What is Reflexology ?
Like most complementary therapies, reflexology is believed to have its roots in the ancient civilizations: Egypt, China, Africa and the native Indian tribes of America. In 1913 Dr William Fitzgerald introduced this therapy to the West as ‘zone therapy’. In the 1930s Eunice Ingham developed zone therapy into what is now known as reflexology.
Sometimes the body is in a state of ‘imbalance’ following illness or injury, disease or stress and energy pathways are blocked preventing the body from functioning effectively. The use of precision pressure movements allows the whole body to relax and de-stress, restoring and maintaining the body’s natural equilibrium and encouraging healing.
Professor Alfred Pischinger (1899-1982), researched the connections of the extracellular matrix (ECM) to the hormonal and autonomic systems. Important functions of the ECM are its informative, homeostatic and recuperative mechanisms, referred to as the ground regulating system. He found that the origin of disease and its first signals register in the connective tissue. Massage therapists will be familiar with the effectiveness of myofascial release techniques, the mechanics of which were explained from the same theory. (Lett, 2000)
Modern science is making great strides discovering the connection between universal matter and energy waves that may relate to the functioning of the body. Recent studies have shown an altering in monitored brain patterns when reflexology is applied to various reflexes on the foot. This technique is known as FMRI (Functional MRI scan).(http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304394008013694) For more information on reflexology research Google: `Reflexology Research’
Reflexology in Practice
Reflexology today is based on the principle that the anatomy of the body is reflected in miniature on reflex zones on the feet, hands and ears. Stimulating or sedating a reflex triggers a response in the corresponding area of the body. Reflexology helps to create a healthy harmonious state within the body and triggers the body’s natural powers of self healing.Reflexology is the application of specific pressure by the practitioner’s hands, thumbs, and fingers to reflex points in the client’s hands, feet, or ears. Techniques include using alternating pressure, thumb and finger walking, hooking in and up, rotation on a reflex, and often repeating specific reflex stimulation throughout the session.
Introducing Reflexology New Zealand
Reflexology New Zealand (RNZ) is the regulating body for reflexology in New Zealand. RNZ professional membership requires that reflexologists have diploma level training, meet annual professional development and practice standards, and have specified insurance. The RNZ reflexology education standards can be viewed here
If you are interested in doing a professional development course in reflexology, you can also find lists of education providers on the website. If you wish to make an appointment with a professional reflexologist in your area, you can find a list of trusted reflexologists who meet these standards here
When to use Reflexology
The effects of reflexology are unique to each person. It is believed that reflexology triggers the body’s relaxation response.Sensitive, trained hands can detect tiny deposits in the soft tissues and imbalances from touching the feet, hands or ears. Reflexology gently nudges the body toward better functioning by improving lymphatic drainage and venous circulation. It stimulates the nerve pathways, induces muscle relaxation, and helps the body to balance itself.Since reflexology treats the whole person, not just the symptoms of particular problems, most people can benefit from treatment. Reflexology is normally totally safe for most people, including those with certain health problems as pressure and duration is tailored to meet individual client needs.
Reflexology can be considered ideal for:
- relieving pain
- reducing stress and tension
- acute and chronic conditions
- relieving stress and tension
- improving nerve and blood supply function
- balancing the whole system (homeostasis)
- revitalising energy
- activating the body to cleanse toxins and impurities
- a preventative therapy
- children and adults of all ages
Considerations are needed for babies, children, elderly and the very sick. In these instances treatment is of lighter pressure and shorter duration. If indicated, some clients are advised to consult their medical practitioner for permission prior to receiving treatment.
Specific conditions with reported benefits include
- PMS and other hormone imbalances
- Digestive disorders
- Sleep disorders
- Anxiety and mild depressive disorders
A full session means working all areas of both feet. This can vary from 30-60 minutes depending on the style of Reflexology practiced and wellness level of client. During a reflexology treatment the client may experience:
A feeling of deep relaxation and the desire to sleep sensations of the body expanding and spreading out as it relaxes twitching or tingling warmth in the area of the body being worked on some discomfort in certain areas, however this will usually be brief, and may indicate areas of imbalance in the body.
A course of treatments can vary depending on individual needs and is planned through discussion with the Reflexologist. Treatment takes place with the client sitting in a semi-reclined position on a professional couch or chair. Sometimes foot creams or powders may be used depending on the reflexology practitioner’s style.Sometimes, directly massaging areas of muscle spasm and tension may be contra-indicated and too painful for a client, causing further muscle contraction. By stimulating or sedating the relevant reflex points on the feet or hands, relaxation can be achieved.Medical and complementary health professionals tend to agree that many of our health problems can be linked to stress.
A body trying to function while under the influence of prolonged stress is less capable of organizing its defences against illnesses or repairing damage caused by injury. Stress can be mentally, emotionally, physically, or environmentally induced. Reflexology is primarily a relaxation technique, negating the effects of stress while helping the body to relax and balance. Through the relaxation process the body is more capable of dealing with the stresses placed on it by daily living and those associated with illness.
Diaphragm reflex point for relaxation
1 The diaphragm reflex
Stimulating the diaphragm reflex can induce optimum breathing and encourage relaxation. Try finding the diaphragm reflex on your own foot. The central part of the diaphragm reflex is located in line with the 3rd toe at the ball of the foot. The diaphragm extends along the ball of the foot. Just as the diaphragm stretches along the torso, this reflex is located across the foot. The diaphragm is of course the major breathing muscle, so focus on your breath. As you inhale, push gently but firmly with your thumbs into the centre of the diaphragm reflex on the plantar surface of the foot. As you exhale gently release the pressure. Do this 3 times, and then repeat on the other foot.