I have been a therapeutic reflexologist since 1985, in fact I was the first person to pass the exam in the first official South African course on Reflexology, since all other participants had a week off to study at the end of the course, but I was going overseas and wanted to do the exam beforehand. I therefore did my exam the day after the course ended. The course was formulated and run by Jack Rubin in Johannesburg. Jack Rubin has long since retired, but he wrote several books on Reflexology in his day, created a very good, concise wall chart, and he was instrumental in getting Reflexology accredited as a healing modality. This was to take many years and many people’s efforts after his first attempts, but therapeutic reflexology has now finally been recognised by the Allied Health Professions Council of South Africa for the past few years.
Reflexology does not claim to cure illness or disease, but instead is a complimentary therapy and focuses on preventative or palliative care and very effectively helps the body to heal itself. Over the years I have seen wonderful improvements in clients and myself, and to this day even I am still always amazed as to how well it works.
Reflexology is a therapy performed primarily on the feet, but also the lower legs, face, hands and ears. When pressure is applied to certain reflex points, using mostly hands and fingers, the corresponding areas in the body are stimulated, bringing pain relief, improvement in circulation, returning homoeostasis or balance to the body, generating a feeling of well being, relaxation and improved, deeper sleep.
Energy pathways in the body become blocked by stress, illness and disease. To return the body to optimal health, these energy pathways connecting each body part to another need to be cleared.
In Chinese medicine the body is divided into longitudinal meridians, which are also the foundation of acupunctures. In Europe the meridians were referred to as ‘zones’. Dr William Fitzgerald separated the body into 10 longitudinal zones. The zones run from head to toes and fingers, and during patient examinations Dr Fitzgerald detected an effect on corresponding body parts, when putting pressure on certain zones. By applying pressure on the feet through these meridians or zones, health improved, the nervous system became balanced, and the body released its own chemicals to reduce pain and stress.
Eunice Ingham, a physiotherapist, developed a map of the whole body on the soles of the feet, showing the areas on the feet which correspond to the various body parts when applying pressure.
The feet are mapped as follows:
- Toes: head and neck, ie: ears, eyes, nose, mouth, forehead etc
- Ball of the foot: thoracic are, ie: lungs, heart, thyroid etc.
- Arch of foot: abdominal area, ie: liver, stomach, intestines, pancreas, kidney, bladder etc.
- Heel: sciatic nerves, lower back, lower part of intestines etc
- Inner foot: spine
- Outer foot: outer body, ie: knees, hips, arms, shoulders
Reflexology is especially effective for the following:
- Digestive disorders (eg: IBS, bloating, constipation etc)
- Pain (eg: back pain, sports injuries etc)
- Hormonal imbalances (eg: PMS, difficulty conceiving, menopause etc)
- Stress and related illnesses
- Headaches (eg: migraines, tension headaches)
- Insomnia and restlessness
- Immune system deficiencies
What happens during a typical Reflexology treatment?
During your first visit, the therapist will take a detailed medical history to assess health, life style and current requirements. Often you will have your feet soaked in a pleasant warm foot bath and then you will lie down on a massage bed or be seated in a comfortable chair with your feet up. The reflexologist will examine your feet and take note of shape, colour, texture, tone, moisture and markings on feet and nails.
This is followed by a warming up massage of the feet and application of pressure to all sections of the feet to identify required areas of treatment. Sensitivity or tickling is avoided by applying enough pressure to the feet, but not so much to cause undue pain. The therapist will focus attention to the areas signalling blockages, spending more time on areas where you experience tenderness, which will gradually dissipate as pressure is maintained. If pain makes you feel uncomfortable you need to communicate this to the therapist, so pressure can be eased off. It is not necessary to experience pain for the treatment to be effective.
Sensitive areas may need a series of treatments over a period of time to bring permanent improvement, depending on the severity of the problem.
Because of increased circulation and the release of built-up toxins one might experience some side effects after treatment, like tiredness, slight nausea or a headache, although this is not very common. Generally one feels calm, relaxed and like walking on air afterwards, and clients report sleeping very well and deeply the following night. It is important to drink enough water directly after a treatment and throughout the day.
It is important to consult with your health care practitioner before undergoing one’s first reflexology treatment, especially when pregnant or suffering from any serious or chronic illness.
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