The Foot: understanding zones and reflexes
According to reflexologists, the health and condition of the
body can be read
from the hands and feet. By
massaging certain reflex points on these
extremities, therapists believe that it is possible to improve the health of
every organ and body system and, therefore, to encourage the body to work more
Like the Eastern therapies of acupressure, acupuncture and shiatsu, reflexology
works on the theory that health depends on the flow of energy within the body.
In the eastern therapies, energy flows through channels, or meridians. In
reflexology, 10 channels, known as zones, are thought to terminate in the feet
In 1917, Dr. William Fitzgerald developed the concept that parts of the body are
intimately linked together in zones and that it is possible to anaesthetize one
part of the body simply by applying pressure to another.
Dr. Fitzgerald's ideas were further refined in the 1930s by another American,
physiotherapist Eunice Ingham, who decided that the various zones could best be
accessed through the feet. She then went on to invent the familiar reflexology
maps of the feet.
THE ZONES AND REFLEXES
Reflexologists have defined 10 energy zones dividing the body into longitudinal
sections, beginning at the head and terminating at a finger or toe. They believe
that any medical condition that upsets the energy flow through a zone of the
body will interfere with the healthy functioning of other parts of the body that
are located in the same zone.
Two principal guidelines on the foot divide the body horizontally and are used
by reflexologists to locate the reflex points accurately, whatever the shape and
size of a person's feet. The first one follows the gentle arch running
immediately below the ball of the foot and represents the diaphragm separating
the abdominal and thoracic cavities. The second one runs roughly halfway down
the foot, from the bottom of the upper bulge on the outside of the foot,
extending directly across to the other side; this denotes the waist line.
Reflexologists use maps of the feet that's shown how different zones of the feet
are thought to mirror various parts of the body. It is thought that illnesses
reveal themselves as tender spots on the reflex areas of the affected organs. By
messaging the correct points on the feet, the reflexologist can treat virtually
any organ in the body.
A reflexologist is not trained to diagnose or treat any specific medical
conditions. In fact, qualified reflexologists do not claim to cure medical
problems. Instead, they treat the person holistically so that, through improving
the general health of the body, it is then in a better condition to heal itself.
Among the many benefits claimed by reflexologists, perhaps the most obvious one
is that it relieves stress by making you feel more relaxed. Relieving tension in
the body helps improve circulation, aids the elimination of wastes, and
generally rebalances and re-energizes the body.
Because of the effect of gravity, the flow of blood around the feet and back
toward the heart tends to be sluggish. Perhaps this is why inorganic waste
products that cannot be broken down, such as uric acid and calcium crystals, can
accumulate in the feet. An experienced reflexologist will aim to locate and break
up these crystals, aiding their elimination from the body.
Reflexologists claim to help
hormonal problems, such as those related to the
menstrual cycle, as well as allergies,
neck problems, digestive problems, ear, nose and throat disorders,
conditions. However, there is not yet scientific evidence to back this up.
THE FOOT MASSAGE
Before the reflexologist begins treatment, she will dust your feet with talcum
powder or cornflour, which makes the skin of your feet softer and easier to
massage. The reflexologist will then do some form of massage routine on your
feet to make them more supple and relaxed, which makes them easier to treat.
This will also introduce you to the feel of the reflexologist's hands and allow
her to adjust the pressure of touch to suit you.
The degree of pressure required varies from person have ticklish feet and
require a firmer touch is uncomfortable or even painful. Once the reflexologist
has established the degree of pressure suitable for you, she will massage all
the reflex areas of both feet, feeling for areas of tenderness. The forefinger
and thumb of both hands will be used to treat each foot in turn. A particularly
tender area will indicate a part of the body that is tense and congested. Such
an area will receive special attention in order to break up any crystals. Apart
from the odd tenderness, the treatment should feel pleasurable and relaxing.
There are no side effects, but some people report feeling physically drained,
tired of emotionally stirred after treatment.
The first reflexology session will last about an hour, and subsequent ones
should last between 30 and 45 minutes. The length of a course of treatment will
depend on the patient, although an average is typically about six to eight
REFLEXOLOGY FOOT MAP
The location of the reflexes for every organ in the body can be seen on the
reflexology foot map. Some reflexes, such as the
on the left foot and the
liver on the right, appear on only one foot. This is because there is only one
of each organ and they lie on that side of the body. In many instances, there
are matching points on both feet. The points on your right foot identify those
parts on the right side of your body, while the ones on your left foot
correspond to those on the left side of the body.
RELAXING THE FEET
This sequence - and variations of it-is recommended for relaxing the feet before
beginning a treatment. Your therapist will start by doing a step on one foot,
then move to the other foot, before proceeding to the next step. The last two
steps are used to relax the feet after a massage. You can follow these steps if
treating a friend.
To loosen your feet, the therapist will begin by applying firm pressure
with her thumbs down the complete length of the foot.
After placing the palms of her hands on either side of your foot, she will
gently but rapidly rock the foot by pushing it back and forth, maintaining
contact between her hands and your foot.
While holding your toes with her supporting hand, the therapist will use her
right thumb on your right foot (or left thumb on your left foot) and firmly
press into the diaphragm and solar plexus reflex, located at the arch just below
the ball of your foot.
To apply additional pressure on the diaphragm and solar plexus reflex, the
therapist will gently bend your toes toward her, which pulls your foot against
She will then support the heel of your foot in her hand, with her thumb
between your ankle and
heel. Using her other hand, she will grasp the top of
your foot and gently rotate the whole foot a few times in one direction, then
AFTER A MASSAGE
While holding your foot in one hand, the therapist will grasp your big toe
with the other hand. She will rotate it for 5 seconds, then gently pull it; then
she will proceed to the next toe until they have all been manipulated.
While supporting the top of your foot with one hand, the therapist will gently
rotate the back of the fingers of her other hand against the ball of your foot