Reflexology, the Alternative Approach for Years of Better Health

Indian Foot massage

Foot Soak before the Foot massage

In the mid-nineties, while living in Boston, my back hurt so badly that I had to lie down without moving for weeks. I just couldn’t move because of the pain.  I was advised to try Reflexology after other alternatives had failed.  The first two Reflexology practitioners could not help.  But the third person drove 45 minutes to our house in Cambridge, treated me for 50 minutes, and the next day I was back on my feet working.  Two more treatments and my back was feeling much better.  I was able to go back to yoga, gardening, working, to my normal life.  I was amazed, and decided to sign up for a Reflexology course.

I learned about Reflexology – the art and science of working on people’s feet – in the 1990s.  In Japan and Hawaii, therapists work on the abdomen for an entire session.  In China and France, alternative doctors work on the ear the whole session.  It is likely that Reflexology began in ancient Egypt, where a wall painting from 2330 B.C. shows a physician working on the Pharaoh’s foot.  And in ancient India, work on the feet was quite popular.  In 1938, Eunice Ingham published her first book “Stories the Feet Can Tell Through Reflexology,” and that was the beginning of this new therapy in the US and in Europe, later in Australia.

What is Zone Therapy?  We all know that we have ten toes and of course ten fingers, five on the right and five on the left side of the body.  Number the big toes “zone line one.”  These zones relate to various parts of the body.  For discomfort in the shoulder, for instance, we work the area below the small toe, and the pelvic area, which is the lower parallel side of the shoulders and that part is located below the ankle.

Here’s a concrete example.  Recently, I was working on a client’s right foot in the area of the foot that mirrors the large intestine ascendant colon.  She was quiet, lying down and breathing deeply.  Suddenly, she pointed to her right abdomen, and told me that she was feeling some movement upward in her intestines.  I acknowledged that indeed I was working on that area on her foot.  I was surprised, because I don’t always get clients who are that sensitive and precise.  When I start working on the lung area below the toes, people begin to take deep sighs, and they comment that they start feeling their lungs opening.  Often, clients say their head feels clear after a Reflexology session.  I find that kind of result fascinating.

What is Foot Reflexology?  Dwight Byers – founder of the International Institute of Reflexology where I studied – comments: “Reflexology is a science which deals with the principle that there are reflexes in the feet relative to each and every organ and all parts of the body.  Stimulating these reflexes properly can help many health problems in a natural way, a type of preventative maintenance.”

When I started studying and practicing Reflexology in 1998, relieving stress and tension were the first tasks we learned.  Apparently, most health issues are caused by stress.  I always start my sessions with relaxation movements or techniques on the feet, allowing the body to relax and let go of all the tension that the client brings with them.  That allows the person we are working on to begin relaxing and breathing properly.  My next step is to start working on the diaphragm, where all the tension and the stress get stuck.  When we are under stress and pressure, we tend to forget to breathe.  Our breath moves the diaphragm up and down, in and out.  When we hold our breath, that specific area in our body gets stuck and tight, thereby slowing the circulation between our upper and lower body.  Working on the diaphragm area allows the body to relax, to allow the flow of energy, and the blood and lymphatic circulation to go back to its natural rhythm.  When we ease tension and stress, the pressure on the nerves and vessels diminishes.  Underactive or overactive glands and organs will return to normal functioning, helping nature to normalize the body’s function.

In Reflexology, we don’t diagnose, prescribe, or treat a specific condition.  We just work the map of the feet.  The whole body is mapped out on the foot.  The toes represent the head, sinuses, brain, etc.  Below the toes, we have the chest, breasts, and lungs.  Heart location is on the left foot only as it is in the body. So on and so forth.  Some people have discharges, or have some slight reactions after the sessions.  These are the result of the body trying to detoxify and getting back into balance.

I like to encourage my clients to take total responsibility for their own health by exercising, acting in moderation, doing stress management as much as possible, and not to depend on therapists and doctors to keep their health in harmony.

We abuse our feet so much during our busy lives day in and day out.  In Asia, feet are very important.  Notice the Feet of the Buddha everywhere on drawings, engraved on stones or other materials.  In Tibet, it is the same.  When I was in Egypt, vendors at every tourist site would be selling a foot of black granite covered with the ancient hieroglyph drawings (their ancient language that used pictures rather than our modern alphabet).  In the New Testament, Jesus washed his disciples’ feet in the temple, which must have been a ritual in those days.  In Japan, people never go to bed – at least in the old days, my teacher Kiiko Matsumoto (Japanese-born world famous acupuncturist) used to tell me – without scrubbing their feet.  You never, she said, take the tension of the whole day with you to bed.  Wipe your feet with a hot wet towel, massage them or roll them on a ball or foot roller and you will see how deeply you will sleep.

Take good care of your feet, and your feet will serve you for a long time. That is my mantra.  Wipe them before going to bed. It takes only 3 seconds.  Roll them on a small golf ball, or foot roller.  Lately, I read an article about a pebble walk created especially to use at home – we can have the beach at home, an amazing idea.  We can benefit our health so much by massaging our feet ourselves with a natural, good quality cream.  Avoid products and creams with mineral oil or petroleum.  My favorite product to use is Arbonne International’s Swiss-formulated “Intelligence Foot Cream” or their Holiday Pampermint scrub and foot cream.  It is soothing and relaxing, and easily absorbed by the feet.  Eat well, drink water, exercise, take walks daily, treat your feet with good natural products and Reflexology, and notice the return and feedback from your feet and body to your body, mind and spirit.  Good luck and good health with happy feet.

Margo Marver