Embryology Toggle



By John Wilks, from the book “The Bowen Technique – the inside story”

    When Bowen therapists talk about a treatment allowing the body to re-orient to an original ‘blueprint’ or an organizing principal, the question might be asked – what exactly is the body trying to orient to and when and how did this original blueprint arise?

    If one looks carefully at the first few days of embryological development, one notices that some very interesting events occur. At the moment of conception, there is a merging of the mother and father’s DNA to form a single cell. After a moment of calm, there then occurs rapid cell division which happens within the outer ‘shell’ of the embryo, the zona pellucida.

    Around day 15, a highly significant event occurs. A primal midline is established in the form of a furrow in the developing embryo. This primal midline is called the ‘primitive streak’ and it starts its uprising journey towards our embryonic heart from around the level that is later to become the coccyx and sacrum in the adult.

    What exactly initiates it is something of a mystery, but it forms the basis around which the whole body organizes itself.


    For a start it establishes a reference line for front/back, left/right and top/bottom. The primitive streak is referred to as an ‘embryonic organizer’ as it establishes a basic ‘body plan’. Different levels of the primitive streak determine the development of different areas of the body. For example the ‘head centre’ goes on to form the heart, brain and eyes, the middle centre, the gut and trunk and the tail centre, the pelvic organs and the neural tube.


    What is interesting for us as Bowen therapists is the importance of the primitive streak in terms of developing bones, muscles, organs and connective tissue.

    Many Bowen therapists have remarked on the power of the first 2 Bowen moves.

    It is interesting to observe the sensations that start arising in the client after just these 2 moves. Many will have sensations of heat or an uprising force within the spine. The fact that so many clients experience an uprising force is interesting as their sensations correspond exactly to embryonic development as though those embryological forces are still present within the adult body.

    The primitive streak will also form the neural tube which then goes on to form the brain, spinal cord, the autonomic nervous systems (sympathetic and parasympathetic) and the neural crest.

    Neural crest cells help form the inner membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord (particularly the pia and arachnoid membranes) For example. In the coccyx procedure we move directly over the dura, arachnoid and pia membranes as they attach to the coccyx in the form of the filament terminalis – the only place in the body where all the 3 layers of membrane come together.

Because of the coming together of these three layers of dura, arachnoid and pia, this sends a very powerful impulse up the spine towards the cranium.

    Another consequence of embryological development is the fact that blood supply and nerve supply to tissue is inextricably linked because of their derivation from the same embryological tissue

It is well researched by Mae Wan Ho and others that collagen holds memory and that it is highly adaptable at registering new experience.

    Is it possible that by stimulating the fascia we are in some way allowing the body to access and re-orient to these deep embryological ordering forces held in the collagen at a cellular level in the body? From clinical observation, something of this kind certainly seems to be happening…