Managing breathing difficulties with Bowen Technique

Managing breathing difficulties with Bowen Technique

Managing breathing difficulties with Bowen Technique

 This post is more specifically concerned with the mechanical aspects of breathing difficulties, an area that is often overlooked. With over 5 million people in the UK alone diagnosed with asthma and therefore on steroid medication, there is a lot of assumption that it is purely a chemical or environmental issue, see our previous post Breathing Difficulties and their Triggers . Very little time is given to simple muscle/fascia function (or dis-function) and even less to the emotional triggers. We will look in more detail at the emotional and environmental aspects when we discuss using Kinesiology to manage breathing difficulties in the next post.

Very few people realise that the diaphragm as a structure has fascial connection through the transverse abdominus (one of your stomach muscles) all the way down to your pelvic floor. There is also an extension of the fascia at the top of the diaphragm that extends all the way around the heart. This makes these structures all continuous and interrelated. This is even more interesting as in any heart operation in the UK, that fascia is not repaired, which could have implications for breathing following heart surgery (Baker: 2013 Lotus). This also implies that the heart could be affected by diaphragm imbalances. 

Muscular function is so rarely considered in Asthma. It tends to be about how much you are breathing i.e. peak flow, rather than how. We will also look at some breathing techniques in a later post in this series on breathing techniques. Bowen has in many cases eliminated asthmatic symptoms, in others increased respiratory function and improved management of symptoms (Baker 2013 Lotus).

In fact a study done in 2002-2003 showed significant benefit from using Bowen Technique for asthma with 21 out of the 24 participants expressing either a dramatic or substantial improvement in their symptoms, with the remaining 3 still indicating a slight improvement.

Within this study

  • 83% of participants indicated a reduction in frequency of attacks,
  • 75% indicated reduced severity of attacks,
  • 75% were using less medication
  • 58% were responding better to their medication 
  • 71% reported that sensitivity to their triggers had reduced

Although only 15 of the 24 participants were using peak flow meters during the study, 100% of those reported that their readings had improved.

In the first 6 moths of the study 84 asthma attacks were recorded, but in the second 6 months only 26 were recorded showing a 69% improvement on the amount of attacks.

Those are pretty good statistics from just using a biomechanical approach to asthma. The research can be seen in full here.

In Bowen Unravelled, Julian Baker also highlights that poor diaphragmatic function can also lead to a whole host of other issues because of the links the diaphragm has with other structures, these include:

  • poor digestion and bowel function
  • decreased ability to control pain
  • poor posture
  • stress
  • depression
  • migraine
  • poor sleep patterns
  • lack of concentration
  • lymphatic congestion

Other benefits and changes in the physical body were also reported in the asthma research cited above.

So if you do have breathing difficulties, how many of these other issues can you identify with?

The process of working with Bowen for asthma is very simple. In fact the Bowen moves as taught by ECBS only consists of 5 moves, two done on the back and 3 on the front. But with the holistic nature of Bowen, any responsible practitioner would always be working with the whole body as you can never assume that any other area is not impacting on the one that you are having issues with. So typically you would receive procedures on your back, neck, knees. You might also receive work on your jaw, shoulders, upper pectoral (chest), ribs and pelvis all as part of working with the diaphragm and supporting breathing difficulties. The facial insights given by the work of Integral Anatomist Gill Headley have gone a long way to helping us understand the nature of connection between different parts of the body. Right now his entire Integral Anatomy series is available free on Youtube. Also the Anatomy Trains work by Tom Myers which in indicates more about how different parts of the body can impact on one another. 

All of this useful work can be brought into focus when dealing with breathing difficulties and gives us a much wider understanding of what is happening with the body at an anatomical level. All of which, in my opinion, should be examined and addressed by any good physician before the routine handing out of medications.

So to conclude this work on using Bowen Technique to manage breathing difficulties let us just highlight the self help procedure for breathing difficulties provided by Bowen Technique. The full details of this procedure can be found at the Bowen for Asthma site.

This essentially is a very simple movement where we complete just the final move in the diaphragm procedure done in a Bowen session. This move helps to relax the diaphragm and allow a release of tension that will facilitate easier breathing. It may take a few minutes to work and can be carried out on yourself or done on others with their permission. Many people have found that they need to use less of their inhalers when they get tight chested. But any reduction in medication should always be done in conjunction with your doctor and we don't advocate this as an either/or treatment but more of an 'as well as' one.

bowen for asthma move



Start by locating the xyphoid process which is at the bottom of the breast bone, just where the hard part of the breast bone goes into the soft tissue of the abdomen.

Place your thumb about an inch (2cm) below this in the midline of the body.

Very gently push the skin upwards towards the head. Only move as much as the skin will move, don't let your thumb slide on the skin.

Apply gentle pressure towards the interior of the body.

Breathe in, breathe out and at the end of the out breath, pull down towards the, navel (belly button) quite quickly.

Try not to use too much pressure and adjust the amount of pressure for the size of the person you are doing this for, much less for children and babies for instance.

Then just encourage the person to breathe as slowly and normally as they can.

It is worth practising this move on a daily basis until it becomes very familiar so that if it needs to be used in an emergency it can be done so confidently. 

It should be the first option while medication is being prepared and while consideration as to whether or not the emergency services need to be contacted.



I hope you have found this useful. I would really like to hear your experiences of using Bowen Technique for breathing difficulties or have you used the emergency technique with success? What other structural interventions have you found beneficial in managing breathing difficulties. I would love to hear your comments. 

Please remember these are discussions, I am hopping to extend and expand awareness of ideas and techniques which I think are helpful and am trying to present them in an Integral as possible manner. But your contributions are what really help to make this possible.

In the next post in this series we will be looking at how Kinesiology can be used for managing some of the emotional and environmental aspects of breathing difficulties.

Be well









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