Introducing Bowen therapy

Fiona Hardie informs us of the immense relief that Bowen therapy, a gentle and life-changing modality, can bring to all who experience it.

There exists in our midst a therapy which is so gentle in its approach and yet so powerful in its ability to assist in healing that to not be aware of its existence is a shame for anyone who is living with pain or disease of any kind. This is Bowen therapy. It’s named after the man who developed it: Tom Bowen. 

Bowen is a safe and gentle method which supports patients with metastatic cancer, advanced cancer as well as those requiring end-of-life care. However, it’s not only for those who are ill or in pain. It can be a treatment for caregivers, family members of cancer patients, as well as the patients themselves as Bowen has no limitations in its application. It’s one of very few modalities which isn’t at all contra-indicated in any way during and after oncology treatment.

How does it work?

Bowen therapy has a wide-range approach to address pain, distress, anxiety, and nausea as well as induce a deep sense of relief and relaxation. It’s a non-invasive, hands-on modality which is performed by a therapist on a fully-clothed client who is either lying down or seated.  

The treatment can be adjusted to suit the needs or physical limitations of the recipient. A gentle move is made with the thumbs at specific points on the body creating a challenge in the fascia (connective tissue which is beneath the skin).

Whether ill, stressed or in pain, the sympathetic nervous system which is our fight or flight system is dominant and this prevents our body’s systems from efficiently performing their usual functions, such as digestion, elimination and respiration. 

During a Bowen session, the parasympathetic nervous system which is the rest and digest part of our nervous system is brought to the fore thanks to the gentle stimulation of certain receptors in our bodies which then allows our body to relax.

Once in a state of relaxation with the sympathetic nervous system calmed, the body can begin the healing process. What sets this therapy apart from others is that two-minute breaks are made in between the moves which allows the body to fully respond. 

The body isn’t overstimulated, and the client enters a very deep state of relaxation. It’s not unusual for clients to fall into a deep sleep during a session which can be anything from 30 minutes to an hour. The belief is that less is more so that the already stressed body isn’t further overloaded. 

What are the benefits?

The benefits are far reaching. Improved quality of sleep, reduction in pain, nausea and vomiting, as well as reduction of anxiety levels is some of the feedback most often received. 

Managing the side effects of cancer treatment, such as scar tissue from radiation, or peripheral neuropathy from chemotherapy, are yet further advantages of having Bowen during these medical treatments. 

Dry mouth, detoxification, oedema, constipation, fatigue (a major side effect of chemotherapy), lymphoedema are all side effects that Bowen can assist in alleviating. It’s not simply only an all-round relaxation treatment, but also targeted toward what the patient is experiencing and needing relief from.

An oncology patient or caregiver’s quality of life can be greatly improved. Bowen’s efficacy in optimising people’s lives is compelling and many cancer patients have experienced less harsh chemotherapy side effects and more mental and emotional positivity thanks to this gentle method. In fact, many go on to make it a regular part of their self-care routine long after they have been given the all clear by their oncologists.

To find a Bowen therapist in your area, visit

Fiona Hardie, based in the Western Cape, is a Pilates instructor, reflexologist and has experience in Bowen therapy and ear acupuncture. She is currently doing a breathwork course through Breathwork Africa.

MEET THE EXPERT – Fiona Hardie

Fiona Hardie has recently relocated to the Western Cape and is teaching Pilates online and looking to further her offerings with Rebounding. She is also studying yoga and new modalities that will facilitate the healing that is so necessary today. She is focusing on growing her online presence and when she finds the right space she will open a Pilates and therapy studio.

Header image by Adocbe Stock