This ancient healing art was studied by myself at Morley College in London over 9 years ago and what I discovered was extraordinary.
How can the body be mirrored on the soles of the feet? And who re-discovered this ancient art and remarkable zone theory?
Reflexology or zone theory advanced in the early part of the 20th century from the studies of Dr William Fitzgerald. He discovered, if a certain amount of pressure were put on one part of the body it could have a direct anaesthetic effect on a corresponding part. This was the first step in developing the zone theory. He later began working with Dr Edwin Bowers and together they convinced their colleagues with their findings.
To authenticate Reflexology Dr Bowers conducted a number of experiments. In so doing, he was drawn to the realisation, that if you apply pressure to a certain area of the hand and then stick a pin in the corresponding zone path of the body, he perceived that the subject suffered no pain, in fact, a remarkable anesthetic effect was achieved.
When Bowers and Fitzgerald released their discovery, all who witnessed were astounded by the results and in a short space of time this resulted in other proponents - one being, Joseph Selbey Riley. He went on to write a book on the subject of zone theory. But more importantly, one of his therapy assistants, Eunice Ingham, was to discover Reflexology also worked equally well on the feet and she became known as the founder of 'foot Reflexology'.
Eunice Ingham implemented the map system of the feet, by charting the feet in relation to the zone paths of the body. She also discovered, not only does the pressure theory have anesthetic effects, but by alternating the pressure this resulted in outstanding therapeutic effects.
The alternating pressure theory is the basic premise of Reflexology, by understanding how every part of the body is directly related along the zonal paths to the areas of the feet.
Research is still being carried out as to why the mystery of reflexology works. What we do know is there are ten zones (pathways) in the body, which run from the top of the head down to the soles of the feet. Blockages obstructing these zones are usually the result of high levels of stress, which have caused problems. During high levels of stress, the adrenalin hormone is released, raising blood pressure, but also releasing glucose/blood sugar. Over a period of time deposits of glucose/blood sugar will form in the feet, known as crystals, which feel like small, hard stones.
If you begin checking out this fascinating fact, you will soon discover that whatever disorder lies in your body's equilibrium, it will show up as a raised area or a hard crystal in the corresponding area of the foot. (Of course, calluses and other hardened areas of the foot resulting through footwear are not to be considered in the same way).
The aim of reflexology is not to diagnose, but to observe and treat by reversing the effects of stress and returning the body back to its homeostasis (balanced state). Locating the crystal deposits and working the feet gradually achieves this. (How you work the foot will be discussed in part two of this article).
Two true examples of this ancient mystery:
My first case study during my college course involved a very sceptical elderly woman who lived across the road from where I lived at the time.
During my visit, I asked her not to divulge any of her illnesses to me, as I would like to pin point these for myself. She responded with a look of 'sure you will my dear' and lay down on her couch in readiness for the session.
In preparation for the reflexology session, I began with a massage to both of her feet. During this time, I spotted, small, raised lumps on the instep of the right and left soles of her feet. As this energy line ran straight in the path line of the gall bladder area, I had little doubt that she was probably suffering with gallstones. In fact, I would have been very surprised if she was not.
'Do you have gallstones by any chance?' I asked her.
The lady sat bolt upright. 'Yes I do, how on earth...'
I carried on in a nonchalant way and worked on this blockage...to say I did this with a tinge of excitement at this find was an understatement.
On my second case study, I was offered one of my parent's friends. We conducted this in his conservatory where he lay down on a sun lounger. I began with the usual warm up massage to both feet. This time, I became aware of profound puffiness to the area over the top of his feet and just before the toes started. The location of the body, which corresponds with this energy line, ran straight towards the chest area.
Now this was a little more difficult to decipher, it could have been a number of problems. As this person lived a healthy lifestyle, my inclination steered away from the heart being the cause and more towards a less serious condition, such as asthma. I had to keep in mind that I was not there to diagnose, only to reveal my findings and to then advise medical diagnosis.
I asked him if he had any problems with his chest, 'no, there is absolutely nothing wrong with me in that area, not even a cough. It's just my shoes that cause it.'
'OK, but it would do no harm if you get this checked out by a doctor,' I advised.
He just nodded and walked into the lounge, a little aghast, it seemed, by my statement.
I went away quite put out that I may have upset him. There is a rule when conducting reflexology, do not worry a client and I had clearly broken this.
I began researching as to why there should be puffiness in that particular area of John's foot, but could not come up with any explanation, other than, if there are swollen areas, then it is a definite sign of blockage. I did feel quite concerned about John, but I knew there was little I could do.
This did not get resolved for about six months. Then I received a phone call from my mother. 'John's in hospital, he's had a massive heart attack.'
I was not surprised at all, especially as I said earlier, the swollen areas on his feet were very profound. However, John did go on to make a full recovery, but he never did admit that the reflexology findings could have prevented this, had he sought medical diagnosis after the reflexology.
Reflexology is a mystery, why it works, no one really knows for sure; all I can tell you is...it does work. Try it out for yourself and then decide for yourself why this ancient healing art is now recognised within the UK NHS.
How To Work The Feet
Before attempting Reflexology it is essential to understand, the key to Reflexology is observation combined with the zone theory.
Warm Up Massage
Before you begin thumb walking, gently massage both feet. (Use oil if you prefer).
To do this, hold one of the feet with both hands. Your fingers should be holding the top of the foot and both your thumbs should be on the soles of the feet. Now slide both thumbs from the heel, slowly but firmly upwards and towards the toes. As you reach the toes, fan your thumbs out across the toes, one to the left and the other to the right. (Remember to keep in contact with the feet at all times). Do the same for the other foot.
In order to thumb walk effectively, you need to remove the oil from the feet.
Hold the toes of the subject in one hand and bend them back slightly. With the other hand, place your thumb on the middle of the sole and the rest of the fingers holding the top of the foot. Now walk your thumb forwards in the motion a caterpillar would move. All the time keeping your thumb in contact with the foot and keeping a firm, steady pressure without digging your thumb in at any point.
As you thumb walk along the sole of the foot, try to locate any raised areas or hard crystal deposits. If you find any, gently work these with your thumb.
Whilst you are thumb walking the feet, remember from time to time to check the subjects face for signs of pain. If you do cause discomfort, then your pressure is much too firm and you need to release the pressure and practice walking until you and your subject are comfortable.
If you are thumb walking correctly, your subject will receive immense pleasure from this...so why not give it a go!