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Bowen Therapy Success Stories with Practitioner Rita Hart Smith

This week I had the opportunity to speak with my dear friend and former Bowen instructor Rita Hart Smith.  Based out of Sydney, Australia, Rita’s holistic practice revolves around empowering others to take control of their health and well being through education and natural therapies.

Rita and I met back in 2009 in Sydney Australia when I signed up for her Bowen class.  It turns out we had heaps in common from iridology to qi gong to similar philosophies on holistic living! It’s been truly inspiring to see the kind of work Rita has been doing all over the world especially with her voluntary teaching fund where she visits children abroad offering treatments and education.

In today’s interview Rita shares with us the power behind Bowen Therapy, TRE and distance healing. We talk about how these modalities work and the kinds of results she sees regularly. We also dig into volunteering abroad and how she got started in the fascinating world of holistic care.

Bowen Therapy

MK– Hi Rita! Thanks for joining us today!

RHS– I’m very grateful that I have this opportunity to talk with you. It’s been so long since we spoke!

MK– It has been so long!…So Rita, Bowen Therapy is probably a new term and modality for many people here in the States. It’s not nearly as known as say acupuncture or chiropractic care. Can you tell us a bit about Bowen’s history, what exactly Bowen is and how it works?

RHS– Yes, actually Bowen Therapy has been around for quite a long time. Mr Bowen, Thomas Bowen, lived between 1916 to 1982. This year is actually his 100 year birth anniversary, so it’s a perfect time for this interview in order to express our gratitude to this man.

Thomas Bowen developed the Bowen Technique in Jilong, Victoria in Australia and after serving in the WWII, he became interested in ways to alleviate human suffering and began to notice that certain moves on the body had particular effects.

Bowen was extremely busy in his clinic. He was verified by the 1975 Victorian government inquiry into alternative health care professionals.  The study documented that Bowen was seeing some 13,000 patients per year as assessed over a 27 week period. So considering treatments were given 7 days apart and most people only needed 2 or 3 treatments. That was an amazing number of clients per year.

MK– As you mentioned, Bowen is done only once a week on average. When I received my first Bowen treatment…  the person who offered it to me had offered me the option of reflexology or Bowen while suggesting I get a Bowen treatment for my particular condition. Since I didn’t know what it was, I tried the reflexology first, but it didn’t work. 

I came back the next week and and decided to give Bowen a go.  He gave me the treatment and within 24 hours I felt as good as new! It was unbelievable! I was still skeptical however and so I came back the next week with a friend who had a problem. I’ll share more about that later, but now people are probably wondering what is Bowen?

RHS– Well simply stated the Bowen technique allows the body to reset and heal itself. The work consists of a series of gentle rolling connective tissue moves and there are frequent important pauses between these moves which give the body time to integrate and benefit from each set (of moves.) So it’s actually tapping into the intelligence of the body itself and frequently results in a deep sense of overall relaxation.

MK– I think that (the relaxation) is actually the magic of Bowen. After I got my Bowen certification from you and the other trainers in Australia, I got my massage certification here in California and what I found is that compared to most massages, with the exception of a few like parasympathetic massage for example, Bowen puts people into such a relaxed state. The parasympathetic state is where most  healing takes place and because Bowen gently brings this state about… I feel this is what makes Bowen so powerful. It’s just simple little moves- almost as if the Bowen practitioner is turning off different light switches all around the body and the person just goes into the deepest state of relaxation so they can heal.

RHS– Yes, I think you have a very good analogy about that. The restorative process begins once the body is relaxed and continues as the body allows. So healing seems to occur by affecting the bodies autonomic nervous system which creates homeostasis at the cellular level. We believe that the work (Bowen work) actually taps into the DNA of the cells and the cells then remember their own function. If your body has the resources available, I really believe that it can heal itself and I have witnessed it since the day I began. It was 1996 when I got fully qualified as a practitioner. It’s amazing.

MK– It is amazing. When I went to that practitioner, he was in Lenox head, New South Whales. I had been on the road for around two years backpacking and surfing around the world. But I wasn’t able to keep on top of my health and nutrition as much as I would have liked.

So when I went to him I had the beginning stages of IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome.) Of course I wasn’t exactly sure, I just knew that my digestion wasn’t great and I had a lot of abdominal pain, so it could have been a reproductive issue for example, but my gut feeling was that it was IBS. In any case, after one Bowen treatment, the chronic pain that I had had for months was gone.

Previously, I had mentioned that I returned to Lenox Head with a friend for another treatment because I was still skeptical. I thought that maybe my treatment was a weird fluke because a person just cannot understand how bizarre a Bowen treatment session is until they get one! It is so gentle, you can hardly feel most of the moves and between each move is a 2-5 minute break. It’s not odd to wonder if the practitioner is even doing anything.

So like I said- I was kind of skeptical and returned the following week with my friend who had an eye twitch. Her eye had been twitching for months. It was some kind of nervous tic. She had one Bowen treatment and it was gone!

Afterward, I thought to myself- ‘This is freaky! I have to find out more about this Bowen.’ Then I did and eventually it brought me back to the United States and many miraculous experiences followed.

RHS– Yes, I must say the Bowen practitioner is merely a catalyst setting the stimulus in motion for the body to heal itself. Because the human body is so amazing, self healing can be achieved with minimal outside influence. If you do go for a Bowen treatment and you feel the practitioner isn’t doing anything on you, just be patient and relax and listen to your body. It’s simply a life changing experience.

MK– You do more than Bowen though and in the last few years you have gotten into Trauma Release Exercises. Can you tell us about TRE?

RHS– A little over 2 years ago, I got an email from our Bowen Association Australia which is an association for all registered Bowen practitioners and they were promoting the TRE course. Like you, I didn’t know anything about it, but I liked what I read.  As I myself have committed to continual self education, I took the course and never looked back.

TRE stands for tension or trauma released exercises. It’s a series of exercises that assist the body in releasing deep muscular patterns of stress, tension, and trauma.

+Doctor David Batilly actually lives in the USA and he is the founder of TRE. I attended his workshops in Australia here and I was deeply moved by the way he facilitated people removing their traumatic experiences.

During one of the workshops I actually asked him about my peculiar responses when I practiced TRE. I was puzzled about why I always had a little tickle in my throat and had to cough. I reckoned that my lungs were perfectly healthy- I didn’t have any cold or flu or any reason for a cough, but any time I practiced TRE at that time I would have this cough.

So I asked him and he actually helped me through that. It dated back to my near drowning experience when I was only a few years old. The responses during that session was like a repeat of my  drowning experiences, how I got pulled out from the sea, dragged to the beach, and then recovered my breathing. That is where the cough came from. It was fascinating.

MK– That’s cellular memory. We often don’t realize that energy has it’s own kind of consciousness and our body stores those memories- it’s not just in our minds and memories (brain), it’s in our cells.  I know that tapping and the emotional freedom technique for example are also really useful for releasing trauma and those cellular memories associated with trauma.

RHS– Yes, I believe that TRE actually helped to release that cellular memory because our body cells remember everything! Everything since we were conceived!

MK– Yup! Everything is energy. That’s actually what I wanted to talk about next. You’ve done a bit of distant healing with Bowen, I’m not sure if you can do it with TRE also, but can you talk about how distance healing works in terms of the modalities you practice and how that ties into energy medicine and healing?

RHS– My first experience of distant healing was actually through my Qi Gong training in Hong Kong. I flew from Sydney to Hong Kong upon a recommendation to learn Qi Gong.

In our introductory class back in 1996, a fellow student was relating her own personal experience. She lived in Canada and had terminal cancer. She said that she was extremely weak and her sister in Hong Kong who had learned Qi Gong asked her to put a jug of water in her room in Canada while her sister in Hong Kong would send cosmic healing energy to the water for her to drink daily. So she would drink the water every day and then tip the unfinished portion into the garden bed just outside window.

Anyway, after a month or so she was well enough to attend a Qi Gong class and she observed that the plants that got the tipped water grew much taller and healthier than the same plants next to them.

So that was really fascinating to hear.

MK– Wow that’s a great story.

RHS– Yeah it is! Anyhow, after my Qi Gong training I went back to Sydney and a friend of mine in her late 50’s, she lives about 45 minutes away from me and she broke her rib bone and fractured her ankle and was plastered up. We were curious about how distant healing would help her so we arranged that every night at 9pm she would be lying quietly in her bed while I sent cosmic energy to her via Qi Gong.  After a few weeks, her doctor was amazed how fast her bones healed. That was my first practice of distance healing.

Just a few months ago- Zara in the Philippines, she’s my Bowen student, used Viber to text me and told me that she was having intense pain. I discovered that she was actually at the hospital staying overnight under observation for a potential gall bladder removal operation because she was in such a lot of pain. So I suggested to her to lie quietly while I did the surrogate Bowen gall bladder procedure on her. Bare in mind that I was at my home in Sydney and she was in the Philippines. As the procedure went on she reported various sensations went through her body and at the end of the session she felt less pain. The next day she said she had a good night sleep and the doctor decided she didn’t have to have the gall bladder removed.

MK– That’s absolutely fantastic!  I too have countless miraculous Bowen and energy healing stories….well I guess I’ll have to share this really quickly on the reason I moved back to the United States. In 2010 I was planning on setting up in Australia to go to school and continue my holistic studies. But my mom had become really ill. She had had migraines on and off throughout her life, but in the last couple of years they had become really severe.

I had told her about Bowen and although she had tried nearly every therapy from allopathic medicine to all of the popular holistic therapies, she didn’t try Bowen because she wasn’t familiar with it. So I ended up returning home to treat her after receiving an urgent call from my younger brother telling me how ill she was and that I had to return home to see if I could help her.

I gave her one Bowen treatment a week and weaned her off the cocktail of medications the doctors had given her. She was on 9 different medications including a really high dosage of neurontin which is used for seizures as far as I know. And of course the cocktail of drugs were all contradicting each other. One was an upper, one was a downer, one took you to the left, another to the right.

Within three weeks (of Bowen treatments spaced one week apart), my mother who had been let go of from her 30 year job at her hospital, was nearly headache free. She was finally able to come out into the sunshine.  People who have horrible headaches can’t usually be in the light, they have to stay in darkness- it’s that painful.

In any case, her turn around was so miraculous that she became a Bowen practitioner and that’s what my mom does now.

+My moms awesome story in Mind Body Medicine

RHS– How gorgeous, that’s wonderful!

MK– It is wonderful because she is 70 years old and she could be retired but she has a part time practice as a Bowen practitioner which is fantastic.

My point though is that so much is magical from Bowen to Qi Gong and all of these modalities have so much potential, but it all comes down to energy.  I really feel that the power of a modality is really enhanced when the person receiving is open. When they want to change and heal, when they are willing and accepting. Because nothing is more powerful than a person’s mind. It’s all about the energy.

Ok- well we are running short on time, but I want to find out about your voluntary teaching. How has that been going? Where have you been going in the world and what does that involve?

RHS– Well, I always want to give back and when I was 7 years old my dad had his first stroke that paralyzed his left side of the body. We were very poor, we lived in Hong Kong- not long after the second world war, and we were so poor we couldn’t even afford seeing the doctor. My uncle was an herbalist and worked in a charity organization that gave free consultations in Chinese Medicine. As a little kid I had the errand of getting the medicine for my dad on a daily basis. After 6 months my father could walk again with a cane, so I think that sowed the seed in me to help others in a similar manner.

I did my first voluntary Bowen teaching in Cambodia in 2008 and my goal was to teach these people so they could can take the technique back to their provinces where they had no medical access.

Since then I’ve taught at Bantay Bata in the Philippines which is a shelter for abused children and orphans. I also give presentations at various organizations when I travel overseas and now many of my students in Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and the Philippines are doing amazing voluntary Bowen treatments to help the locals.

I’m really grateful that my dream of helping others around the world has gradually come into reality. It’s not directly through me, but the power of teaching is just so amazing and humbling. When we share the same vision and mission of helping others as a unit, we can make a difference one person at a time.

MK– Oh absolutely. That’s why I do this. I’ve just been gifted in so many ways by so many people with so much knowledge and so many fascinating amazing mind blowing techniques that I want to pay it forward. I just know there is so much out there to help people.

Well thank you so much! Rita, how can people get a hold of you?

RHS– They can actually go to This is a new web page I set up. For official Bowen information, you can go to and also find me there.

MK– Great. My goal with this is that whether someone is in Australia, definitely hit Rita up, but wherever you are if you are interested you can always find out more information.

If you have some kind of chronic pain or issue and you have already tried many different things and you are ready to move on and you can already feel your health on the other side I definitely encourage you to check out Bowen, contact Rita or find another practitioner in your area.

Rita thank you so much for joining me today!

RHS– Thank you so much for the opportunity. And I just want to sum it up with what you said. You need to be the person who wants to be helped and I think our attitude is of primary importance. With the right mindset, the practice of consuming good nutrition and living a healthy active lifestyle we can all live with optimum health until our time is up.

That’s my goal I just want to live to 120 and then just expire!

MK– (Laughing) Well thanks again, it’s been so fun, it’s been magical!

RHS– Thanks so much for the opportunity, I really enjoyed this.

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Thanks again joining me this week:)
Till next time,