Alternative routes to healing in Inverness County

June 3, 2024

To say Kelly Bernard wears many hats is an understatement.

As a mother of four, grandmother of two, and a yoga and fitness instructor, Bernard has set her mind on healing Inverness County through holistic practices.

Bernard is a reiki and reflexology practitioner from Lake Ainslie. She’s been a resident of We’koqma’q First Nation, where her husband is from, for about 20 years. With a unique academic background in psychology and physical education, she has worked in the area of sport, recreation, and wellness since graduating from Cape Breton University almost 30 years ago.

She feels that practicing reiki and reflexology, specifically, has always been her calling.

“The universe likes to line things up and nudge you very gently and sometimes very aggressively in a different direction,” she explains.

Bernard was first introduced to reiki in 2010 at a women’s retreat.

“It triggered a little seed that planted in the back of my mind,” she says.

Reiki is a Japanese form of energy healing where practitioners use a technique called palm healing. According to practitioners, energy is transferred through the palms of the practitioner to the patient to encourage emotional and physical healing.

While working at the We’koqma’q Family Healing Centre as a women’s support counselor, Bernard started to notice a dip in her energy. After discovering she had celiac disease, which was a leading factor in her energy loss, she decided to take some time off.

It was during this time that she decided to take a leap of faith and open her own business offering reiki services.

Person standing on a deck practicing Reiki.

She began offering her practice part-time out of her house, but no one was coming through the door.
In 2010s rural Cape Breton, reiki was still largely unheard of.

“Nobody really knew about it, or if they did, they thought it was like voodoo stuff,” Bernard chuckles.

So, she decided to try something different and train in reflexology.

Reflexology is a type of therapy that involves applying pressure to points on the feet, ears, and hands. It is based on a system of zones and reflex areas which practitioners believe reflect an image of the body on the feet and hands, with the premise that pressure on the feet and hands causes a physical change to those areas of the body.

In 2019, an opportunity arose for Bernard to practice both reiki and reflexology at Inverness Chiropractic. She also continues to practise at her home in We’koqma’q.

“It’s obvious that more and more people are interested in these kinds of services,” she says.

“Five years ago, there were only a handful of us working at Inverness Chiropractic, and now we’ve basically doubled or tripled in size with all the different types of healing services.”

Bernard enjoys spending time with her colleagues almost as much as she enjoys her work.

“They’re the best group of people you’d ever want to work with,” she says. “We have a lot of fun and still get our work done.”

As the popularity of alternative healing practices increases, Bernard says it is still essential for Cape Bretoners to have a robust and accessible medical healthcare system.

“There’s definitely a time and place for the medical field, but I think people also need to know that they have an option to come and try these different services.”

People are realizing that there is more to their health, she adds, and they’re feeling empowered to take more control of it.

Bernard says her background in psychology informs her approach with her clients, noting that she gets to know her clients in order to heal them more holistically, “because it’s mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional. We are not simple beings. We’re very complex and everything is connected. When something is out of whack in one part of our body, it’s going to affect our complete body – and I’m talking about the holistic body.”

Seeing results in her patient’s health situations has been her most rewarding experience at the centre, she says, adding that the feedback she receives is immensely positive.

“I don’t give credit to myself, though, because it’s the treatments that they’re receiving that are working for them,” Bernard says. “It doesn’t feel like a job to me. I just feel privileged, honoured, blessed, and grateful to be able to do this kind of thing.”