Rebeka Coverdale is a Traditional Chinese Medicine Acupuncturist based in Cumbria, UK. Through her business RC Therapies she offers nutritional therapy and a wide range of massage therapies for a holistic and alternative approach to better health.
“Health is a big thing for me. There is nothing more frustrating than your own body or mind letting you down and stopping you from doing the things you want to do. I love life. I love experiencing as much as I can and traveling wherever I can, which is why Acupuncture and Massage are now part of my everyday. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has not only answered the questions that Western medicine couldn’t, it has opened my eyes to a whole new way of thinking and living. Acupuncture and Massage undoubtedly changed my life and my personal experience is the driving force behind my passion to help others get the most out of theirs.”
Tell us a bit about yourself and your journey to setting up RC Therapies...
I live in Kendal with my boyfriend Richard and 15 month old son Zac. We moved here 2 years ago after living in the French Alps for 2 years, where I worked as a Massage Therapist and Holiday Lettings Manager. I’m original from the Pennines but have moved around quite a lot since the age of 18. You could say I get itchy feet. I also like the challenge and excitement of living in new places. That being said, Kendal is probably the first place I actually feeI I belong. I reckon I might even stick around!
My journey into the world of alternative therapies started 8 years ago when I retrained as a Massage Therapist, qualifying in Swedish and Traditional Thai Massage. I’ve actually got a Degree and MA in Broadcast Journalism and worked in Radio News and TV production for a number of years. It’s definitely a lot less stressful than the Media and enjoy being my own boss. I hated the fake-ness of TV. I’m far too honest, blunt AND Northern. I stuck out like a sore thumb on the London TV scene. Plus, after the recession, work was scarce, so I packed my bags and moved back up North.
RC Therapies has evolved hugely over the years into a beautiful balance of holistic practices including Acupuncture, Massage, Nutrition and Lifestyle advice. This is why I love about what I do so much. The learning is endless and you never know what direction it’s going to take you in. When I first chose to retrain I knew I wanted to learn Thai Massage. I was a big lover of them whilst traveling in South East Asia and had never had a massage like it. Sadly, people associate it with the infamous ‘happy ending’ and therefore choose a more traditional oil based body Massage, but believe me, Thai Massage beats all other massages hands down and I’ve tried a hell of a lot. All niggles, aches, pains and stiffness just go. Your body seriously feels 10 years younger. Yet, I knew I would need to learn more western treatments to get the clients through the door, such as Swedish Body and Deep Tissue Massage. And I was right. Once people came for an oil based massage I suggested trying the Thai Massage, where you stay fully clothed and there is lots of pressing, stretching, twisting, and rocking. 90% stuck with the Thai.
It was whilst training in Thai Massage that I encountered my first experience of Acupuncture. I was blown away by the treatment and the theory behind it. But, I didn’t go on to study Acupuncture for another 4 years, as it was only when my own health deteriorated and I’d hit a wall with western medicine, that I decided to look into Traditional Chinese Medicine. I’m very grateful that I did, as it has not only made me healthier and happier, its enabled me to help others who are suffering with illness or pain. It really is a wonderfully rewarding position to be in.
For those who may not be familiar with the the practice, can you tell us a bit about what Acupuncture is and its benefits?
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese therapy that has been around for thousands of years. It works by tapping ultra fine needles into acupuncture points, anywhere from your head to your toes, to stimulate your body’s own capacity to heal itself. That’s the easy part. The hard part is diagnosing a person using Traditional Chinese Medicine principles. This is done by observing the tongue, reading the pulse and asking questions about the person’s physical and mental health. This then tells us where the body is out of balance and we can treat the root cause of a person’s illness or pain rather than their symptoms.
You may have heard Acupuncturist talking about Qi – pronounced chee – which is our vital energy. Qi also plays a part in pain and illness when it doesn’t flow freely through the body. Qi Stagnation, as we call it, can be the result of emotional and physical stress, poor nutrition, infection or injury. This is why it’s so important to look after our mental health, eat well and move our bodies as much as we can.
People regularly associate Acupuncture with pain relief and more recently fertility issues and IVF support. However, the benefits are endless. Anything you would go to the Doctors with, you can get Acupuncture for. So that’s anything from insomnia to IBS, depression to menopause and frozen shoulder to migraines. Acupuncture really helps and does it through your body’s own ability to heal itself naturally.
You are a big advocate for having the right balance in life and taking time out to relax and enjoy yourself - is this something you have had a personal journey with?
My dad had a heart attack in his early 40’s. Too much work and stress. I remember him saying in his retirement he wished he’d not grafted as much, or believed that money was everything. Because what do you have in your life if you don’t have your health? I had a comfortable upbringing but for a number of reasons i’m not motivated by money. I have seen first hand how it doesn’t create happiness and how you can easily forget what your purpose is. I’m motivated by my purpose, which is to make a difference for the short time I’m on the planet.
I am very grateful to have found something I am passionate about and that I can make a living from. But it took a lot of confidence, wrong turns and self development to get to where I am today. It is also a big wake up call when you suffer ill health yourself. 8 years ago I started experiencing chronic fatigue, recurrent UTI’s, insomnia and depression. It affected every inch of my life. That was the start of my journey to better health. My health became my number one priority and still is today. That absolutely means having the right balance in life.
My job is also very intense. I work with people who are suffering mentally or physically and most of the time both and it takes a lot of my own energy alongside the treatment to get patients well again. I have to then replenish that energy. I do so by feeding my body with the right food for me, spending time laughing with my family and friends, cooking, reading, watching TV, walking my dog. I also like to clear my mind entirely, which is mostly done when I push myself through physical activity and I’m forced into the present. This in Chinese Medicine is all about adding to your Jing or essence, Qi and Blood as well as moving any stagnated energy, caused by negative emotions. Frustratingly for me, I run out of steam very quickly, I can burn out just with my own thoughts. So I’ve had to listen to my body accept when I’ve done enough. This is something I’m still working on because I wish I could do more.
So balance is vital, not only to keep myself healthy and happy, but fit enough to treat my patients. Like Yin and Yang, one cannot live without the other. I’d be no good to anyone, especially myself if I didn’t get that balance right. It’s about learning to say no or yes and not feeling guilty for being kind to yourself. Money might make the world go around but it won’t buy you good health and happiness.
You enjoy spending time in the outdoors - what would you say motivates you in the respect?
I love being outside and have done so since being a child, but I never really appreciated it as I do now. Or maybe I just never understand how being outside was so beneficial to the health of our body and most of all mind. It wasn’t until I met Richard 8 years ago that life started to become more adventurous. We bought a dog, my beloved German Short Haired Pointer, Ike and we went hiking most weekends. Richard introduced me to climbing and reintroduced me to skiing and surfing. Its makes me squirm now to think of the the days I wasted being hungover. But fun getting drunk in your 20’s! Now I appreciate that pub visit after a hard day on the fell so much more.
I, like most, have battled with mind demons. I’ve had some pretty dark times over the year, more recently after the birth of my son Zac. Having a dog means you are forced to go out even when it’s sunny outside but that grey cloud is hanging over your head. The reality is, being outside and moving makes us feel better. From a Chinese Medicine perspective when we feel any kind of negative emotion our Qi (energy) stops flowing freely through our bodies. This damages our mental health further and pain and disease can manifest. By moving we are helping the energy to flow freely as it should and we are happier and healthier.
And it’s not just about moving, it’s about being in outside in the natural environment and surrounding yourself with all that energy. Sometimes that means being still outside
too. Whether people don’t realise or choose to be ignorant, we are all energetically connected to the earth, the trees, the mountains, the rivers and seas and every living animal and creature on this planet. The more time we spend connecting ourselves to these things the better we will feel.
So what motivates me to spend time outside – it reminds me i’m alive. It reminds me to stop overthinking. It reminds me to actually stop thinking. It reminds me to smile. It reminds me to be kind to myself. It reminds me why we are here in the first place. And it reminds me to be fully in the present and to just breathe.
Have there been any particular highs or lows which stand out since starting the business?
Since starting the business we have moved not just house but region or country three times. So it’s the 4th time I have had build a client base from nothing. Thats been toughest thing for me. I have all this skill, passion and knowledge, but I don’t have the trust and respect of the local community yet. It takes time to get to know people and people to get to know me. Alternative therapies are very personal. Most people like to know who will be treating them. In time I will build a strong reputation through word of mouth as my results speak for themselves. In the meantime, I continue to be patient and grateful to the people that do choose to be treated by me.
Every new qualification is a huge high. It’s important to me that I keep developing as a practitioner and not becoming complacent in my treatments. As hard as it is to has been to restart the business four times, this is also a great achievement for me and reminder that reinventing yourself however many times is possible. Some people get stuck in life and don’t believe, generally in themselves enough, that they can make a change. But change is the only way you can move forward.
How have you found having your own business and being a parent? Would you have any tips for someone thinking of doing the same?
Running your own business means you can work to your own time. You are of course your own boss and therefore can choose your own hours. This has been a huge bonus since having Zac. It means I can work longer hours one day to enjoy a full day off with him another and this I am extremely grateful for.
The hardest thing is finding the time and headspace to promote and develop the business. I’ve found my focus is different now. There’s another human being to think about. Keep alive. Plan for. Do your best for. It all comes back to finding that right balance. Spending enough time with Zac. Making sure I have enough energy to do the things I want to do with him. Making sure Richard and have fun together and remembering we’re a couple. All the while, looking after my own health and making sure I’m 100% on it for my patients. And do I always get that balance right? No chance. But I’m fully away of it and I reflect on how I can improve it if I need to do. Which, in a lot of cases means leaving the washing and either having a good giggle and wine with my mates or stomping up a big mountain in the Lakes somewhere.
If you are a parent and want to start your own business be realistic and don’t set your expectations too high. All businesses take a good year or two to get established and you have to put the time and effort in. Managing that time is essential because there just isn’t the same amount of hours in the day when you have kids. One minute its morning and the next you’re in bed!
My biggest tip would be to believe in yourself. After going through childbirth it made me realise even more that ANYTHING is possible if you put your mind to it.
What exciting ventures are you most looking forward to in the near future?
When I was pregnant, I did a course in Traditional Chinese Nutrition. I’m hugely passionate about how food affects the body and healing ourselves through food. I made big changes to what I ate after studying Acupuncture and even more so after furthering my knowledge in Chinese Nutrition. In China, diet is the first thing they would look at if you were unwell and out of balance, before even suggesting Acupuncture or Herbs.
Because of the timing, I’ve been slow in developing the Nutritional side of the business. Just recently I started using an online portal and app that allows patients to fill out diagnostic questionnaires, log what they eat, communicate through text and video calling, and allows me to share information like recipes and tips and track their progress. I’m trialling it at the minute with a few patients and it’s going really well.
Very soon, my Nutritional Therapy will be available to anyone suffering with digestive disorders such as IBS, those struggling to lose weight, menopausal women, people dealing with low energy, depression, insomnia or anxiety and anyone else who would like to improve their health and well-being. Each Patients’ diet is designed specifically around them and their Chinese Medicine Diagnosis, so it’s a very personal plan. Plus, I will be offering as much support as each individual needs.
I’m very excited about offering Chinese Nutritional Therapy, as the results are truly life changing. It has you looking at food in a completely different way to any western idea of nutrition, which can be hard at first, but once you get your head around it, the results are fantastic. And the beauty is, with it being all done online, I can help people all over the world.