by Yossarian Fay
Using foot and hand massage as a healing tool has been around, in varying forms, for centuries. In fact there is evidence in the form of illustrations that show the Ancient Egyptians used foot and hand massage as a way of activating the healing powers of the body. It was also a long established principle that energy lines ran through the body and, when these energy lines were clear, the person was in good health and, when they were blocked, the person suffered in one way or another. While this knowledge of maintaining clear energy lines and using foot massage to bring health benefits has been in the consciousness of many cultures for many years, it wasn’t until last century that ‘Reflexology’ was born. Reflexology is a mixture of these ancient wisdoms and modern thinking, whereby the nerve endings in the feet can be massaged in a particular way to clear any blockages in the person’s energy lines.
It was Eunice Ingham who devised the system we use today, back in the 1930’s, and she is so named the ‘Mother of Reflexology’. Eunice was a physiotherapist at the time and was an advocate of Zone therapy, which worked on the idea that certain parts of the body directly relate to other parts of the body and the body as a whole. This was shown rather dramatically by Dr Edwin Bowers when he got a patient to squeeze a comb into the palm of their hand before sticking a pin into their face with no pain felt. Eunice felt certain that, because the zones which ran through the body could be accessed anywhere, there must be an easier, and more effective, place to access these points. She found that the feet were not only easier to access they were also the most responsive due to their sensitivity, having been protected by socks and shoes most days, providing far greater benefits for reducing pain than zone therapy had.
Eunice realized that, by applying her ‘compression’ massage to certain ‘reflex’ points on the feet, healing occurred in certain areas of the body. She mapped out the entire body onto the feet and used her reflex massage as a way of not only helping health issues but, more importantly, as a way to prevent many health issues from ever occurring. The original Ingham foot maps show how, when the feet are put together, they ‘mirror’ the body; the big toes are two halves of the head and their reflexes can be found here, the spine reflexes run down the middle (where the two feet meet)and the heels represent the hips. To make location of reflexes easier, along with the five zones running up the feet and body (zone one is in line with the big toe and zone five is in line with the little toe), Eunice also used divisions in the feet to refer to certain areas. The toes are where the head and neck reflexes are found, the balls of the feet are the chest, lung and shoulder areas, the arch (upper part) is the diaphragm to waist area, the lower arch refers to the waist to pelvic area of the body, the heel is the pelvic area, the inner foot is the spine, the outer side of each foot refers to the arms, shoulders, hips, legs, knees and lower back while the ankle area is the pelvic area and reproductive organs. Eunice’s aim as she put it was ‘….stimulating the circulation, and as you stimulate the circulation, you raise the body vitality and, as the vitality increases, nature has the strength to overcome and throw off the poisons in the system.’ (Ingham, Stories the Feet can tell thru Reflexology. 1938) Reflexology, at its core, is a way of helping the body help itself.
We often don’t think about our feet yet we expect them to carry us through life each day. In touching, massaging and holding the feet, we can give them a little gratitude for all that hard work and, at the same time, restore energy to the whole body. The benefits of Reflexology are many, including physical and emotional, as not only are you working to clear blocks and allow the body’s energy to flow freely, you are also giving undivided time and care to another person (or yourself if you wish to) which brings its own kind of healing. Reflexology can reduce stress, induce deep relaxation, improve circulation, clear toxins and waste, balance the body, revitalize energy, be a preventative health measure, stimulate creativity and productivity as stress is reduced and brain function balanced, nurture relationships as the practitioner provides love and care which is then passed on by your client. Giving reflexology also helps the practitioner as they feel grounded and a sense of satisfaction in knowing they are helping others. A wonderful example of this is one client I had who came to me purely for a “treat” and stated at the first session that, apart from a busy life, nothing was wrong. After only 2 sessions she found herself relaxing and opening up, acknowledging her part in certain ‘tense’ relationships and found that she was dealing with issues that arose in a much calmer way. She also began working on a creative journaling project she had procrastinated over, finding that her inspiration, drive and creativity had returned. Simply put, she said she ‘felt more me, the calm, creative me that I felt I had lost’. Even others commented that she was more ‘chilled’ since coming for reflexology sessions. Personally, I am always full of positive energy after giving a session too as I am benefiting from the calming music, aromatherapy and the rhythmic waves of performing reflexology.
As a reflexologist, it is not my place to diagnose, prescribe or treat specific diseases. Only the client can truly heal themselves with the thoughts and actions they take, or don’t take as the case may be, yet in a Reflexology session (as alluded to above) the reflexologist can provide an environment and set the scene for the client to relax and to allow space for healing to take place. By providing this environment, the stress can begin to dissipate, the feet relax, as does the whole body, and blocks are cleared. Stress is a powerful emotion. Adrenaline is released, our heart rate quickens, breathing becomes shallower, muscles tense up, blood vessels contract, blood diverts from our digestive system and the stomach tightens. All of these actions are designed to help us physically prepare for ‘flight or fight’ action. However, in this modern world, we tend to have stress constantly and even rate events or days as being high or low stress levels.
Having this constant stress has been shown to cause many problems in the body when we have it long term. One client came to me with chronic long term pain (close to 20 years) in her left shoulder and neck who, within one session, noticed the difference to her sleep patterns. After a reflexology session she routinely had 2-3 days of relief from pain and wonderful sleeps which allows her body & mind a chance to relax and rejuvenate. While she felt many areas of her life were improved since beginning regular reflexology, it was once she had an opportunity to relax she began to see that some of the pain she carried was actually from taking on other people’s issues along with carrying tension and stress about the situation for all those years. With reflexology, she had the space to see another way of living and dealing with the situations around her along with a reducing the pain which she had lived with for so long.
Reflexology is one way to help the body relax and free itself from over performing in preparation for our ‘worst case scenario’. As Eunice Ingham wrote “….massage in any form is only a means of exercise, a means of equalizing the circulation. We all know circulation is life. Stagnation is death. Everything around us that is alive is in motion…… Our vitality is either increasing or decreasing according to the quality and circulation of our bloodstream.”(Ingham, Stories the Feet can tell thru Reflexology. 1938). When we are stressed we tense up. We stop certain body functions which is the opposite of what we need for health. Reflexology gives the person time to relax. It gives them undivided caring touch. Reflexology works to clear the tension and blocks their bodies have built up in defence of the day while stimulating the body to flow and function fully again. As a preventative medicine, as a relaxation tool, as a way of giving love and attention and as a way of allowing people the space to see the healing power within themselves, Reflexology, in my opinion, would be unequalled.
Yossarian is a qualified naturopath; reflexologist and teacher who works with busy people whose health and stress levels are stopping them from living life fully. She supports and empowers her clients to regain their health so they can live the life they want. She is available for online Well-being consultations.
Yossarian Fay: SNHS H.I. Dip. (Naturopathy), SNHS Dip. (Reflexology), SNHS Dip. (Nutrition), SNHS Dip. (Advanced Nutrition), SHNS Dip. (Flower Remedies), SNHS Dip. (Advanced Flower Remedies), SNHS Dip. (Herbalism), SNHS Dip. (Advanced Herbalism) SHNS Dip. (Life Coaching)