After 12 years of working as a meter reader for Waterloo North Hydro, Elmira resident Kevin Bartley is going back to his original passion: helping people to feel better.
An honours kinesiology student, Bartley started along the path of furthering his education in physical sciences with a post-graduate course in athletic therapy at Sheridan College in Oakville, but the long commute and other priorities in his life – including being newly married – stopped him from finishing the program. From there he worked for a short time at a factory before being recruited to WNH. It was only recently that he has decided to follow his original dream and get back into healthcare through the practice of Bowen therapy.
Bartley’s father-in-law was experiencing severe sciatic pain when he heard about a Bowen Therapy clinic in Kitchener. Before going for the treatments he had daily debilitating pain; within three visits to the clinic, he was pain-free.
“He went from feeling like he was 90 years old to walking out of there feeling great,” said Bartley. “He was amazed with it and so I wanted to learn more about what Bowen Therapy is and how it can help.”
What Bartley learned about, and now practices out of his Memorial Street home, is the dynamic system of muscle and connective tissue therapy, which addresses a number of health concerns from shoulder and back pain, to carpal tunnel asthma, allergies and more, say Bowen practitioners.
“Bowen is a holistic therapy so I treat the whole body,” he explained of the procedure. “If someone has a shoulder problem, I wouldn’t just treat the shoulder. I would do the whole body because everything is connected. Often there is a chain reaction that is causing the pain, and therefore treating the whole body can help to relieve that.”
A typical Bowen technique session generally lasts from 15 to 45 minutes. Clients usually lie on a massage/bodywork table or bed, or may be seated in a chair if more comfortable. A session involves one or more ‘procedures,’ each of which consists of several sets of moves.
The moves are gentle, and between each set, the practitioner pauses for as many minutes as are needed for the client’s body to begin responding, according to Bartley. A common approach in a session is to balance the entire body by addressing the lower back, then the upper back, and then the neck.
“It’s a lot like massage, but I do very specific movements on specific parts of the body in a certain order and there are very important pauses in between which allow the body to respond to what you’re doing. I don’t actually heal the body. Bowen works with the body’s ability to heal itself.”
And since starting his business, Bartley is familiar with the challenges of starting a ‘holistic’ therapy clinic.
“A lot of people are skeptical because they don’t really know what it is. The Bowen Therapy, although its an alternative therapy, is not hokey-pokey. It’s not ‘out there,’” he said. “There is science behind it, and being holistic really just means you treat the whole body.”
When faced with an acute injury, a Bowen practitioner may apply the work to address only the traumatized areas, since the client has had little time to compensate for, and accommodate to, the injury. However, most practitioners find themselves working with clients whose conditions have developed gradually over many years, and patterns of dysfunctional muscle recruitment and posture have become entrenched over time. In these cases, practitioners often need to take a more “whole-body” approach to facilitate optimal alignment and recovery.
Bartley is currently still working full-time for Waterloo North Hydro while he builds up a client base for his in-home therapy, but says the most difficult part of the business is maintaining customers.
“I will always be accepting new clients,” he said. “With Bowen, you only need to see a client maybe between four and six times and then they are usually feeling a lot better so they don’t need to come back. It’s great for the client but it means that I will have to always be looking for more people to help if I want to keep the business running.”