Massage & Bodywork

NOVEMBER | DECEMBER 2018

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REFLEXOLOGY AND ENERGY Reflexology gives therapists the tools they need to take foot massage to a whole new place. Foot reflexology is the manual manipulation of points on the feet to stimulate, through subtle energy reflexes, various parts of the body as a means to promote health and well-being. Reflexology works with homeostasis, the body's desire to maintain balance. When it is hot outside, your body cools off. When it is cold, your body warms itself. This is homeostasis in action. This process works with the autonomic nervous system to help your body adapt to each moment. Reflexology also works through the body's desire for this balance. Think about your liver. It is doing the best job it can at all times. It does not take breaks. Our lifestyle, the air we breathe, the alcohol we drink, and the foods we eat can make it hard on the liver to do its job. The idea behind reflexology is that by stimulating the liver reflex, the point on the foot associated with this organ, we can "exercise" the liver so it can better do what it does naturally. If the liver has problems, we can stimulate the reflex, but this will not "fix" the liver. It only stimulates and exercises the reflex and the subtle energy of the liver. When I was in massage school, I was taught that reflexology worked through the nervous system; that there were nerves in the feet that connected to all the organs and glands of the body. However, newer theories indicate that reflexology instead works through subtle energy. One such theory suggests fascia is the communication pathway for the subtle energy meridians of Chinese medicine, or the nadis of ayurveda. Can you find connective tissue pathways that line up with the meridians and nadis? Yes. And you can also find connective tissue pathways from the feet to the rest of the body. THE BENEFITS OF REFLEXOLOGY Like traditional massage, foot reflexology can reduce stress. When people are stressed, they are usually stuck in their heads, thinking, thinking, thinking. Massaging the feet draws the energy away from the head and into the body, allowing people to relax the mind. Foot reflexology also increases circulation. If you have poor circulation, where do you notice it first? In the extremities—the hands and feet. Foot massage helps get the blood moving. Sometimes due to diet, genetics, or lifestyle, calcium and uric acid build up on the reflex points and can feel like grains of sand or crystals. Reflexology can break up those deposits on the reflex points. Perhaps my favorite benefit of reflexology is that it feels good. Feet top the list for the most abused area on the body, and massaging them simply feels good for clients. People stand on their feet all day, and many people wear high heels or tight shoes, so the feet can take a beating. Spending a quality amount of time working with the feet can bring much needed nourishment and joy. A WORD ABOUT TECHNIQUE There are a variety of techniques you can employ when giving a reflexology treatment. The main technique I prefer is a friction technique, either circular or back and forth. You can also use effleurage techniques or press-and-release techniques. Everybody's hands are different, so you have to use what works best for your own body mechanics. Some reflexologists have used their thumbs for many years without issue, while others prefer to use fingertips or knuckles. Some even incorporate the use of hot stones. The best stones to use are small, oblong stones that are a little larger than a finger. Use the appropriate amount of pressure. Reflex points may be tender, and you do not have to massage with all your might to elicit an effect. You can also stimulate points with a light energy technique. If a point is tender, you can have the client take deep breaths, and as they inhale, massage around the reflex point lightly. As they exhale, massage into the reflex point more specifically. Repeat for several breaths. If you massage so intensely that the person is tensing up or holding their breath, you are activating the sympathetic, or fight-or-flight, response. This means the client is fighting the work and will not get the most benefit from it. Reevaluate the depth of your work. We also want to stimulate the parasympathetic, or rest and digest, nervous system, as this is how the body enters recovery mode. In general, you can stimulate each reflex for 5–10 seconds. Tender points can be massaged for several minutes, but there is not much need beyond that. Regular stimulation is better, so feel free to share a point with your client and have them massage it as part of their self-care. In fact, one of the best ways to practice reflexology is on yourself. Your feet are always within reach, so try to massage your feet every day, if even for only a few minutes. Now, let's explore a few points you might address in a typical session. 58 m a s s a g e & b o d y w o r k n o v e m b e r / d e c e m b e r 2 0 1 8

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