Reflexology: A Gentle Natural Healing Method
Reflexology for You: A Natural Healing Art
I had the delightful experience of receiving a foot reflexology session from a friend of mine while she was working toward her certification as a reflexologist. I came away from the session with a strong sense of physical and mental well-being. I highly recommend experiencing a reflexology session for yourself!
Reflexology is a complementary natural healing method that involves applying pressure to "reflex zones" on the feet, hands, and even the ears. These reflex zones are thought to correspond to other parts of the body.
The Reflexology Association of Canada defines reflexology as:
"A natural healing art based on the principle that there are reflexes in the feet, hands and ears and their referral areas within zone related areas, which correspond to every part, gland and organ of the body. Through application of pressure on these reflexes without the use of tools, creams or lotions, the feet being the primary area of application, reflexology relieves tension, improves circulation and helps promote the natural function of the related areas of the body."
You can also learn enough reflexology to treat yourself, or friends and loved ones for common, minor health problems. Reflexology is a good way to promote self-healing.
A Short History of Reflexology
The practice of reflexology, or something very similar, is probably ancient.
The wall painting shown above was found in an Egyptian tomb called "the Physicians Tomb", and it suggests that the people in the painting are practicing an early version of reflexology. The painting dates back to 2330 B.C. The hieroglyphics read -- "Do not let it be painful" says one of the patients and "I do as you please" says one of the practitioners.
There is also evidence of something like reflexology being used in China perhaps as long ago as 4000 B.C., and Native North Americans using a similar method for hundreds of years. (Although none of this should be surprising, in my opinion, since I'm guessing that therapeutic hand and foot massages have always been around in most cultures!)
Around 1900, Dr. William Fitzgerald discovered that when he applied pressure on certain areas of the feet or the hands, corresponding parts of the body were anesthetized. From this information, he divided the body into 10 "zones" running from the top of the head through the tips of the toes, and through the tips of the fingers. If you divide each foot into five areas, starting at each toe and going all the way up through the body, you get these zones. To see a map of the zones on the feet and the rest of the body read The History of Reflexology
A few years later after working with these zones, Eunice Ingham developed a more elaborate map of the feet that corresponded to the rest of the body. In reflexology "The feet are the mirror of the body". (Or the hands or ears, but Eunice felt that working with the feet was more effective.) This is the basis of "modern" reflexology.
A Reflexology Foot Chart
Learn to alleviate common ailments
I am a person who likes to take charge of my own health -- I've always been that way! So I've been pleased to discover that there are a number of resources that can help teach people how to use reflexology for common health problems.
Reflexology self-care is for relatively minor health problems only! If I had a serious illness, I would seek professional help from a certified reflexologist along with appropriate medical treatments. Any ethical reflexologist will tell you that this method is not meant to be a substitute for appropriate medical treatment, but that it can assist the body's natural healing mechanisms.
Many of our medical problems originate from tension and stress. In general, reflexology isn't intended to "cure" diseases or ailments, but is mostly used as a relaxation tool. It's a good method of finding where more tension is held in our body. If certain areas of the foot (or hand) are sore or tense, this may indicate that the corresponding parts of the body are stressed. Applying pressure and massage to these "tender" areas of the feet or hands can help to relax the reflexes that are connected to other parts of the body. This promotes the natural healing process.
Benefits of reflexology treatment include improving lymphatic drainage and circulation, relaxing the muscles, and stimulating nerve connections. This results in an overall feeling of well-being which helps to promote healing.
Free Online Reflexology Foot and Hand Maps
The most helpful and interesting source I've found online for this beneficial and gentle self-treatment is the Free interactive reflexology maps page, which includes maps of the feet and the hands.
When you go to the page, roll your cursor over the different segments of the feet (or the hands on the hands map) and it will light up the different areas of the body that these segments correspond to.
Reflexology books - by Barbara and Kevin Kunz
Of course there are many good books about reflexology. Since Barbara and Kevin Kunz have provided their wonderful online interactive reflexology maps free of charge (see the link in the previous paragraph), I'm including a couple of their books here (from Amazon).
"Introduction to Reflexology" YouTube video
The first two minutes of this video gives some of the theoretical background of reflexology, and the rest shows and explains some of the technique.
Other useful reflexology tools - Handy reflexology charts
These are useful reflexology references for self-treatment or treating your family and friends. There are even reflexology socks, with the foot map printed on the sock for direct reference!
Good reflexology demonstration - Foot massage
Informative, professional demonstration of reflexology techniques for the feet. It looks delightful, doesn't it?