A HOLISTIC HANDS-ON APPROACH TO THERAPY
Written and Photographed by Elaine Ryan
Bowen Therapy is an alternative body treatment administered by a licensed massage therapist trained in a specific sequence of hands-on, gentle rolling motions along muscles and tendons. Unlike the direct manipulation of muscles and joints in massage, Bowen is a language of subtle suggestion; it involves minimal movements with very specific pauses between each muscle group to help direct the body toward self-healing. The practitioner aims to do a fundamental amount of procedures in sequence, keeping with the “less is more” formula of the Bowen technique. It can be used to treat both humans and animals.
Developed in the early 1950s by the late Thomas Ambrose Bowen in Australia, Bowen Therapy has proven to be a relaxing, non-invasive strategy for treating those injured and non-injured. This series of muscle and connective tissue movements is performed in a prescribed succession to treat designated body systems. Each Bowen session is about forty-five minutes and is performed through clothing. The movements are done with dedicated two-minute pauses between muscle groups to allow the body to fully process and incorporate new information provided during bodywork. The wait time is meant to allow the body to “reset” itself in a self-healing response.
Here in Vero, we are fortunate to have Debra Keathley as a provider of Bowen Therapy. Keathley came to Bowen out of desperation. Debbie was an active horse trainer, but two serious automobile injuries in two years left her with crippling neck and back pain that impeded her quality of life. After four years of traditional treatments of massage, physical therapy, chiropractic, and acupuncture, Debbie found her physical ailments were not improving. Frustrated and defeated, she reluctantly agreed to try an alternative for her chronic pain. Dr. Jo Anne Whitaker, MD was Keathley’s neighbor. Whitaker had just returned from Australia, equipped with what she called, “the single most healing modality in medicine today”. Whitaker shared Bowen Therapy with Keathley and she noticed an improvement in her pain almost immediately.
Keathley wasted no time and became a licensed massage therapist before training in the discipline of Bowen Therapy. Because of her equine background, Debbie was initially only interested in treating horses with Bowen, but she quickly realized the benefit to rider, as well. She immersed herself in learning everything she could about Bowen Therapy and is passionate about sharing that knowledge with others.
Debbie offers therapy to both human and animal clients; she treats people in her office but travels to barns all over Indian River County to work with equines. Bowen bodywork for horses is said to enhance their performance, aid in injury recovery, address lameness issues, and help abate emotional and respiratory stress. Additionally, Debbie treats other companion animals, such as dogs and cats, for injuries and temperament issues.
“My practice is about one-third people, one-third animals, and one-third teaching. I love it all, but working with animals is very different than working with people. People verbally tell me things that are helpful for treatment; animals are authentic in their response to treatment. They don’t lie. Animals have no desire to make me look good. I have to rely on the physical response of animals to help guide treatment. “
Debbie works with other massage therapists to help them pursue their continuing education hours, and her passion and dedication to sharing Bowen Therapy is paramount. Keathley teaches “Basic Bowen” to family and friends. Whitaker was a firm believer that everyone should have access to Bowen Therapy. Through teaching others Basic Bowen techniques, described as a “prescription of an unchanging protocol that relaxes the whole body”, Debbie is able to help carry out her predecessor’s desire by providing this knowledge. Keathley emphasizes the importance of exposure to Bowen and likens it to the value of learning CPR.
“I would like to see every family have some understanding of Basic Bowen so they have an immediate emergency ‘reset button’ in the event of an injury. I can talk about Bowen endlessly. There is a very special place for it in my life, for how it has helped me and how I can use it to help others. Eighty percent of the results we see are from just Basic Bowen movements. It can help with migraines and boost the autoimmune system. It is totally safe and noninvasive; it can even be performed on those in wheelchairs or on pregnant women. We even use Bowen to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) because we are dealing with the autonomic nervous system. Bowen aims to help find equilibrium between the sympathetic nervous system—our ‘fight or flight response’—and the parasympathetic nervous system—the calming, repairing response. ”
Ultimately, individual results from Bowen rely on the body’s ability to heal itself. It is typical to schedule three treatment sessions initially, seven to ten days apart. According to Keathley, the statistics of Bowen’s effectiveness “are absurdly high”.
“Bowen can be done on anyone. There is no danger associated with it. It is pleasurable and relaxing and reduces stress. It helps increase sleep. It absolutely cannot hurt and may very well help, so why not give it a try?”
To learn more about Bowen Therapy or to schedule your session, please visit www.bowenhealing.org.
Originally published on Vero Home Life & Design