Background to Reflexology
It is not entirely clear how old reflexology is exactly but we do know that it was practised in India and China more than 3000 years ago. Egyptian wall paintings, which seem to depict reflexology, have been found in tombs dating back to 2330 BC. The practice came to Europe during the Dark Ages and modern day reflexology has its roots in medical and neurological studies carried out in the late 1800s in the UK and Germany and later in the US.
The scientific basis of reflex study had its roots in neurological studies conducted in the 1980’s by Sir Henry Bond Bressler. In 1989 he discovered zones on the skin, which became hypersensitive to pressure when an organ connected by nerves to this skin region was diseased. At the same time, the Germans were also looking into the treatment of disease by massage. In the late 1890’s and early 1900’s massage techniques developed in Germany became known as ‘reflex massage’. This was the first time that the benefits of massage techniques were credited to reflex actions.
Dr. William Fitzgerald (1872 – 1942) is known as the “Father of Zone Therapy” and became a natural healer through the art of using pressure therapy to benefit and heal the human body. A graduate of the University of Vermont, he was for many years senior Ear, Nose and Throat Surgeon at St. Francis Hospital in Connecticut. Whilst working at his specialty, he observed that by applying pressure to certain parts of the body the patient would feel no pain, and he was able to do minor operations without using cocaine or any other local analgesic. Dr. Fitzgerald is responsible for what we call zone therapy today. He devised the system of mapping the body into five zones on each side of a median line. These zones run the length of the body from the head to the feet. It is by using this map of the body on the feet that we are now able to find the reflex points that mirror our entire body.
Benefits of Reflexology
Reflexology is the technique of applying gentle pressure to the reflexes on the feet or hands in order to bring about a state of deep relaxation stimulate the body's own healing processes and help the client to return to a state of balance and wellbeing. Systems in the body can easily be thrown out of balance by a wide variety of factors including prolonged illness, stress, long working hours and diet. The resulting imbalances prevent efficiency of vital body functions. These imbalances can be detected on the feet, where corresponding parts of the body can be identified, and pressure applied to specific reflexes to restore the body to a state of equilibrium. The phenomenon of microcosmic representation of body parts in different areas of the body is also evident in the iris of the eye, the ear and the hands. The corresponding areas on the feet however are easier to locate as they cover a larger area and are more specific making them easier to work on.
Pressure is the goal of reflexology which is to trigger the return to homeostasis or body balance. The most important step towards this is to reduce tension and induce relaxation. Reflexologists do not isolate a disease and treat it symptomatically, nor do they work specifically on a problem organ or system but on the whole person with the object of inducing a state of balance and harmony. The art of reflex foot massage must not be confused with a basic foot massage or body massage in general. It is a specific pressure technique which works on precise reflex points on the feet, based on the premise that reflex areas on the foot correspond with all body parts. As the feet represent a microcosm of the body, all organs, glands and other body parts are laid out in a similar arrangement on the feet.
One of the most important effects of reflexology is its efficacy in reducing stress. Approximately 70% of modern day disorders can be related to stress and nervous tension. Abnormal tension causes tightening of the muscles in the spine, thus nerves are affected, resulting in pain. When tension is dispersed the muscles cease to contract allowing circulation to flow freely.
In Reflexology, the person to be massaged lies on a massage table sat upright or in a chair. Aromatic or unscented oil or lotion is used to facilitate the movements and a typical session will usually last 45-60 minutes.