Gentle Bodywork to resolve pain and restore health

And it’s not just for human animals

by Cathy Teague with Linda Petersen

David Willingham, a local practitioner of Bowenwork, will be teaching an introduction to Bowenwork beginning March 29 in Mill Valley, and he regularly sees clients throughout Marin and Northern California.

The Massagetherapy website explains that the Bowen Technique was developed by Thomas Ambrose Bowen of Australia in the 1960s and 1970s. The hands-on, light-touch body therapy consists of gentle rolling movements over muscle bellies and tendons to stimulate the body’s own healing mechanisms. Originally intended to help people suffering from muscular-skeletal problems, the technique has also been successful with many other adult conditions as well as ailments in children, pre-teens, and animals.

Willingham, who moved to Northern California in 1989, considers that “discovering Bowen was a miracle.” He has been practicing for more than ten years and has received accreditation for Advanced Bowen 1 and 2 from the Bowen Therapy Academy of Australia. According to Willingham, some 20,000 people have received Bowen training and there are more than 700 practioners worldwide.

A Bowen session lasts from 60-90 minutes while lying on a massage table covered with a sheet or blanket. Bowen does not “treat” specific conditions but rather stimulates the body to activate its own healing mechanism. The technique is relaxing, so some people fall asleep during the session.

David says: “I am a picky person and discovering Bowen was a miracle; at times the work bounces me to places I’d never known of, so I trust it is the right thing because I’ve met some amazing people.


Receiving Bowen is good for all, and  I am also employed with Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy in Mill Valley as a wellness practitioner. Bowenwork is a light touch modality and people have been entrained to harder, deeper, faster bodywork, which is not how Tom Bowen approached the body when he created this modality. Once the body receives a Bowen move the body knows what to do with it. People usually throw their body into the milieu of life and want quick fixes and sure fire remedies when there is a blow out, so Bowen is one of many options, albeit a little understood one.  I wish I could invent the one-a-day magic cure all pill! For toddlers and older.”


Dogs and horses respond very well to soft tissue manual therapy, while cats can be a handful. Fewer sessions are usually required with animals because animals seem to receive and process the work easily and with good results.

David began Equine Bowenwork in 2005 and now offers “Equine Synchrony Bowenwork.” Using Bowenwork and hands-on touch, a horse and rider are given sessions to balance both for a more integrative and fluid experience during competition and everyday work times. Working with horses is gratifying because they respond to the Bowenwork moves quickly, and one can see results in a short time.

Equine Bowen (Bowenwork for Horses) is formally called Equine Muscle Release Therapy, known as EMRT. It is popular in the horse world, originating in Australia under the direction of Bowen trained Ali Goward, who operates the Equus College of Learning and Research in Queensland, Australia.

For additional information, contact David at david@purebowen.comor call (415)328-7894.

Photo courtesy of David Willingham