The uncanny encounter that prompted a psychologist to retrain as an alternative health expert... and how she could tell our writer had endured a past trauma
A childhood brush with death and struggles with digestive problems and self-confidence led Magherafelt-born therapist and beekeeper Emma Henry on a path to kinesiology. She explains to Una Brankin how well-being therapy changed her life and gives her a treatment with revealing results.
Emma Henry was on a bus in Kosovo in 1999 when a woman she'd never met before struck up a conversation. Then 16, Emma had travelled from her home in Magherafelt to join an aid team in the war torn Balkan region, and she wasn't expecting the person sitting beside her to be a fellow Northern Ireland native.
As she recalls: "When the lady heard my name and the fact I had an aunt in Ballymoney, she was amazed and said 'You're the baby I prayed for with meningitis!'
"I had a lethal strain of it when I was two-and-a-half and a lot of people prayed for me at the time," Emma explains.
"I'd been misdiagnosed with the common cold but when my parents checked on me in bed that night, my eyes were rolled back and my neck stretched stiff. I didn't respond to treatment and when I eventually pulled through, the doctors said it was a miracle."
Emma had contracted the deadly meningococcal strain of meningitis and spent 10 days in hospital. Her parents, retailers Eileen and the late Wilfred McNicholl, were told to expect the worst for their only daughter.
She believes she survived - unscathed - for a specific reason.
"I do believe that I was sent here and kept here for my life's purpose, to support others with their physical and emotional health," she says. "The meningitis wasn't going to take me. I was aware from a very early age that I viewed the world differently from those around me.
"Having been given the name Emma, which translates to 'I am Universal', it was clear from the beginning that my journey was to be in service to others."
Now 34, the ethereal Emma works at the Rainbow Lighthouse well-being centre in Dromore, Co Down as a registered kinesiologist, using a gentle form of muscle testing to identify and remedy imbalances within the body and mind.
Tall and doe-eyed, she has a gentle aura and a gamine buzz-cut, having shaved off her long brown hair last November to raise funds for the Meningitis Trust.
We meet at the Old Manse house beside the Rainbow Lighthouse centre, where Emma keeps bees for the honey she is planning to use in the making of therapeutic creams. She shares the beautiful residence with her husband Columba, a professional French polisher, who is currently training in massage therapy.
Emma met the Rainbow Lighthouse owner Roisin Eve Campbell, who is a well-known clairvoyant and alternative therapist, when she went along to the centre for a 'clearing' day of guided meditation towards forgiveness and 'releasing karmic ties'.
"Roisin walked into the room and looked directly at me," Emma remembers. "Later on, she asked me my name. That was that, until I returned for a one-on-one session. On that day, we both knew we would work together and my life totally transformed.
"Roisin helped me believe in myself. She took a child who was totally lost, confused and fearful and didn't know her own power, and enabled me to grow into my essence and purpose. Moving to Dromore last October to work with her felt like coming home."
Formerly a psychologist for the North Eastern Health Board, Emma had started to consider changing her career path after consulting a kinesiologist in Draperstown about a recurring stomach problem.
"I'd suffered from chronic stomach pain and bloating for five years, and tried all sorts of medications, which didn't work," she says. "Then a friend of mine at yoga recommended I visit a kinesiologist. I had no idea kinesiology could reveal so much wisdom about the body.
"I discovered I was wheat intolerant due to a parasite in my gut and that my stomach acid levels were actually too low. Within two weeks of changing my diet, the difference was remarkable - I had no more pain.
"I learned very quickly that nearly everything contains wheat," she adds. "I switched to spelt bread and gluten-free pasta, and changed my gravy granules and so on. If I'm going out for a meal, though, I can take a digestive enzyme to break down any wheat content, so I don't have to avoid it altogether." Within three kinesiology sessions, Emma's digestion was working at optimum level and she noticed other aspects of her physical health had improved greatly.
"I also began to realise that looking after my emotional health was just as important, and that a lot of physical ailments in the body are actually rooted in emotional trauma and stress," she continues. "Kinesiology revealed what was going on in my body, which awakened me to what was going on in my life and what areas I needed to work on.
"I realised how important it is to keep the gut healthy. And so many people have chronic gut issues. I began to think how amazing it would be to help people with their well-being and decided to train as a kinesiologist."
With a master's degree in applied behaviour analysis under her belt, Emma began her studies for a diploma in systematic kinesiology in 2012. She went on to study transformational kinesiology and functional bio-chemistry, which has equipped her to identify digestive problems, skin disorders, migraines, toxins, adrenal fatigue, thyroid and chronic fatigue, among other conditions.
And on top of all that, she is naturally intuitive, something I witnessed at first-hand during my own treatment, when she identified a past trauma I'd had, and my age at the time. She describes herself as an empath, generally defined as a person with an unexplained ability to perceive the mental or emotional state of another individual.
"I've always been intuitive, for example, before a client arrives, I'll get a pain somewhere in my body; my tummy or shoulder or hip or shoulder or whatever, and they'll come in and confirm that's where they have the problem," she explains. "Once I start working on the person, the pain will leave me. I also pick up on emotions; if someone is sad, hurt or confused.
"I knew you'd had a bit of a shock. I'm not a clairvoyant but I feel things. I can sense them."
To shift these emotional blockages in the body, which alternative therapists see as causing ailments, Emma uses a form of acupressure, tapping on certain meridian points in the body. She then prescribes her own Four Winds brand of homoeopathic remedies, containing vitamins, minerals, flower essences and aura-soma oils, to provide "additional emotional support".
"I had a female client of 37 recently who suffered very badly with constipation - she only went to the loo once a week. When I did the muscle testing, it showed she had a leaky gut caused by a parasite. I was able to identify the right nutrition for her and when I checked for emotional disturbances, I found a blockage in her intestine from when she was four years old; something she could not let go.
"She became very upset when I told her. She'd lost her father at four and remembered it very clearly. We hold the memory of trauma in the large intestine. I worked on that and afterwards I got a message from her, delighted that she'd been to the loo twice that day."
According to Emma, and her fellow Rainbow Lighthouse therapists, the root of all illness and disease, including cancer, is unprocessed life experiences.
"Shock, trauma, grief, hurt and anger all affect the body and sabotage people's ability to create the life they want, she concludes. "Emotions become trapped in the body, creating a lack of balance. I'm not saying I can cure everyone with my work; sometimes it's about identifying what the body needs to support it through treatment for an illness, and to help people live through the journey they're on.
"For me, that is a real privilege."
- For information, visit rainbowlighthouse.com or www.foundwindsni.com. Emma Henry also works via Skype, and can be contacted at 07849 966888 or firstname.lastname@example.org
East meets west in health practice love by the celebs
Kinesiology is defined as western chiropractics meeting traditional Chinese medicine.
Celebrity fans of kinesiology reportedly include actress Kate Beckinsale and Victoria Beckham, both friends of the former Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria, who holds a BA in the subject from the Texas A&M University.
In a nutshell, kinesiology is the study of the mechanics of body movements. It is used in biomechanics and orthopedics; strength and conditioning; sport psychology and exercise and methods of rehabilitation, such as physical and occupational therapy.
Kinesiology was originally developed by an American chiropractor, George Goodheart. He found that by testing muscle response before and after he made chiropractic corrections, he achieved better results for his patients. As time progressed, he was able to make a connection between various muscles and acupuncture meridians.
What happens during a kinesiology session?
Health kinesiologists use gentle muscle testing to tap into the body’s energy system. The technique involves the therapist applying light pressure to a muscle (commonly of the arm) and monitoring how it responds, ie, with strength or weakness.
A typical session lasts around one hour, with the client lying down on a therapy couch, or sitting, fully clothed.
A kinesiologist is trained to identify when a body’s healthy balance has been disturbed by, for example, physical trauma, surgery, stress, toxins, electronic fields, shock, allergens, emotional or psychological stress, negative thinking or even just long term unhappiness.
Using muscle testing, the kinesiologist accesses the body’s responses to find out exactly what the client needs to regain and maintain balance, and feel healthy, both inside and out.
According to the official Kinesiology UK organisation, a client may sometimes only need a single appointment, but generally most need a series of appointments.
Most people find health kinesiology sessions very relaxing, though because sessions are powerful and deep-reaching, they can bring about major energy changes, resulting in temporary feelings of tiredness and sleepiness, or other slight symptoms (as I did for two days after my session with Emma Henry). This is seen as a good sign, an indication that a healing process has already begun, which is best helped by staying well-hydrated and resting or sleeping.
According to Kinesiology UK, everyone can benefit physically and mentally from health kinesiology: babies, the elderly, athletes, performers, the fit, the injured, the unwell, even pets.