Description of Bowenwork
Bowenwork® is a system of touch that initiates a series of responses through stimulation of the nervous, musculoskeletal, fascial and energetic systems of the human body.
Practitioners perform sequences of small stimulations, called moves, on specific points on the body, interspersed with rest periods. The Bowenwork moves stimulate mechanoreceptors (nerve endings) that overlie both muscles and acupoints. The body’s response to this stimulation, which begins during the rest periods, includes a balancing of the autonomic nervous system and changes in the musculoskeletal system in the direction of increased symmetry. These effects, in turn, remove blockages to the free flow of energy in the body. From the point of view of complementary health care, when the body’s nervous and energetic systems are in balance, its physical, emotional and mental functions are able to return to a healthy state.
For more information about Bowenwork, please visit our Library section, which includes both general background articles and research reports on the effects of Bowenwork on specific conditions.
The Philosophy and Practice of Bowenwork
The purpose of a Bowenwork session is to activate the innate healing mechanisms within the body so that, given time, the autonomic nervous system will self-regulate, energy will move more freely, and the body will heal to the extent it is able.
The work is gentle on the client’s body. In line with Bowenwork’s overarching philosophy of “Less is best,” practitioners aim to provide only enough inputs to elicit the body’s healing response. The number of inputs and length of the rest periods are determined for each client during each session; hence sessions do not have a fixed duration but rather can vary from a few moments to an hour, with the rest periods generally taking more time than the hands-on work.
Responses in the nervous and energetic systems can continue for up to 10 days after each Bowen session. Typically sessions are therefore scheduled a week or two apart to allow these processes to complete before providing new input. The client is given self-care advice about staying appropriately hydrated, performing targeted gentle exercises daily, and seeking advice from other health-care providers as needed.
The work is also easy on the practitioner’s body, in large part because it does not include sustained pressure or repetitive motions. As a result, many Bowenwork practitioners are able to continue practicing for as many years as they desire without suffering overuse injuries.
Professional Bowenwork Practitioners
Bowenwork utilizes gentle touch to influence the energy systems of the body. However, it is neither massage nor energy work. It is a distinct practice that requires a unique skill set and specialized training.
The Bowenwork certification program includes certain components that are common to most bodywork practices (e.g., anatomy and physiology, CPR and professional ethics), it does not include training in techniques specific to massage or many other hands-on practices, which not only are unnecessary for the safe and successful performance of Bowenwork, but also would interfere with its minimalist focus.
Professional Bowenwork Practitioners complete 374 hours of training in order to become certified by the American Bowen Academy and the Bowen Therapy Academy of Australia. This training includes:
- 212 hours in the theory and practice of Bowenwork, (including classroom training, the preparation of 10 case studies, and a minimum of 50 hours of logged hands-on practice)
- 120 hours of anatomy and physiology
- 24 hours of business and ethics
- Eight hours of workplace hygience, health and safety
- Four hours CPR certification
- Six hours of bodywork ethics (taken within the last ten years)
Also, students complete at least 50 practice (log) hours and ten case studies.
In order to complete certification training, students are required to pass a rigorous 16-hour practical assessment of the hands-on work and a written test.
Bowenwork students, practitioners and instructors are required to abide by a strict Code of Ethics.
In order to maintain certification, practitioners are required to complete 32 hours of continuing education every two years, 16 of which must review the hands-on work.
American Bowen Academy Position Statement on Massage Licensure for Bowenwork Practitioners
To reiterate, Bowenwork utilizes gentle touch to influence the energy systems of the body. However, it is neither massage nor energy work. It is a distinct practice that requires a unique skill set and specialized training. Many states and municipalities in the U.S. recognize that there are different and specific bodywork professions – professions that have attained maturity through established history and the creation of professional training and practitioner associations.
Those who train in, understand and employ these bodywork methods most clearly recognize that they are distinct from massage, in theory, intent, and practice and that they are not modalities (subsets) of massage therapy.
The requirement that Professional Bowenwork Practitioners obtain massage licensing places an unfair burden on them to enroll in, pay for and completely unnecessary training (e.g., in Swedish or other massage techniques). If they cannot afford massage training, or physically cannot complete a massage program, then they are prevented from practicing a profession in which they have already received specialized training. Such a requirement also creates a barrier for the public who are deprived of access to beneficial services provided by these qualified professionals.
The Academy’s position is that well-trained and certified Bowenwork professionals should not be required to obtain massage licenses in order to practice Bowenwork legally. However, since many states and municipalities currently interpret the definition of massage to include virtually everyone whose practice includes touch, the Academy advises prospective students — before embarking on Bowenwork training — to verify whether or not their state requires a license.
In jurisdictions that do require licensing, the Academy encourages students and practitioners to form or join state coalitions with other non-massage practitioners in order to become knowledgeable about their state and local laws and to educate the public, other health-care providers and legislators about their respective practices. Joining with other non-massage practitioners will build support for a movement towards removing unnecessary roadblocks to having careers as Professional Bowenwork Practitioners.
American Bowen Academy Code of Ethics requires students, practitioners and instructors to comply with all local laws and regulations.
Massage licensing laws vary in each state. An aggregated summary of information can be found at American Massage Therapy Association. However, laws can change from time-to-time and the most complete source of information will be found by searching for the website of your state’s massage licensing authority. Please Contact us if you have questions.
Learn how Bowenwork helps
Visit our Benefits page to see the list of conditions that are seen to respond well to Bowenwork.
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