Striving for balance in life is such a hard journey, yet a truly rewarding one. This conversation dives into all things balance including some practical activities and advice to help you on your way. Rebecca Thomas is a wealth of knowledge, with qualifications in many holistic areas including naturopathy, kinesiology, school teaching, and most recently chiropractic. She reconciles all this knowledge to bring you a broad point of view on holistic health in general and has so much wisdom to share. I learnt a great deal in this interview and can’t wait to see how you integrate this new found knowledge into your own life… you will definitely find me drawing some circles 😉
Disclaimer* all of Rebecca’s amazing insights could not be put into a blog post word for word so answers have been condensed with her approval.
What is your current profession?
I am actually in the midst of a transition. I graduated from my chiropractic degree at the end of 2020, however am still working as a primary school visual arts teacher. I am about to start work at a chiropractic clinic.
What has your career path been to date?
Straight out of high school I studied naturopathy, and worked in that profession for most of my 20’s. In my early 30’s I became a school teacher, and it was during this time that I peaked an interest in kinesiology. I found the knowledge acquired from kinesiology complimented my work in naturopathy really nicely. I then spent a bit of time teaching nutrition, massage, aroma therapy at TAFE, before starting the primary school teaching job I am currently in. I continued to teach visual arts right through my chiropractic degree.
You have pursued so much amazing knowledge across multiple fields, this has meant a lot of time in school for you. Do you enjoy studying?
Honestly… not really. I always like knowing things and want to acquire skills, but I don’t feel I’m a natural at the academic side of things. I have to rely on my internal drive rather than natural study skill ability. I have realised that the more you learn, the more you realise you don’t know, so you go and study something to answer those questions that came up in your previous study and that cycle just continues. We are lifelong learners, there’s always more knowledge you can gain.
Do you have a favourite quote/poem/piece of art, if so could you share it?
“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change”. – Albert Einstein
This quote has always resonated with me, in fact I keep it stuck on my fridge. This definitely relates to the reality we all faced during COVID but I think even during ‘normal’ times many people constantly have to reinvent themselves or don’t get a choice when it comes to change. It’s so easy to get stuck in the mindset of resisting change and desperately trying to stick with what you originally planned. People often think ‘this is what I wanted to do so I have to do it’, whereas the ability to adapt, change, and show resilience in the process, is a true testament to our success. Changing doesn’t equal failing, changing can actually mean succeeding.
Can you give a snapshot of what kinesiology is?
Kinesiology shares a name with a lot of muscle therapies, such as massage therapists and physios, because the word just means movement patterns. The kinesiology I practice is applied kinesiology, and whilst it does look at muscle movement, it more looks at imbalances and correcting those on a different level. It addresses the emotional connection to what is going on physically. It was developed by an acupuncturist and chiropractor, so it follows the energy of acupuncture meridians. It’s based on those meridian lines, but it uses muscles to tap into and clear any blockages in order to come back to balance. Just as an acupuncturist would use needles as their tool/medium, an applied kinesiologist would use muscles. Everything that happens in your life gets stored somewhere in your body, whether it be positive or negative. If you don’t address the emotional component of a trauma, the physical ailment tends to stick around. If you are not in a place where you feel ready or comfortable to verbally discuss a trauma, then kinesiology doesn’t require you to continue going over the things of your past, you acknowledge it but then move on. If you do want to talk things through, there is definitely space for that as well though.
Have you ever found your knowledge of holistic health to help your daughters on their dance journey?
The past five years studying chiropractic have opened my eyes to some dysfunctional movement patterns that I unfortunately now see when I watch my girls dance. Seeing these nuances that I didn’t before chiropractic has been really helpful, I can now see when they’re using the wrong muscles for a step, understand why that would impede the movement, and then help them move forward.
I also use brain integration (which is part of kinesiology) with both my girls and myself all the time. With dancing, looking at your emotional state is really important. There’s really simple brain integration exercises that I get my girls to do before they perform just to bring the anxiety down, come back to the body, and make sure that both sides of the brain are talking to each other. They’re simple and small things to do, but I think mental preparation is just as important as physical preparation for things like auditions and performances.
I utilise flower essences a lot to help get emotions/ nerves under control for performing as well.
*You can find a video example of the brain integration techniques on the artistic.and.holistic instagram/ facebook page
What tools did you use to support you through the stress of exams?
Essential oils are my saviour. I use them every day, and truly notice the difference if I’ve forgotten for a few days. Rosemary and basil are particularly great for studying. I would smell them as I studied to help me remember the material, and then I would smell them before I went into my exam and keep them on me during the exam to trigger the memories. Exercise also saved me whilst studying. I forced myself to stick to my regular exercise classes, because that corrected my sleep, helped my back and put me in a better place. Even though sometimes I felt I couldn’t afford the time to go to the gym I just went anyway and made it part of my routine.There can be so much guilt as a student when it comes to doing something that isn’t studying or directly related to your field of education, but it’s good to remember the other stuff is just as important;and you also deserve some rest. Sometimes resting and doing one good hour of work is better than slumping through six mediocre hours. Regular chiropractic adjustments also helped keep my mind and mody working optimally through the stress of exams.
Is there a particular quality within yourself that drew you to the professions you’ve pursued?
I believe acts of service are an important part of life. If we help other people, we get the benefit of that too because we feel good, it’s a circle that just keeps going. I think with all the things I’ve studied, I‘ve had a thirst for knowledge but it’s always tied in with helping people. The things I’ve studied also helped myself and my family, so I feel like even if I’d never worked as a naturopath or a chiropractor etc, the things I’ve learned during study would in itself have value in my life. It doesn’t always have to be about the career that you get from the things that you learn. I always study things, just because I want to know them and then if I get a career out of it great and if I don’t that’s ok too. It’s about the pursuit and gain of knowledge, rather than the monetary or career benefits.
Has information you’ve received from different training courses ever conflicted? If so, how did you reconcile these findings in your mind?
You don’t have to think ‘oh, we can’t believe in that, you can’t just pick the bits you like’. I think you absolutely can take the parts you like from different teachings. When I studied kinesiology for example, if I went fully into that you wouldn’t believe you need a chiropractic adjustment because you’re so balanced and therefore don’t need the manual adjustment. Then in chiropractic school they’ve taken so much of the spiritual and philosophy side out of the course that it’s very mechanical now. It’s about fixing the physical; if you do the rehab and you do xyz then you’ll be okay. However I think it has to be an all in, you need to look at and treat yourself as a whole.There’s not just one modality for healing and there’s so many different and beautiful things about a lot of them.
Can you give a holistic health tip that you feel would be of benefit to dancers?
*check out Bec’s video on the @artistic.and.holistic insta/facebook page tomorrow for a great follow along exercise… especially perfect before a performance/ high pressure class
What does the word ‘energy’ mean to you?
I imagine energy like a vital force. That vital force is flowing through your body all the time and peaks and troughs. It’s important to be aware of where you are in that, and that can change multiple times during the day. I think it’s your life force in a way.
What is one thing that is integral in approaching life holistically for you?
It is really important for me to check in with the four aspects of self, and work on integrating them all in my life. The four aspects/paths are spiritual, mental, physical, and emotional. A simple activity that I find very helpful is to draw a circle and break it up into quarters, then label each quarter with one of the four aspects. Place the things you are doing in your life into each category and visually see how balanced things are at that point in time. Sometimes things need to be tipped to one side and that’s ok as well, e.g. if you’re about to have a big performance you would probably be dominant in the physical section as you will be rehearsing a lot. It is a common misconception that you need to add more things to an already busy life to have the circle balanced, but sometimes it’s about re-shuffling or even removing some things for the time being. Under mental you may decide to add reading a book if that’s something you enjoy, maybe this would mean a little less night time TV to make time for reading rather than adding reading to everything else. You actually need to go through the activity of physically writing/filling in the circle, because you don’t realize how weighted you are in certain quadrants until you see it. For example, in the last four years the mental/intellectual/mind portion would be full for me because of all the university studying, my spiritual would be a little light, my physical would be pretty good… but I’m not really balanced. I think we’re all striving for this balance that we never really find, but the journey of trying to find that balance is the important part.
*Visual explanation of the 4 aspects of self
Sourced from: https://utopiawellness.com/the-four-aspects-of-you/
If you gave a TEDX talk, what would your title be?
Resilience in the Face of Adversity
That was the title of one of my favorite essays I wrote and I would want that to be the title of my TEDX talk as well. I love looking at resilience, it’s always resonated with me.
What perceived ‘failure’ has turned into your most helpful lesson on your journey thus far?
A few years ago I actually failed a school exam. I ended up getting a re-sit and passed that time, so everything is totally fine, however it was a definite learning curve. I failed purely due to anxiety. I knew everything on the exam, but I worked myself up into such a state that I just couldn’t think or concentrate. I put way too much pressure on myself to do well, and that pressure ended up impeding my ability to do well. It was a great lesson on how much our emotional state impacts our ability to perform and ‘succeed’. You’ve got to look after your mental state as much as doing all the hard studying… again it’s about finding balance.
They say the pen is mightier than the sword, so if you could scribe one word to use as your weapon in life what would it be?
Angela Duckworth Says grit is a combination of passion and perseverance. I’m all about grit! Work ethic is so much more important than how smart, talented etc. you are. Everything comes down to grit.
In what ways would you like to see readers’ minds expand with this interview?
Every time I ask adults ‘what brings you joy’, I always get a massive pause. I find that quite sad because you should be able to go, ‘Oh I love walking on the beach, or I love reading, or I love etc’. Even when looking at the four aspects of self, try noticing what brings you joy; you should know those things really clearly and try to bring some more joy into your life. Knowing what brings you joy is such a massive part of finding balance.
You can reach Rebecca via email firstname.lastname@example.org