Interview with Deborah Brennan.
Around 9 months ago, I experienced my first kinesiology session.
My good friend Deborah Brennan, at the very end stages of competing her kinesiology qualification, asked if I would be her client as a part of her course completion. Lying down in my lounge room with meditation music on, the smell of essential oils surrounding me and not having to think about anything for an hour or so, was a definite drawcard. Not knowing anything else about kinesiology, I agreed. A mobile version of Endota Day Spa in my very own house…..yes please. Little did I know that at the end of this session, I would feel a release of negative energy that I didn’t even know I had been holding onto for years.
Whilst this might all sound a bit woo woo, ever since that session, my childhood shame that was locked away is finally gone. I don’t know where it went…..and yes, I was already willing to make huge changes in my life. I had been doing a LOT of personal work before my session with Deb, but it was during this kinesiology session I felt the final shift happen.
There has recently been a lot of chatter about the bio, psycho, social model in the singing teaching world. Although it’s an interesting and relevant topic and one that completely aligns with my current speech pathology studies, a holistic approach to vocal coaching is not really a new concept for me personally. I have always believed in working with singers holistically. After all, we are our voice. The voice is a part of us - there are so many components to consider regarding the mind, body, voice connection and once you start unpeeling these layers, the results can be incredibly empowering. My recent session with Deb only reinforced this, as I have since noticed a huge shift in my inner-confidence and mindset when singing since our kinesiology session.
Deb and I recently went out for breakfast, and we were chatting about the importance of a positive mindset for singers and how kinesiology practices may be helpful to singers. I thought it would be great to get Deb to answer some questions about kinesiology to help singers better understand the benefits it may have.
Deb has worked as a freelance musician for a decade and a has been a performer on the festival circuit for seven years. She has done almost everything you can think of within that industry – She has been a piano accompanist for singers, a music director for amateur musical theatre productions, a studio piano tutor, and a guest lecturer at Adelaide University. Deb has also written, produced, and performed sell out solo cabaret shows - A Case of You: The Music of Joni Mitchell, The Hummingbird Effect and The Parting Glass which she has toured to various fringe festivals including Adelaide, Melbourne, Perth, and Edinburgh. Deb currently works as a choir trainer with the Department of Education’s Primary Schools Festival of Music.
Deb has also recently completed a Graduate Certificate in Counselling & Psychotherapy.
T: Thanks for joining me Deb! How does kinesiology fit in with everything else you do? Can you explain to the readers what kinesiology is?
D: Hi Tania! Yes, it might seem like a strange cross over, but it all makes sense, trust me. Firstly, I’ll tell you what kinesiology is - Kinesiology is a natural healing modality that clears any stress you are holding within your body, be it physical stress, mental stress, or emotional stress. We use muscle reflex testing to tap into the subconscious to uncover the location and origin of this stress, which could be manifesting in the present day in the form of an emotional block, physical ailments, self-sabotage, negative thought patterns, or old belief systems. In a kinesiology session, we find the stress, what emotions it’s connected to, which energy centre it’s affecting, what are the stress began and who or what was involved. One of its main points of difference as a therapy is that whereas a lot of modern Western therapies focus on diagnoses and treating symptoms, kinesiology focuses on getting to the root cause and clearing from a deeper level.
As a writer of cabaret, a lot of my work touches on topics that are felt on these deeper levels like grief or depression or finding yourself. In fact, I actually talk openly about my experience with kinesiology in The Hummingbird Effect. I found that my stories resonated with the audience in ways I wasn’t expecting. I’ve had people follow me up after they’ve been to one of my shows telling me about their experience with grief or depression. I have a vivid memory of a man after one of our shows in Edinburgh unable to speak because he was so overcome with emotion and nostalgia that all he could do was hug me and say thank you over and over. I once had another man send me an email telling me all about his chronically ill baby granddaughter whose name means ‘Hummingbird’ in Incan Quechua language. He sent me photos of her little life in hospital and asked for a copy of a part of my script because he felt it would help his family on their healing journey. I began to feel quite humbled with the work I was doing, and I started to notice an overlap between music and kinesiology – both involve creating meaningful connection and both have the concept of harmony as an underpinning force. When I realised this, I decided maybe it was time to take the steps to expand my practise to incorporate a healing aspect that was inadvertently starting to naturally unfold anyway.
T: Tell us more about your journey with kinesiology. What inspired you to pursue this as a profession?
D: I first came across kinesiology ten years ago when I had a session myself. At the time, I was going through a few things, and I’d tried several - for want of a better term - more “mainstream” therapeutic modalities like traditional counselling, CBT, I’d even gone to see psychologist a few times. I found that the therapies I was engaging in were only helpful in the moment, nothing was getting to the root cause of the issue. So, I’d have my six sessions that were subsidised under the Medicare Mental Health plan, feel better for a little while but then before long I’d find myself right back where I started. In some cases, I found myself going backwards because I was doing all this work and not getting anywhere. It was like putting a band-aid on the surface, but nothing was addressing the underlying wound. I remember one day back in 2013 having a coffee with a friend of mine and admitting that I was at the end of my rope. I’d tried everything that had been suggested by my GP but nothing was creating any long-term healing. She recommended a name for me. I remember she didn’t tell me what they did or even mention the word kinesiology or anything, so I went to see this person without knowing anything about the ‘treatment’ or the process.
The first session I had was totally weird, if I’m completely honest. I had no idea what had happened in the session and because it was so different to traditional talk therapy, I thought it must be a scam. I wasn’t going to go back, but back then I had boundary issues and wasn’t able to say no so before I knew it, I was booking in for another session. And I must admit, despite all my misgivings, I was a little intrigued. So, I did return for my second session and that was where a big breakthrough happened. I was totally blown away by what came up and started having regular balances on and off for about eighteen months. I remember after having worked with my kinesiologist for several months she felt that I had a natural aptitude for this kind of work and suggested I should pursue it as a potential career path. At the time my performing was really starting to kick off and it just wasn’t on my radar to do anything else, so I said no thanks!
Then, obviously, 2020 happened and suddenly being a performer and live musician was not an option anymore. And as hard as it was, I realised that was the kick I needed to go back to study. The idea of doing something more with my life had already been growing on my heart for a year or two before that but I just wasn’t ready to get out of my comfort zone and instigate the leap myself, so the universe did it for me. I’ve spent the past two years learning under the goddess Nikki Heuskes (yes, Barbarella from the old HQ days!) and I’ve also completed a Graduate Certificate in Counselling and Psychotherapy in that space of time as well.
T: How can singers and voice users benefit from this treatment?
In so many ways! Kinesiology can help with things on a metaphysical level like self-confidence, performance anxiety, fear of being seen or heard, any blockages around creative expression and speaking up and so on. I could keep going. It can also help address any underlying stress that might be causing physical disorders of the voice/throat/mouth area.
The energy centre that I often see test up for singers and voice users is the throat chakra which is all about communication, self-expression, and creativity. Throat chakra covers the area at the front of the throat, basically from the base of your nose and ears all the way down to the base of neck. It governs the thyroid and parathyroid glands, as well as neck, shoulders, and arms. It also governs pretty much everything to do with the mouth, so - teeth, gums, vocal cords, ears, nose and throat as well as TMJ, oesophagus, tonsils, larynx. It also governs the digestive tract and anything to do with speech, stuttering, sound and communication. If you have a weak throat chakra it might show up with a thyroid imbalance, hearing issues, TMJ, bleeding gums, any dis-ease of the voice tract, laryngitis, tonsilitis, nodules etc. Here’s an interesting anecdote for you – the first session I had with a kinesiologist, after spending the first part of the session talking about all my concerns, she asked me if I’d had any recent problems with my throat. I stared at her, bewildered as to how she knew to ask that because in the months leading up to that first session, I’d had laryngitis twice and I’d also been to see an ENT convinced that I was developing nodules!
Metaphysically, an imbalanced throat chakra could also show up in the way you are communicating – for example, not being able to speak up about something or get the right words out; difficulty telling the truth or, conversely, knowingly lying. It could even be showing up in form of talking as a defence mechanism – you know that fast, nervous talking people do to fill the silences? That’s a throat chakra imbalance.
T: How do you incorporate your kinesiology practices into your own performing?
D: Ooh good question. I guess something I used a lot earlier in my performing career (less so now, but it’s a good tool to have in the toolkit) is learning stress control techniques like Emotional Stress Release or using an acupressure point with a self-belief affirmation for developing performing confidence. I used to really struggle with imposter syndrome, which is a fear of being seen, heard and recognised (see Tania’s blog on Imposter Syndrome), so these techniques have really helped me overcome that. Kinesiology is all about tapping into your subconscious, so meditation is also a helpful practice – I know, that word often conjures up images of a guru in flowing robes, closed-eyed, sitting in the lotus position, but meditation is just a conversation with your soul, so for me it’s sitting outside with my coffee first thing in the morning as the sun rises, feeling the fresh air on my face, breathing in the scent of the coffee, listening to the birds as they all wake up. That’s more of a daily ritual though, rather than a performing-specific practise but I think it’s important to have some kind of reverential mindset practise in place – mine helps me to always be mindful of my audience and to sit in a position of thanks rather than fear. As you know, there can be a lot of stress and worry when you’re performing a show – will people come? What will they think of me? What if they hate me? Will I lose a lot of money? But when you have a mindset of thanks, instead you’re just grateful that a stranger has paid money to buy a ticket and given up time in their day to see your show. Performing becomes about them rather than you. That was a bit deep, wasn’t it!
T: How do singers and performers book in with you or where can they go for more information?
D: They can go to my website www.deborahbrennan.com.au. I have a whole section on what kinesiology is and a (very inconclusive!) list of issues or concerns kinesiology can help you with. If you would like to book a session with me, I currently have a waitlist which you can join here – but don’t worry, you won’t be waiting too long as I will be opening up my books for new clients very soon!
T: Thanks for the chat Deb!