Each reﬂexology session is unique and tailored to the needs of the client in that session. It can be deeply relaxing and regenerative, or energizing and enlivening. It can be focused on reducing pain or increasing self awareness. Whatever your state or condition, a reﬂexology session can bring you home. Most often, a reﬂexology session is deeply relaxing. A session can include massage techniques to relax and open the feet but will generally also include more focused attention on particular points or areas of the feet, hands, or ears that seem to have particular ability to relax the body, bring energy to certain areas of the body, and integrate the body. Reﬂexology is practiced differently around the world. In my practice, I do not use any “implements” to apply pressure and all touch is adjusted to the client to create relaxation and move energy. Reﬂexology operates on the principle that, in a relaxed state, not having to deal with stress, the body is freed to use its energy, and its internal “wisdom” to attend to whatever is most needed in the body at the time. The reﬂexologist frees the body to attend to itself.
Because so many people in our culture experience ongoing and sometimes extreme stress in their lives, many people seek reflexology simply to unhook from stress and all its hormones – to switch out of fight or flight responses (governed by the sympathetic portion of the nervous system) into a state of deep relaxation (the “rest and digest” functions governed by the parasympathetic portion of the nervous system). You must be in “rest and digest” mode to heal, to break cycles of chronic pain, and to expand your consciousness.
Reflexology is particularly effective with any issues that are created by or exacerbated by stress. In stress-involved states or conditions, reflexology can bring immediate relief as well as the presence of mind to find new ways to reduce the causes of stress.
Reflexology can be helpful in dealing with pain. Reflexology can promote circulation to and from a painful area and, perhaps more importantly, interrupt the physical and emotional processes of chronic pain that can become self-perpetuating.
Reflexology can be used during pregnancy to help a mother deal with anxiety, to move lymph, to keep blood pressure low, to reduce the need for medications to reduce pain, and, again, most importantly, to allow the mother to relax into a deep state of connection with herself, the child, and the universe(!). Reflexology is commonly used to reduce pain during labor in hospitals in Denmark.
Because reflexology affects the hormonal and nervous systems, it is a fabulous tool for coping with and ultimately healing depression, anxiety, and digestive problems.
If you are taking medications for any condition, you should discuss that with your reflexologist.
The Kunz website tracks research conducted around the world that has been designed to investigate the effectiveness of reflexology. They conducted a survey of 170 reflexology studies from 21 countries that demonstrate that reflexology creates a variety of beneficial physical and psychological effects including (Taken directly from their website):
In massage, the massage therapist uses his or her hands to apply pressure directly to muscles, tendons, organs, or connective tissues that require attention. Though reflexologists can certainly use massage techniques to relax and open the feet, the term reflexology generally refers to the use of focused attention and pressure to activate points or areas on the feet, hands, or ears to relax and integrate both the feet and the body at large. Reflexology is pleasurable to the feet hands and ears, where the touch is being applied, but also to the rest of the body that is not being touched. Most people find that reflexology can create a feeling of deeper, total body relaxation more quickly than massage. In my experience, this is because reflexology somehow activates the body-mind connection to quickly bring the parasympathetic portion of the nervous system on line, so that “resting and digesting” replaces the now societally-usual state of mild to extreme “fight or flight”.
Reflexology, acupuncture, and acupressure all help move energy within the body to create balance and ease. The depth of the effect from each also depends on the energetic openness of the practitioner and the receiver. All, at their heart, aspire to connect the receiver to the “virtue” rather than the disease of their condition. One could say that reflexology combines the pleasurable sensations of touch (like massage) with whole-body, energetic effects (like acupuncture). Acupressure involves touch along acupuncture meridians that run throughout the body. Reflexology focuses on maps of the body found on the lower legs, feet, hands, and ears.
Acupuncture and acupressure are deep fields based in Chinese 5-Element Theory. Manual pressure or extremely thin needles are used to stimulate points on a body-wide system of energy meridians to move “chi” or energy in the body. Stimulating the points relieves blockages at the point which opens flow along the meridians, throughout the body, the person, and all the person is connected to.
In reflexology, “maps” of the body are envisioned on the feet, hands, and ears (akin to the “homunculus” in the brain). Manual pressure is applied to locations on the map in order to affect the corresponding part on the body at large. Some overlap of reflexology maps and acupuncture points exists on the ears and many modern-day reflexologists incorporate understanding of acupuncture meridians into their reflexology treatments. In fact, reflexologists may incorporate portions of other healing arts as well, including Ayurvedic marma points, cranio-sacral theory, lymphatic drainage, polarity therapy, and massage, still working only on the feet, hands, and ears!
The following reflexology map is courtesy of King County, Washington which has generously created a series of reflexology walking paths to promote health in the County.
Click here for an interactive map.
The maps that are currently used in reflexology have developed over time based on research and practical experience of a line of doctors, physical therapists, and other practitioners. It is likely that many cultures had local healers who conducted their healing by touching or holding people’s feet and hands. Even Egyptian heiroglyphs in a doctor’s tomb depict the doctor touching another person’s feet.
Dr. Fitzgerald, an American, was the first western doctor we know of to take interest in reflex-related, local, healing practices that he heard of from his patients while he was practicing in France. At the same time as the famous Pavlov and other researchers were exploring nerves and reflexes, Fitzgerald created a simple “map” of the human body on the foot – five vertical zones that extended from the foot to the top of the head on each side of the body. By touching a point in a zone on the foot, he believed one could affect all parts of the body that fell in that zone and called his treatments “Zone Therapy”. Back in America, Dr. Scott Riley overlaid horizontal zones on these vertical zones to create a grid that could be used to map any point in the body onto the foot. Eunice Ingham, a physical therapist who worked with Riley, took this grid, and through many years of application to thousands of people, refined it to a map that also incorporated similarity of shape in its geography. In the 1950’s, French Dr. Paul Nogier created maps for reflex areas on the ears that are very similar to acupuncture maps. In Europe, German Hanne Marquart, considered the “mother of European reflexology” further refined Ingham’s map, using “similarity of shape” to enhance the map’s anatomical precision and acknowledging the emotional component of health issues in the body. Her students, Peter Lund Frandsen and Dorthe Krogsgaard continue to refine the map and incorporate physical therapy and energy medicine into their practice as well. Dr. Martine Faure-Alderson has formalized cranio-sacral maps on the foot. Robert St. John developed Metamorphosis, using light touch along the spinal reflex to heal “tensions” and wounds that occurred before birth.
In America, Bill Flocco formalized the integration of foot, hand, and ear work. Christine Issel researched the history so that current practioners can know where their healing art began and honor its roots, and the Kunz’s have used the internet to increase reflexology’s visibility through books, research summaries, and free tools. All these people, and many others, have helped to create a vibrant healing art that draws from a range of modalities that recognize the physical and energetic connections in the body and try to use these to improve health.
All current reflexology maps have developed from the initial horizontal and vertical zones used in Zone Therapy. Peter Frandsen explains the reason that they all work by saying that “every cell in the body knows what every other cell in the body is doing”. Scientific research is continuously revealing more about how cellular structure and physiology create inter and intracellular communication that connects the body throughout its entirety.
The main reason to choose reflexology is that it feels great. Absolutely great. It is the most pleasurable way I know of to create health, integrate, and transform. Reflexology is especially brilliant in healing, developing, and transforming the body mind connection. Physical, psychological, emotional, energetic, and spiritual realms can be affected, as the client desires or is ready.
Reflexology is fabulous for people who are not comfortable being touched on the torso due to physical or emotional traumas. Healing can be created in the torso without touching it. Reflexology works beautifully with other healing arts to fill in gaps that may not be quite covered by other modalities. You can’t really know how great it is til you try it!
Well….. Plants are part of what some people call the universal consciousness that we are all part of. They embody that energy, as we do, both in its completeness and in unique ways. A slight nudge from some plant energy can be just the encouragement the body needs to start a transformation or even turn over a new leaf! Both plants and reflexology are subtle but powerful and available to the receiver in exactly the strength desired.
I use plants in my salves.
Reflexology is a practice of applying pressure (touch) to the feet, hands, and ears using specific thumb, finger and hand techniques. Alternating pressure is applied to a system of zones and reflex areas to affect positive changes both locally and elsewhere in the body. Schools of reflexology around the world differ in their beliefs about some aspects of treatment including the use of oil, cream or lotion, the use of instruments other than the practitioner’s fingers, the level of pressure that is appropriate, the strength of connections between reflexes on the hands and feet and the same and the opposite sides of the body, and exact placement of some reflex areas. Scientific research about the actual mechanisms by which reflexology acts on the body is currently being conducted around the world as interest in the positive effects it seems to have grows.
Reflexology is not considered “medicine” and practitioners do not diagnose or prescribe medications or herbs unless they have other qualifications that allow them to do that. Reflexology relies on the body’s ability to heal itself when stress is reduced and the body-mind connection is activated. Reflexology does just this – reduces stress and activates the mind-body-spirit connection.
Laws that govern reflexology vary from state to state. Forms of medicine and healing arts that involve touching the body (and receiving money in return) generally require some sort of license to touch the body. Prior to 2002 in Washington, Reflexology was considered a form of massage and could be practiced professionally only by licensed massage therapists, nurses, doctors, or aestheticians. In 2002, it became legal for a person to practice reflexology without any of these licenses as long as touch did not go beyond 6 inches above the ankle, above the wrists, or from the ears. This opened the door for untrained and even unscrupulous people to develop reflexology businesses and currently the Washington state legislature is working with the Washington Reflexology Association to develop education and experience equirements for licensure that will be instituted in 2013.
You should always feel free to ask for documentation of your reflexologists education and experience. Currently, in Washington, to become a certified reflexologist, you must complete at least 200 hours of classroom education and 90 documented practice hours that are reviewed by a local school. National Certification by the American Reflexology Certification Board involves an additional 90 practice hours and graded documentation, written and practical exams, and continuing education.
Taken from the following websites: Please see these for more information
Flocco - History of Reflexology
ARCB - American Reflexology Certification Board
Washington Reflexology Association Reflexology History
Dwight Byers and Eunice Ingham - History of Reflexology
Kunz - History of Reflexolgoy
Kunz – About Reflexology
International Institute of Reflexology - History of Reflexology
International Institute of Reflexology - About Reflexology
The treatment of the body through the feet, hands, and ears seems to have been practiced at different times and places around the world since the beginning of history if not before. Though no written record of methods or approaches has been found, archeological evidence of healing attention to the feet and hands been discovered in Egypt (2330 BCE), China (2704 BCE) and Japan (690 BCE).
The study of reflexes and the beginnings of reflexology as we now conceive it began to emerge in Europe during the late 19th century. In the 1890's in England, Sir Henry Head, a knighted research scientist and medical doctor, demonstrated a neurological relationship between the skin and the internal organs and Nobel prize winner, Sir Charles Sherrington showed that the nervous system and body adjust to a stimulus applied to any part of the body. In Germany, Dr. Alfons Cornelius observed that pressure to certain spots triggered muscle contractions, changes in blood pressure, variation in warmth and moisture in the body as well as directly affecting the mental state of the patient. Drs. Ivan Pavlov and Vladimir Bekhterev, began a Russian medical tradition of exploring reflex responses in the body.
The use of reflexology for improving health was brought to American in 1909 by Dr. William Fitzgerald (1872-1942), further developed by Dr. Joe Shelby Riley (1872-1942) in the 1920’s, and taken to the masses by Physiotherapist Eunice Ingham (1989-1974). Fitzgerald, who was exposed to early versions of reflexology while working in Europe, divided the body and feet into 10 longitudinal (vertical) zones – 5 on each side of the body – and called his treatments “Zone Therapy”. Riley added 8 horizontal zones to create a grid, and thus a more accurate “mapping” of body parts onto the corresponding grid on the foot. Ingham applied their principles to hundreds of people, wrote “Stories the Feet Can Tell” in 1938, and after that traveled the country spreading the word of reflexology and further developing its practice.
In the Far East, a variety of forms of manual pressure to the feet, hands, and ears have developed and textured paths for stimulating reflex areas on the feet are quite common.