Reflexology is a practice of healing in which application of pressure on feet and hands (also ears, according to some practitioners) is used for therapeutic effects. Most practitioners consider reflexology to be a complimentary therapy, to be used alongside conventional medicine. Some practitioners also regard it as an alternative therapy and believe that it can replace conventional medicine for curing many diseases.
The primary idea behind reflexology is that our feet, hands and ears have a map of the entire body. Each and every organ of the body has a corresponding point on these extremities and by applying pressure on these points it is possible to stimulate the corresponding organs into a healing mode.
Reflexology, therefore, uses the inherent self-healing capacities of the human body to induce it towards homeostasis, i.e. a state of balance of bodily functions. It is a holistic system that treats the entire body as a whole and in the process helps in many diseased conditions.
How it is Done
Foot Reflexology is more commonly practiced than Hand Reflexology. Sometimes a combination of foot, hand and ear points is also used. A session of reflexology lasts from 30 minutes to an hour. During a session of foot reflexology, you are made to sit or lie down with your legs horizontal and the feet exposed. The reflexologist will sit at a lower level and work on your feet. Many practitioners use some oil or cream or talcum powder as a medium. The reflexologists mainly use their hands to massage, press and stretch your feet. Sometimes some wooden and rubber tools are used to apply pressure. The pressure used on your feet is normally a little more than that in a massage, and some points or areas on the feet can be tender or painful. Tenderness in an area indicates some disorder in the corresponding organ of the body. However, the reflexologist will adjust the pressure applied according to each individual, and not cause too much pain.
How does reflexology work?
Many hypotheses have been put forward to explain how reflexology works but it still lacks an acceptable theory. According to one explanation pressure applied to the feet generates a signal through the peripheral nervous system. The signal is relayed to the central nervous system where it is processed in the brain, and sent to the internal organs to allocate the necessary adjustments. Another hypothesis says that in a state of disorder toxins are not properly expelled by the body and they are deposited in the extremities as crystals. Application of pressure breaks these crystals, throws them into the blood stream and helps their removal, thus, promoting healing. Some explanations focus on the blockages in body energy (often called ‘Qi’ or ‘Chi’) that are opened up by applying pressure. There is still need for a lot of research before a coherent explanation can be put forth.
How old is Reflexology?
There are many claims that reflexology was practiced in Ancient Egypt, China and many other culture. However, there are no signs of an ancient living tradition of reflexology. The school of reflexology mostly prevalent now draws from the early 20th century work of Dr William Fitzgerald, an ENT surgeon who developed a ‘zone theory’ and postulated links between various parts of the body lying along one of the ten vertical zones. In the 1930’s Eunice Ingham observed that congestion or tension, especially in any part of the foot, is mirrored in the corresponding part of the body. She developed this zone theory into what is now known as reflexology. Now many reflexology charts are available that show which organs of the body are linked to which areas on the feet, hands and ears.
Is Reflexology safe?
Reflexology is by and large a safe practise. Some practitioners prefer not to work on pregnant women in the first trimester though there is no evidence of any problems. There are often temporary discomforts (like diarrhea, lethargy, increase in symptoms) after reflexology sessions, but apart from that there are no side-effects of the treatment.
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