To complement the MASSAGE Magazine article, “The Science Behind Reflexology,” by David Allan, D.C., in the September 2013 issue. Article summary: The popularity of reflexology has been on the rise for the past two decades. Reflexology is featured on the menus at thousands of spas, in addition to being practiced by trained massage therapists in private practice and certified reflexologists at medical facilities around the globe.
Foot reflexology was well known to the ancients in China and Egypt, and its benefits continue to hold true today. As a complementary therapy to massage, reflexology can contribute to a client’s well-being and grounding; it can also help with the client’s retention. In this article, I will discuss how to incorporate reflexology techniques into a massage session.
The key principle in reflexology is to work on both feet intermittently. This is because, as grounding vehicles, the feet correspond to the head, with its left and right hemispheres. The combination of left and right can be done intuitively. The rule is to always start by holding both feet. This allows for equilibrium and balancing of both sides.
After that, each foot can be worked on separately. Never spend more than two minutes on one side alone. The reason is, there exists a hidden dialogue between our left and right sides and we want to respond to it.
If you have eight minutes to work on the feet, start with holding and interacting with both feet (one to two minutes), then connect with each side for up to 90 seconds. After two to three cycles, work back on both sides simultaneously (one minute).
The human foot corresponds not only to the body, but also to embryonic evolution. For example, the small bump on the medial side of the center of the big toe corresponds to our conception. Therefore, it is this point that connects to our first life cycle.
For this reason, it draws on all life cycles, as cycles tend to repeat a pattern of sorts. The bump on the central medial big toe is the conception point and also C1. This point corresponds to our first life cycle. Anytime a client is going through a major transition, this point should be worked on, as to alleviate the charge of the process. In other words, this point, on both feet, corresponds to our core energies and is a great area to work on to restore these energies.
In a massage setting, we can use massage techniques such as fine stroking and sliding to unblock passages in the feet. These contractions always correspond to some unresolved situation in our mind or body. They will feel sensitive and dense. Alternately, some areas may feel mushy and empty. The rule of thumb is: If it is empty, fill it up. If it is full, empty it. This can be done by using clockwise, circular movements to fill in, and counter-clockwise movements to empty.
Working on the big toes, in general, will bring much needed release to the brain. Since reflexology is proven to improve circulation anywhere in the body, it can even affect hard-to-reach areas such as the brain. After working on the big toe, plantar and dorsal, we can work on the solar plexus (SP). This point is found on the bottom of the ball of the foot under our third toe. Working on this point brings quick stress release.
The spine is another great area to connect to, through the feet. After working on the big toes and the SP, now we can reach nearly all vertebrae and help improve circulation around them.
We start at the same conception point on the big toe. This is, as we saw above, the point for C1. From there, we descend on the medial side of each foot all the way to the heel. The spine represents awareness. Working on the spine in massage can be tricky, but safe on the feet. The main exception is pregnant women in their first trimester. The spine and feet represent awareness and understanding.
Working on them, along with some potential stress vortexes such as the conception point and the SP, will surely help put clients at ease and, perhaps, reach deeper into their core to make for a more profound healing experience. Keeping in mind the body has metaphysical symbolism helps to better work with it. The feet represent the way we understand ourselves, others and life in general.
Ariel Talmor, Ph.D., is a healer and holistic reflexologist in San Diego, California, as well as a faculty member at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine (www.pacificcollege.edu). His new book, Sole to Soul: How to Love and Heal, encompasses his philosophy that the feet are a major tool to improve understanding and healing. His specialty is trauma and major life transitions.