-treatment as well. There is only one basic move, a gentle sideways challenge to a muscle belly or tendon, then a brief rolling motion over the top which allows the muscle to resume its normal position. This one move is modified to treat any area on the body. Subtle, yet powerful, the Bowen moves send impulses to the muscles, nervous system and brain which help to align and balance the musculoskeletal system and the rest of the body. Moves are done in specific patterns so as to create areas of resonating energy which help heal whatever is within their boundaries.

The Bowen Technique is so gentle that people hardly notice that they are being worked on. They sigh and go into a state of deep relaxation almost immediately as I begin to work on them. This healing trance requires no induction. Only a few simple, gentle Bowen moves are necessary to obtain profound relaxation. Two minute waits between successive groups of moves allow ample time for the body to respond and for relaxation to occur. There is little discomfort and no pain involved with the Bowen Technique, because there is no deep tissue work or hard probing into tender, sensitive muscles or joints.

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About The Author
Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman, ND, DHANP, MSW is a licensed naturopathic physician board certified in homeopathic medicine. She graduated with a degree in ...more
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