Paula Muth’s life has taken her around the world — raised in Africa and Iran by academic ex-pats, she settled for some time in Washington State before venturing to Greenport in 2013 to be close to her family here.
That upbringing has given her a perpetual glimpse into the world from an outsider’s perspective, and with that perspective, a unique view on the human body and how its parts interact with one another.
A licensed massage therapist who had developed a reputation for good deep tissue massage before leaving Washington, she found herself looking for a practice that was easier on her body, and easier on her clients as well.
She found the answer to both needs in a technique known as Bowenwork, named for Australian Thomas Bowen, which is designed to teach your body to heal itself. But she didn’t know until she’d been practicing for some time that Bowenwork could have far-reaching restorative effects on her clients.
“I wasn’t prepared for how effective it is. It’s truly remarkable,” said Ms. Muth in an interview in her peaceful and unpretentious work space in her Greenport home. “Before, if massage didn’t work, I’d use more pressure, but with Bowenwork, you do the minimum possible for greater effect.”
Ms. Muth says that, because Bowenwork activates the body’s parasympathetic nervous system, which is connected throughout the body, clients often feel sensations in parts of their bodies far removed from where she is working.
“There’s a good chance they’ll feel strange sensations of heat or cold in an area I’m not working on,” she said. “I need to know that, because I’ll then stop what I’m doing and let the body heal itself.”
Ms. Muth said the relaxation enabled by Bowenwork has positive effects in pain relief, in balancing the body’s immune system, in digestive and even emotional issues.
While her role as a massage therapist isn’t to diagnose or cure aliments, “as a practitioner, we give the body the information to balance itself. What it does with that information is up to the body,” she said.
Ms. Muth said she’s seen success with several clients who have decided to forego joint surgery as a result of the relief they felt from Bowenwork, including her mother, who was slated to have knee surgery four years ago.
“I knew it would help, but I didn’t expect it to make her asymptomatic,” said Ms. Muth. “The MRI may still show pathology in the joints, but she’s not in pain.”
Ms. Muth says Bowenwork is also a good type of bodywork for people who are uncomfortable having someone touch their bare skin — it can be done over light clothing. It is also a practice that doesn’t require many sessions.
“We’re trying to make permanent changes in the body,” she said.
Ms. Muth’s dream is to do Bowenwork in refugee camps and conflict zones. Her brother, who lives in Cutchogue, works for NYC Medics Global Disaster Relief, which sends doctors to natural disasters and, last year for the first time, into conflict zones.
But she isn’t sure if her practice will be accepted by doctors on the front lines.
“There are certain things in Bowenwork that stop people from going into shock, but Western doctors are not interested in anything that’s not Western,” she said.
Thomas Bowen, who died in 1982, only attended school until he was 12 years old. He was working at a construction site when he saw a man fall from a scaffold and rushed to help, feeling that he could go help that person with his hands.
“He got a sensation in his hands. He could feel the vibration of nerves,” said Ms. Muth. “He was very soft-spoken and humble, but he treated more than 200,000 people.
You can read more about Paula Muth’s Transformative Bodywork online here.