Foot reflexology is an accessible touch therapy where a practitioner uses both light touch and deeper pressure techniques to stimulate points or reflex zones of the foot and lower limb.
Reflexologists from all influences base their practice on the belief that our feet and lower limbs contain reflex points that share – or mirror – a representation of the body structure, and that the flow of information between the reflex point and body structure flows both ways -it is bidirectional. This means, for example, that by stimulating a reflex point on the foot that corresponds to a body part, allows the body to generate its own healing response for that body part.
Foot therapies have different histories from Egyptian, Chinese, Indigenous, and more recently European backgrounds and differing persuasions including deep pressure, light pressure, using rod instruments or stones, following a prescribed generic foot map, anatomical foot, or prenatal foot map. Evidence of this has been recorded in the work of ancient Egyptian, Chinese, and North American First Nation artists.
Dr. Jesus Manzanares, a medical doctor based in Spain and recognized as an authority on reflexology, has been conducting research committed to applying a scientific lens to capture what occurs in the nervous system during a reflexology session.
In his 2017 book, Dr. Manzanares defines foot reflexology as “a reflex technique based on the neurobiochemical action that occurs when a foot reflex point is stimulated, which has a partial and/or global impact in the body.”
He has documented that during a reflexology session, stimulation to a reflex point sparks an impulse (electrical message) that travels along sensory fibers to the spinal cord and onto the brain stem, from where a response is initiated.
For others, reflexology is more of an art than a science.
For me, reflexology is wholistic – meaning both an art and a science, and pertaining to the whole person. It provides a nourishing moment during a hectic life that assists the body to create its own rejuvenating response.
Reflexology neither diagnoses nor treats. Rather, the relaxation response that helps take the edge off stress permits the nervous system to relax. When receiving a reflexology session, the body’s nervous system has an opportunity to balance its own self, which in turn, permits one’s own innate healing ability. Reflexology recognizes the body’s ability to heal as a normal part of structure, and thereby everyone has the capacity to create their own “inner healing” – a concept put forward by British naturopath and reflexologist Robert St. John in the 1950s.
Reflexology is a catalyst for preventative and restorative health in three ways. First, reflexology and foot massage bring about a relaxation response – think a long, lovely “ahhh.”
Second, the intentional, focused stimulation of the foot and lower limb reflexes promotes the receivers own innate ability to heal – think capacity to self heal.
And third, reflexology enhances circulation by facilitating the movement of excess fluid that can settle in tissues of the lower legs and feet.
Together these responses promote lower limb health which is the root of full body health. Reflexologist Gaston Saint Pierre, building on the work of Robert St. John, sums up reflexology as a tool to spark the life force within each one that can transform us.
The Author, Jeddie Russell, owns and operates WalkOn Footcare to help increase the capacity of individuals and organizations to care for feet. When not working, you can find her Walking On. For other things up with feet, visit WalkOnFootcare.com.