Deborah Treijs, MH
For many of us, the summer holidays of our youth were spent walking and running barefoot. As we squished mud between our toes, dodged pointy rocks, and tiptoed over hot sand, we instinctively knew that it was better to keep our shoes off rather than on. Ancient societies were aware of the benefits of going barefoot.
For many of us, the summer holidays of our youth were spent walking and running barefoot. As we squished mud between our toes, dodged pointy rocks, and tiptoed over hot sand, we instinctively knew that it was better to keep our shoes off rather than on.
Ancient societies were aware of the benefits of going barefoot. The roots of reflexology are believed to date back thousands of years and cross many cultures, including Egypt, Greece, Arabia, Europe, India, Japan, and China. A wall painting found in the tomb of Ankhmahor, a high official in Egypt during the sixth dynasty (2,300 years ago), clearly depicts a group of people working on each other's hands and feet.
Feet as a Map of the Body
What our ancestors likely knew, and pioneers in reflexology found out, is that the feet, hands, and ears represent a map of the body: the right foot and hand correspond to the right side of the body and the left foot and hand correspond to the left side. By working different points, the whole body responds and relaxes, circulation improves, and healing begins.
The feet are preferred to the hands or ears as they are more sensitive and larger, making it easier to work on their more than 7,000 reflex points. The reflexologist works methodically and precisely, beginning at the top of the foot, with the big toe representing the head, working down to the bottom of the foot and heel, which correlates to the pelvis and sciatic nerve. The tops, sides, and backs of the heels are worked too.
Try it Yourself
To give reflexology a try, use the pads at the ends of your fingers mainly your thumbs - to work along the foot and apply pressure to the reflex points. The amount of pressure will vary according to individual preferences but generally it ranges from 2 to 12 pounds (practise by experimenting with a weigh scale). Move approximately seven times within an inch, taking about an hour to work both feet. Take care not to scratch the foot with your fingernails, which should be trimmed short and filed smooth.
When a reflex point feels tender, take note and continue working the rest of the foot, periodically returning to the sensitive spot until soreness is gone. Keep a record of sensitive areas and return to them in other sessions. Soreness may take several sessions to resolve, so take care not to overwork a tender reflex as bruising may occur.
A Few More Pointers
Practise first on yourself and then on family and friends. Let people know you are learning reflexology and you will have no trouble finding someone to work on. Do avoid massage oils, though; they make the hands too slippery.
Seniors or those with health issues may appreciate only a gentle foot massage. Always begin a session by checking for any injuries, cuts or bruises on the foot.
For more information, look for books on reflexology at your local library and health food store. Start simple, spend time practising, and, when summer comes around, remember to take your shoes off and feel the grass between your toes.