Book Review – May 2013 (BTPA)

The following independent review was published in,  ‘In Touch’, the in-house journal of the Bowen Therapy Professional Association (BTPA) – U.K.

A review of ‘A Textbook of Bowen Technique – Graham Pennington’


David Howells & Kathryn Phillips

When I was first asked to review Graham’s book I felt it needed to come not just from me as someone who has practiced the technique in its various forms since 1994 but also input from a new convert to the technique. Having been introduced to Kathryn Phillips at a RIG meeting I thought her views were just as valid as mine and an ideal practitioner to review his book.

I was lucky enough to receive the first copy of this book in the UK as it was delivered to me by hand from Ron Phelan hot off the press.


A quick review by Kathryn Phillips:

As a relative newbie to Bowen, although not to complementary therapy on which I have been amassing knowledge for almost two decades, Graham Pennington’s book was a welcome addition to my growing library of resources. I have been avidly trying to absorb as much information as I can about this very special technique since first being asked by my reflexology clients to consider adding Bowen to my repertoire: I qualified in 2012, treat 1-2 dozen clients per week, and am now training in and using NST Bowen in my clinic to extend my knowledge and understanding yet further.

Within moments of opening it, it was clear that a considerable amount of time had been spent on ensuring a depth of indexing which most therapy books do not come even close to. As an information and research specialist of more than three decades this is a key issue for me as I need to be able to accurately and quickly dip in and out of books to revisit points I remember reading previously. Even more important when the reason I need to double-check something is because a client is on the table in the other room and I really want to be able to help them to the best of my ability right now!

Not only is specific information much easier to find than in many other books in this field, but also the diagrams, illustrations and narrative are all extremely clear and detailed such that I have felt confident to carry out new and specific assessments and procedures without having been formally taught them in a classroom setting. The first one I tried was the psoas procedure which was an amazing experience for me as the client had been making great progress except in this one area. My palpation and the client’s immediate feedback both coincided, I made the move without hesitation, deviation or repetition and the client had improved considerably at his next appointment some weeks later.

That most, but not all, established Bowen moves coincide with traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) acupressure/meridian points, their significance known for thousands of years, had been a fascination for me from the outset given my pre-existing understanding of reflexology work. That some moves potentially need a slight adjustment to maximise success is highlighted in this book with reasons given. As someone who was already ‘feeling’ for specific reflex points and monitoring response I had found that Bowen moves did not always give me the feedback I was used to with reflexology. To me modifying the position of some of the moves slightly, such as those of the TMJ as described in Graham’s book, gave me the responses I had been missing and increased their efficacy albeit that I accept that the body will frequently ‘read the intent’ of a good therapist even if the move is slightly off the mark.

To me Graham’s book, coming from the perspective of a Bowen therapist who is also an acupuncturist, helps to explain and illustrate the significance of this overlap between Bowen and TCM and in doing so explains much about the consequences associated with the various move types: the specific direction of rolling moves, the stretching of certain muscles, the use of trauma to stimulate neural points and so on. That lateral moves typically open up channels, whilst medial moves block energy, is key to comprehending how Bowen technique works. If a therapist understands not only what they are doing but more importantly why then they begin to treat more effectively but even more importantly they can begin to confidently omit or amend moves to suit the individual being treated.

In summary I found that Graham’s book answers many of the questions which for me had been burning for some time and explains others which I had not yet thought of asking. As someone new to Bowen this is a book to keep to hand in clinic and curl up with in spare moments as it will continually remind and inform – its index ideal to enable the busy practitioner to dip into whenever the need arises.


An even quicker review by David Howells:

My first thought on seeing Graham’s book was one of great admiration for such a mammoth task undertaken over many years.

His book is what it says on the cover, “A text book of Bowen Technique, a comprehensive guide to the practice of Bowen” and as such it is a great aid to learning for students and experienced practitioners alike.

I feel he has taken the basic work as we know it and presented it in a way that all students of Bowen can recognise and relate to immediately. It goes much further and adds in basic assessment which is required most certainly. One could devote a whole book and workshop to this area (which Ron Phelan has done). I agree with his comment that in the main students of Bowen have been taught by route and apply certain basic protocols to everyone. We know that Tom did not work this way. If we consider his average time with a client was 5 -8 minutes and he treated 65 clients a day. He assessed, treated and reassessed in a couple of moves. However, none of us are Tom Bowen although we do try to attain a greater level of understanding and application of the Technique. In fact the Toms of this world only come along once in a lifetime. That said there has to be a starting point and a process of learning so that students of Bowen can then go on through further study to improve their assessment and treatment skills. As we look towards more regulation in this country and abroad we need to take on board Graham’s view of assessment prior to treatment. This I have always advocated and I include basic assessment with my teaching.

The relevance of Acupuncture to Bowen has been talked about for years. Acupuncturists that have undertaken Bowen training get very excited when learning the technique. Graham’s knowledge of how Tom studied with Ernie Sanders and that the technique is based on Japanese Acupoint therapy confirm my own thoughts.

In conclusion it is evident a great deal of thought, research and commitment to Bowen has gone into this work as Kathryn says ‘the book is coming from the perspective of a Bowen Therapist who is also an acupuncturist which helps to explain and illustrate the significance of this overlap between Bowen and TCM. Graham’s knowledge of Bowen is unquestionable; he presents it in a very concise way with great illustrations and a good indexing system.

I would recommend that every student and qualified practitioner read his view on the Bowen Technique not only is it informative on many levels but challenges opinion and allows for discussion. Graham is not afraid to link up with other practitioners and cross pollinate ideas and theories relating to the Technique. This I feel we all need to encompass as every opinion is valid. I would like to congratulate Graham on producing such a valuable tool that will be of great benefit to Bowen practitioners who like Tom Bowen have their client’s health at heart.