My wife Gail is a massage therapist. I am not. But I am a certified Bowenwork practicioner. Here is the description of Bowenwork that I wrote during the qualifying exam:
Bowenwork is a minimalist form of hands-on bodywork that uses the body’s signalling system to encourage the body to heal and rebalance itself. The moves are gentle and safe, and the technique can induce profound relaxation as well as address many specific problems.
One thing I like about Bowenwork is that there is no theoretical orthodoxy to it. The results are surprisingly powerful in relation to the moves themselves (which are spaced out at intervals to allow the body to process each set of signals before the next set). Tom Bowen, the Australian inventor of the type of bodywork named after him, did things without giving any explanation for why they worked. But they do.
I enjoyed taking the classes to learn Bowenwork with my wife. I feel I have learned a lot in a relatively short amount of time. It is nice to be able to help my wife with some of her aches and pains. And by learning a technique of bodywork I have gained a lot more confidence in thinking through the nature of my own aches and pains.
(I read in a massage magazine a critique of our culture only a bodyworker in the broad sense would think of: “We are a flexion-based culture.” Flexion is when joints bend in the direction they bend when someone curls up into a ball, like a fetus is curled up in the womb. Using our electronic devices and deskwork more generally tend to bend us in that direction. Something needs to be done to counteract that. Bowenwork helps, and so does stretching and exercising in the opposite direction: extension. One important principle most people don’t realize is that it is typical to hurt on the opposite side from where they are tight. For example, tight chest muscles will often make people hurt between their shoulders. In that case, counterintuitively, the remedy is to stretch the chest muscles–by, say lying backward on an exercise ball–and to do exercises that contract the hurting, overstretched muscles between the shoulders in order to strengthen them. Similarly, if the backs of one’s hands hurt, it is typically a sign of doing a lot of work that pulls the fingers together. The remedy is to do exercises opening up the hand against the resistance of a rubber band around all five fingers near their ends, which strengthens the extensor muscles on the back of the hand and forearm that are hurting because their opposites on the insides of the hands and forearms have gotten so strong and contracted.)
One of the remarkable things about Bowenwork is that the moves are gentle enough it is easy to do them on oneself. There are some quick moves I do on myself almost every day to counteract the effects of many hours at the computer keyboard. As a blogger, Bowenwork is my secret weapon enabling me to do as much as I do online, without suffering too many adverse side effects from the physical aspects of computer work, particularly in the neck, shoulders and arms.
I live in my head a lot. But I depend on my body to be ready to do what needs to be done to execute ideas for research and writing. And the body also affects the mind, if only because pain is distracting. I am glad to have some extra tools to help keep my body in good working order.