"Reflexology is more detoxifying than a full body massage"
- Claire Marie Miller
What is Reflexology?
Reflexology is a healing modality based on the principle that there are areas and points on the feet, hands, and ears that connect, via the nervous system, to corresponding parts of the body. When pressure is applied to these areas and points it stimulates the movement of energy along the nerve channels, and helps to restore homeostasis (balance) in the whole body.
Our bodies are complex closed systems whose health is dependent on the proper functioning of every single component (organ, mineral, vitamin, etc). Just like an orchestra - when even one member is compromised, the success of the whole is greatly diminished. Stress, nutritional deficiencies and unhealthy lifestyles can all serve to disrupt the body, making it a breeding ground for illness, pain and chronic conditions. Reflexology aims to restore balance to the body by not only stimulating all of the body's myriad of constituents, but also by allowing the body to transition into parasympathetic mode which in turn allows the body to begin healing and regenerating.
The autonomic nervous system has two branches: sympathetic and parasympathetic. These two systems are antagonistic, meaning that only one can function at one time. The sympathetic is responsible for defending the body against attack - this is often called the fight or flight response. When the sympathetic system is activated, the body redirects blood flow to the muscles, brain and heart, while diminishing blood flow to the digestive, immune, reproductive and eliminative organs such as the kidney, pancreas, lymph and liver. In order for the body to detoxify, heal and regenerate, it must be in a parasympathetic state, a state most of us are rarely in unless we are asleep. Most of us spend the majority of our days and lives on the go, constantly 'doing,' rather than resting, relaxing and simply 'being.' Finding a healthy balance between 'doing' and 'being' is critical to ones overall well-being.
There are 7,000-7,200 nerve endings in the human foot, that when activated, release a surge of endorphins that activate our parasympathetic nervous system - putting us in a state of deep relaxation, and allowing our bodies to begin the critical job of nourishing, regenerating, and healing themselves.
Imbalances in the body, manifest themselves through crystals at the affected reflex point, which vary from being slightly crunchy like sugar to lumps of varying sizes. Dispersing these crystals is what unblocks energy channels, and this is done by applying firm pressure with the thumb (or fingers depending on where on the foot the reflex point is). It will often take several treatments to awaken the reflexes and start to see some effect, as most people's feet have fallen into a deeply dormant state due to the advent of shoes and concrete and the overall lack of daily stimulation they receive.
What are some of the benefits of Reflexology?
Above all else, reflexology renders people into a state of deep relaxation that few other modalities can match. Since one does not have to remove ones clothes (other than socks and shoes), and one is therefore not made to feel self-conscious and vulnerable, one is able to transition into this state of deep relaxation almost immediately.
Other benefits include, but are not limited to:
- Stimulated nerve function
- Increased circulation
- Increased energy
- Toxin elimination
- Migraine prevention/pain relief
- Faster recovery after surgery or injury
- Insomnia relief
- Reduced depression and anxiety
- Relief from acute and chronic pain
Another benefit includes much needed emotional releases - these are always such a gift to witness. Essentially, the body ends up releasing whatever it most needs to release - be it tension, stress, sadness, anger, exhaustion, etc. Every client leaves my office with a look of complete serenity and peace - which is one of the greatest gifts of this profession.
It's important for me to note that I do not heal you. Only you can heal you. Instead, I create a favorable environment in which your body is given a chance to repair itself. I acknowledge that I am simply a participant in your healing, and not 'the healer.' As with all healing arts, my job is to center and ground myself, and then to 'get out of the way' and allow you and your body to relax, release, and regenerate. My purpose, then, is to help your body come into alignment with its own energy and ability to heal.
Why do I practice Reflexology?
I look around me and I see people overcome with exhaustion, sadness, stress, illness and/or pain. Via reflexology, I am blessed to be able to play my own small part in helping ease others' pain, discomfort, and emotional turmoil. My hope is that I may provide my clients with a loving, trusting, safe and nurturing environment in which they feel comfortable letting go of their baggage (expectations, disappointments, insecurities, fears, need for control, sadness, loneliness, grief, etc.), even if just for an hour.
There is nothing more rewarding than witnessing a person who entered my practice burdened with fatigue or pain or sadness, leave my office with a look and an aura of pure peace and serenity.
Who should not get Reflexology?
Reflexology is discouraged if you suffer from any of the following:
- Fever - fever indicates that the client needs rest. It is best not to overburden the body when it is burning off toxins with the natural defense of a fever.
- Thrombosis (blood clot) - a dislodged clot could cause a stroke, heart attack, or even death.
- Acute inflammation of the venous and lymphatic systems. The system does not need to be overloaded with a release of toxins. Examples: pitting edema and varicose veins (if raised and swollen).
- Atrophy of the feet - the feet are usually quite swollen and moving toxins or fluids around does not benefit the client.
- High risk pregnancy - reflexology could prove to be too stimulating.
- Advanced osteoporosis - any stretches or manipulations of the feet could result in a fracture due to the incredible fragility of the bones.
- Infections of the feet - for risk of spreading infections to other clients.
- Athletes foot - too contagious.
- Advanced diabetes - clients with advanced diabetes tend to have very poor circulation. The only suggested focus of the reflexology session is gentle lymph drainage, which is very helpful in warding off amputation.
- If you are using other touch therapies, such as massage, allow at least 48 hours between touch therapy sessions to avoid an overload on your system.
How many sessions are needed?
There's no one answer to this. Most people benefit most from coming once a week for 6-8 weeks, or ongoing. The effects of reflexology are definitely cumulative, so you are most likely to benefit from your sessions by coming weekly for several weeks, than by coming once every few months.
What does a typical hour-long session look like?
Every session begins with a relaxing 5 or so minute warm foot soak in Epsom salts and a few drops of lavender essential oil. If it is your first session, you will fill out an intake form during your foot soak. If it is not your first session, I will ask you about your day and your overall state of well-being. There's never any need or pressure to share anything, but I like to give my clients the opportunity to unload anything they've been holding onto, that they may be ready to let go of. I will briefly explain to you how reflexology works, and this is a great time for you to ask any questions you may have.
You then follow me into the treatment room (see below), where you settle into a big plush recliner. You are offered two types of face masks, to cut off visual stimuli, and ensure maximum relaxation - and for the next 55 minutes I perform foot reflexology on your feet, to the accompaniment of a soothing instrumental soundtrack.
By the end of their session, my clients are in such a deep state of relaxation, it takes them a little bit of time to tune back in - some even drift off to sleep. As a result, I always leave an hour between clients so that there is no rush for you to leave after your session.
If you've given me permission, I will give you a quick call the next day to see how you're feeling.
What will you experience during the session?
Experiences with reflexology sessions vary from a general sense of relaxation and rest to a conscious awareness internally of the area of the body where the practitioner is working.
Many people experience a "lightness" or tingling in the body, as well as feelings of warmth, a sense of "opening," or "energy moving" from the practitioner's pressure to the specific body area or organ. There is often a physical perception of energy flowing through every organ, valve, gland, or muscle, as well as a sense of communication between each body system.
Other reactions during the session range from physical to emotional and may include:
- Feeling light-headed
- Sighing deeply
- Overwhelming desire to sleep
- Disappearance of all pain and discomfort
- Loose, relaxed muscles
- Feeling like all organs are hanging freely, not stressed and connected
- Thirst (you are always provided with a fresh glass of Spring water)