All of the great, traditional healing systems of the world teach a philosophy that inner reflects outer and vice versa. The human body is a fully integrated, inter-connected, system of parts that communicate in order to work symbiotically. Healing traditions rely on this fact for the ways in which they intervene to restore the balance and vibrancy of clients’ lives.
WHAT IS REFLEXOLOGY?
Of course, when many think of reflexology, they think of the 1930s and ‘40s and the work of Eunice Ingam and, later, her student Mildred Carter, who brought this revolutionary way of approaching healing to a western audience – unaware of the ancient root from which reflexology derived. In fact, both Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurveda, the science of health and wellness from India and surrounding regions, have foot massage that is reflexively-based. That is, by pushing or rubbing on a part of the foot, an effect is produced somewhere else on or in the body; positive change can be facilitated in part of the muscular-skeletal system, as well as organs. In Ayurveda, reflexology comes under the broader touch therapy known as “marma chikitsa.” Marmas are like acupuncture points, but have an even more subtle connection to the body via the chakras – seven vortices of concentrated energy. Thus, reflexology goes far beyond being just therapeutic for parts of the body. It really is body-mind-spirit healing. Think of the many stories in sacred literature that speak of teachers and masters receiving foot massage from their disciples. Was this because they had a bad back or just wanted to feel good? Or, did it go even deeper?
Reflexology is very deep and profound. It can be used specifically for various aches or pain points. But, as a system, it can accomplish much more and, when practiced, should be offered and administered as such.
In preparation to offer reflexology, be sure that the practitioner’s fingernails are short. Many points can be sensitive, which reveals that work in that reflexive area is worthwhile. But, there is a difference between the pain in a point (sometimes over acidity in an area that can even be expressed in crystalline-like deposits) and the pain from a gouging nail. With respect to actions on the feet, clockwise circular motions over specific points, rather than pressing, are best. Such a motion has a pacifying effect. Thus, even if going deep into a point, the circular motion allows the pressure and experience to be less painful. It is also easier on thumbs and other fingers.
A question that comes up in bodywork, especially reflexology is if using an implement or tool is better or less effective than using one’s hands. In general, the answer is that hands are better than implements – with the exception of kansa wands or tools. Made of bronze, they conduct electro-magnetism very effectively, enhancing the treatment effect.
Lastly, although the your client’s feet may be washed before a treatment is started, using a foot lotion with a coconut base will act as a barrier between the skin care professional and the client. Plus, coconut oil has an antibacterial benefit. Furthermore, should the client have athlete’s foot or other fungus, rubbing some tea tree oil under the cuticles of one’s nails s advised.
CONSIDERATIONS FOR THE CLIENT
Considerations for the client relate to their comfort and condition. For example, reflexology is considered ill-advised for someone who is pregnant. The exception is that there are some structural points related to the hips and back that can be quite helpful at different stages of the pregnancy, particularly towards the last trimester. Like most massage methods, if someone has an active virus, reflexology is general ill-advised because the body is already going through a detoxification process.
Regarding their disposition when receiving a treatment, reflexology texts say that the professional should be able to see the client’s face, so they can detect if an area is painful or not. However, some clients may conceal their feelings. Plus, Botox renders it very difficult to properly read someone’s reaction. Thus, for clients who can lie comfortably on their stomachs, offer reflexology while the client is in this position. If an area is painful, it may manifest through their calf or buttocks twitching. To make their neck comfortable if on their stomach, offer a pillow that they can put under their torso or chest region. Then, of course, if such a position is uncomfortable, on their back or in a chair is fine.
STAND-ALONE OR ADD-ON?
Reflexology in a spa or massage therapy setting can be done as a stand-alone treatment or an add-on. Regarding add-ons, if the client needs more muscular-skeletal attention – a stiff neck, troublesome back, or so forth – working on the reflexes of the affected areas before more direct, mechanical bodywork or chiropractic is advised. The same is true if one intends to have a positive impact on a specific organ or function. However, if one is offering a pedicure service, the recommendation is to offer a reflexology add-on at the end. Such an add-on can last up to 15 minutes.
Whether offering a short add-on reflexology service or a longer, stand-alone treatment, the following steps should always be taken in the treatment itself.
- Start with the right foot – this has to do with an energetic principle of transmitting through the right side and receiving on the left. Thus, to get the energy moving and allow for new energy to come in, activate the right side first.
- Loosen the ankle; pronate, supinate, and wiggle the ankle around. The ankles, as well as the wrists, have balancing points, where the polarity of the subtle acupuncture meridians are changing their polarities. Keeping the ankles and wrists supple enhances the flow of prana or ch’i.
- Activate the pituitary and pineal reflexes first. The idea is to get the brain and central nervous system on board to ensure that all the other points being addressed are receiving advanced notice that change is afoot.
- The series is completed by the activation of the colon, bladder, and kidney reflexes – organs of elimination – to hasten the removal of toxins. Regarding the kidney reflex area, go lighter than the other points, as deep or hard stimulation can cause kidney or low back pain.
- With respect to points three and four, approximately 30 seconds of stimulation to the specific points is recommended.
These five steps alone can be a sufficient add-on treatment that will yield positive results and deepen other treatments included in the session with a client.
REFLEXOLOGY AND THE SKIN
For aestheticians, a question that may come up is: how does reflexology affect the skin?
First of all, according to Ayurveda, the skin that covers the entire body is one large marma – or vital energy – point. By stimulating the feet in a positive way, encouraging the elimination of toxins, there will be a mild detoxifying effect activated over the entire surface of the body. Furthermore, both Ayurveda and TCM teach that the complexion is directly helped or challenged by the condition of the liver, lungs, and large intestine. Working on these reflexology points, will, therefore, benefit the skin.
There is an Indian proverb which says “disease does not go near one who massages his feet before sleeping, just as snakes do not approach eagles.” In bodywork, the significance and power of reflexology cannot be emphasized enough. As a treatment modality, it is time to see reflexology, not as an adjunct or curiosity, but a treatment worth learning and sharing for clients’ benefit.