Reflexology is an ancient healing art based on the principle that there are reflexes on the feet which correspond to every part, organ and gland of the body. Reflexology relaxes and activates the healing powers of the body and balances the biological systems.
Your Reflexology Advisor is Anna Ambrosio
by Anna Ambrosio
Steps to Good Health
Reflexology is unique and quite different from other forms of bodywork. It is based on the principle that there are reflexes in the feet (and hands) which correspond to every part, organ and gland of the body. Specific pressure is applied to precise reflex points activating the body's inherent healing power.
Reflexology is an ancient healing art that has been around for thousands of years, practiced throughout history by many cultures. Originating in China, around 3000 B.C., it has existed in various forms in ancient Egypt, India and Japan. Footwork is depicted in relics of the past including a pictograph from an Egyptian tomb dating back to 2350 B.C.
Modern day reflexology is largely based on techniques developed by Eunice Ingham, an American physiotherapist, in the 1930's. A natural and drugless way to reduce stress and improve circulation, reflexology is becoming increasingly popular as part of the alternative health care movement. Reflexologists believe that your feet can "reflect" what is happening in the body but it is never used to diagnose or treat any specific medical disorder. Its purpose is to promote better health and well-being on a physical, emotional and spiritual level. Reflexology can be an important addition to an overall plan for a healthy lifestyle along with proper eating habits and exercise.
There are many theories as to how reflexology works. One explanation is that it works via the nervous system. Pressure applied to reflexes in the feet sends a signal to the peripheral nervous system and then enters the central nervous system where the brain can process the information. The brain relays messages to internal organs and glands in order to make adjustments such as getting more nutrients and oxygen into the cells.
Another theory is that there is a network of energy pathways running through the body, similar to the traditional meridian system used in acupuncture. Working on the feet balances energy throughout the body.
Many reflexologists work using the zone theory. The body is divided into a system of longitudinal and transverse zones. Imagine ten longitudinal zones, 5 zones on each side of the body, starting on each toe of each foot, running up the length of your body to the top of your head. The transverse zones would be the head and neck corresponding to the toes, the chest to the balls of the feet, the abdomen to the arch and the pelvis area to the heel.
A commonly held view is that toxins in the body build up and because of gravity, residue tends to end up in the feet. Applying pressure helps to break up these deposits and corresponding organs benefit from an increased flow of energy. In all of these theories the goal is to balance energy throughout the whole body. Reflexology helps balance all body systems, stimulating an underactive area or calming an overactive one. It is neutral to the areas functioning correctly. Since all body systems are closely inter-related, anything that affects one part will ultimately affect the whole.
Reflexology induces deep relaxation, relieving tension held in the body. Doctors agree that a variety of health problems can be linked to stress. When the body is under stress, energy reserves are quickly depleted and less energy is available to fight infections or make repairs. When we are in a deeply relaxed state, the body's healing power is activated. Another symptom of a stressed lifestyle is decreased circulation.
Reflexology improves circulation, the blood's capacity to carry vital nutrients where needed and remove toxins and waste products more efficiently. Other than the circulatory system the body also has other ways to remove toxins - for example, the lymphatic system and digestive system. Stress affects these systems so that they don't function optimally. Reflexology has the effect of increasing the flow and movement of these systems by decreasing stress held in the body.
Reflexology revitalizes energy. Most of us complain from time to time of "low energy". It can appear as an inability to concentrate, a lack of motivation for things we usually enjoy or a physical feeling of tiredness. By opening up any blocked pathways in the body, we feel better about ourselves, renewed and in a better mood, both immediately after a treatment and for several days afterwards.
Reflexology also acts to reduce pain by encouraging the body to create endorphins and the gentle pressure applied to the reflexes interrupts the pain cycle. Perhaps, the greatest benefit is reflexology's role as preventative health care.
Preventative health care can save a lot of time, money and frustrations and maintain a good quality of life. The negative effects of emotions, attitudes, stress, lifestyle and improper eating can throw the body out of sync. If one part doesn't work properly the whole body suffers. Then the minor aches, pains and general fatigue that are often the forerunners of more serious complaints begin to show themselves.
For a moment think of your body as a car. To get maximum use of your car you have to keep it in good working order. If a part isn't working right the whole car is affected. You can take it to the garage for a tune-up and even trade it in for a new one if the problem is serious. Reflexology is the equivalent of a tune-up for your body. Since you can't trade in your body for a new one, it makes sense to treat the one you have with as much care as possible.
I first became interested in reflexology several years ago after a stressful situation in which my car was hit from behind in highway traffic. I felt shaky and not quite "myself". A local health club offered reflexology and I decided to try it. After the treatment I was so relaxed that it felt as if I was floating all the way home. This had a profound effect on me and it was then I decided to study reflexology as a healing technique and incorporate it into my work as a natural health therapist.
Since that time, I have never encountered a client who didn't truly enjoy a reflexology treatment. While some people use it as a complimentary therapy for their ailments, others use it for general relaxation, for the sense of extreme well-being they experience after a session.
Reflexology works to balance the body as a whole unit, therefore it can help with a variety of ailments such as migraines, back pain, menstrual problems, digestive complaints and depression to name a few.
When it comes to disorders, it is important to realize that there is no such thing as an instant cure. Healing is a process. It has taken time for disorders to develop and therefore it will take time to resolve. The human body is amazingly resilient, able to take an enormous amount of abuse before symptoms show up and then it can respond extremely well if treated with care and kindness.
As difficult as it is to design research studies for its effectiveness, there are surprisingly a lot of studies that have taken place all over the world. In one Chinese study, it was shown to reduce free radicals (charged molecules that attack healthy tissues) in the blood stream. Blood samples from 56 people with varying illnesses were taken before and after thirty minutes of treatment. In addition to a reduction of free radicals there was an increase in anti-oxidative enzymes.
An American study was able to demonstrate that it significantly reduced symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome. The symptoms were monitored for 2 months before, during and after receiving treatments. One group received treatments with a trained Reflexologist, once a week, while another group received placebo treatments. Another interesting study was done on patients hospitalized with cancer. The results showed that a treatment of 10 minutes (5 minutes on each foot) produced immediate and significant effects on their perception of pain and nausea.
Reflexology is a safe and gentle treatment for any person of any age in any condition. This includes children, people confined to wheelchairs, pregnant women, to help ease the symptoms of the common cold or to provide comfort and reduce pain, as a complimentary therapy in the treatment of a complex illness or for those who already enjoy good health.
Since I started practicing reflexology, I am repeatedly amazed at how accurately the feet reveal the state of the body. For example, if I am working with someone with sinus congestion, the corresponding reflexes in the feet will be tender, and I often feel "crystals" - an accumulation of different toxins in the nerve endings of the foot. The right pressure and technique help break up these deposits. The client almost always feels an immediate relief with a release of pressure in their sinuses.
Another common occurrence is immediate relief from headaches. If a person has a headache at the start of the session, most of the time it will be completely gone by the time the treatment is over.
Reflexology does not heal. Think of it as a tool that helps the body activate its own healing potential. Reflexology is a unique therapy and can be an important, enjoyable part of your total health care plan.
Original works of Eunice D. Ingham: Stories the feet can tell through reflexology
Eunice D. Ingham, Dwight C. Byers
Ingham Publishing, June 1984
The Complete Illustrated Guide to Reflexology
Element Books, 1996
For general information, maps of the feet and hands, recent research
General information, several reflexology links
Home of Reflexology
Reflexology Association of Canada
304-414 Graham Ave.
Winipeg MB R3C 0L8
Toll free: 877-722-3338
Anna Ambrosio is a Natural Health Therapist, certified Reflexologist and Holistic Nutritionist. Questions are welcomed at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Anna Ambrosio, Biography
Anna Ambrosio is a Natural Health Therapist, member of the National Association of Naturopaths and the Canadian Order of Practitioner's in Naturopathy. Her areas of speciality are nutrition and reflexology. She is a registered Holistic Nutritionist and is a certified Reflexologist by the Reflexology Association of Canada. Studies and training at the Institute of Natural Health Consultants and the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition ensure that her approach to health care is natural and holistic for harmony of body, mind and spirit.
Anna Ambrosio can be contacted at email@example.com