Ch'i

"Circulation is life. Stagnation is Death."
--Eunice Ingham

About Reflexology

History

The practice of touching and manipulating the feet for wellness goes back in time and across cultures. Evidence for some sort of practice is seen in Egypt, China, and Native America. Modern foot reflexology as it is practiced today is relatively recent, came out of Europe and was codified and popularized in America in the late 19th to mid 20th century by medical professionals. American physiotherapist Eunice Ingham is credited with bringing reflexology to the masses for self-care with her 1938 book Stories the Feet Can Tell Thru Reflexology. Today there are different offshoots and schools of thought in foot reflexology, but they all stem from the Ingham method. Ear reflexology (auricular reflexology) has its roots in Chinese acupuncture, but was only really fine-tuned within the last 60 years in France and Germany, and spreading to America and back to China in a much-expanded and precisely-studied form, verified by medical studies.

What is it?

Reflexology is not massage. It has both different techniques and intentions. The foot is divided into reflex zones or areas/points that correspond to various locations in the body. The foot is a microcosm of the macrocosm of the body. The theory states that by applying pressure to reflex points, the corresponding tissue or organ is stimulated toward energetic equilibrium. This balance supports well-being. More importantly, the relaxation felt as the foot is reflexed through touch creates a supportive energetic state within the person; it is well known that stress reduction plays a crucial role in health and wellness. Approximately 70 percent of health disorders can be related to stress and nerve tension.

Western reflexology practitioners only use their thumbs, fingers and hands to reflex the client (the main technique is called "thumb walking" -- like a crawling inchworm exerting pressure); in Asian traditions, sticks or carved stone or wood tools may be used to achieve a greater pressure focused on precise points. In the Indian Ayurvedic style of reflexology, the movements tend to be more circular and thus excel at moving energy ("prana") and strongly relaxing the foot and thus the entire body system. After having studied yoga and its profound system of philosophy, the Ayurvedic approach is Heidi's preferred method.

Where do lines and points of energy come in?

The body is a dynamic energy field. Modern quantum medicine has confirmed this. The ancient Chinese were the first to discover and utilize this energy, called "ch'i" or "qi." They found that it circulates throughout the body along 12 pathways, called meridians. Acupuncture points are situated along the meridians. These meridians run both along the surface of the body and inside through organs. Many of the meridians start in the head and terminate in the foot or hand (or vice versa) -- meaning that direct access to them can be had through reflexology without needing to access them elsewhere on the body. Additionally, the representative path (pattern) of the meridians can be superimposed upon the reflexology map of the feet to help clarify causal relationships of sensitive locations on the feet. Each meridian path influences a variety of bodily organs and systems, and for the most part, are named after one of the organs that they pass through. An imbalance or blockage at one location can affect a point distant and seemingly unrelated. This is where the East surpasses the West in describing causative factors impeding wellness. (Incidentally, the flow of ch'i through a landscape or structure is the focus of Feng Shui, which we've all experienced when entering a room and it feeling "not quite right" due to an impinged layout or piles of clutter. This is the same concept describing disharmony existing within the body.)

In a like manner, the ancient Indians mapped out the body with energy pathways and points like the Chinese did; the Ayurvedic system of India calls these nadis and marma points, and they are energized during a reflexology session.

Why should I see a Certified Reflexologist when I can spend $30 for an hour of "foot massage" at the local mini-mall?

Small "foot spa" parlors are springing up in every neighborhood. While the business may have a business license, Washington state realized that it is questionable if the practitioners have state reflexology registration or a massage license, and so the state instituted regulations for bona fide practicioners. Thus, a Certified Reflexologist -- that is, one who has had formal training and is registered by the state -- can function as a personal "wellness facilitator" for you, working with you (and consulting with your doctor if needed) to achieve and maintain targeted states of wellness. A session with a Certified Reflexologist provides a much higher level of physiological body-awareness knowledge and skill, as well as sensitivity and personalized service. The cost of a session with a Certified Reflexologist is on par with that of a Massage Therapist.