By Sam Belyea a.k.a The Foot Whisperer
Recently, I’ve been looking at other online Reflexology classes and reflecting on what it means to truly teach Reflexology. When I first was learning, there were major setbacks that I had to overcome based on how I was taught Reflexology. Here were the top three obstacles I faced and why I had to develop my teaching style based on these backwards Reflexology methods:
1) Working Individual Points vs. A Fixed Routine
The style of Reflexology that I was taught emphasized learning the location of individual reflex points, the pressing of those points using specific techniques and the methodology of press-this-reflex-to-fix-that-issue. Not only is this an inaccurate way of assessing the reflexes, it is also dangerously close to using Reflexology to treat a diagnosed condition – this is a HUGE violation of Reflexology’s scope of practice. During my initial training there was no fixed routine that ensured I covered the entire extremity. We were taught to only press the reflexes related to what the client’s reported symptoms were – looking back, no wonder why my sessions weren’t getting results back then!
Solution: I now teach a fixed routine for my students to master. Once they have the full routine down, we cover the intricacies of individual reflex location, palpation skills and the ability to assess the state of the reflex. Without the foundation of a routine that covers the ENTIRE extremity, there is no telling what sections of the extremity a Reflexology practitioner would miss during the session and these is no accountability. Skipping over a reflex area leaves out crucial data that a Reflexologist needs to make a full assessment of the client’s state. By practicing choppy reflex manipulation, without a solid routine, there is a pretty big chance that the client will feel the session was ‘incomplete’ in addition to compromising the results needed to keep clients coming back.
2) Deeper is Better vs. Perfect Pressure and Point Work
‘Press harder and you’ll get better results’ is a totally unintelligent and false statement in bodywork, but in Reflexology especially. Yet, this is what I was taught: deeper is better. NEWS FLASH – it is certainly not and I had to hurt a lot of clients to figure that out. When you are dealing with the nerve endings of an extremity the keys to success are tact and observation-oriented action, not brute force.
… So, after blindly choosing a handful of reflexes based on what symptoms a client is allegedly struggling with, we apply bone-crushing pressure to those areas so we can ‘fix’ the reported health crisis… Does anyone else see a problem with this model!?!?
Solution: Learning from my clients, I found out that even light pressure can feel deep when addressing congested nerve endings. The opposite is also true, clients will not feel (even with deep pressure) certain ‘dead spots’ in the reflexes; this adds another fatal flaw to the idea of uniformly applying deep work. So, I started listening to the body instead – What a concept! As I found specific points within a reflex area that needed my attention, I simply applied pressure, waited for a response and proceeded to increase/decrease pressure based on what the body tissues said was ok. This process produced real results that blew me and my clients away, so I refined the process and termed the methods ‘Point Work’ and using ‘Perfect Pressure’ during my live and online Reflexology classes.
3) Pain Response vs. The Four Signs of Successful Reflexology
In addition to only walking a few reflexes that are ‘relevant to the issue’ and using ultra-deep pressure to facilitate ‘a better result’, there is the common misconception that Reflexology should hurt. The pain response during a session was actually ENCOURAGED during my initial Reflexology training and it was taught to me as a sign that a reflex was even more congested than previous imagined… and that MORE work needed to be applied. Are you freaking kidding me!? But, this is common Reflexology practice – the pain response is coveted during a session by certain schools and without it they say that you aren’t ‘getting to the issue’. Total BS, based on my personal experience.
Solution: When Reflexology is applied successfully (i.e. walking the entire extremity, using an even pressure that is safe for you and the client, and addressing specific points you find with Perfect Pressure) there will be four tell-tale signs that the body is receiving your work via the power of the nervous system:
1) The Face Will Itch
Sometimes this includes other areas of the body as well, but when the nervous system is stimulated there is an internal ‘static’ that is generated inside the body which is felt as a compulsive need to itch. The itching is normally on the face because of its proximity to the brain, which is the center of this processing static.
2) The Muscles Will Twitch
When there is deep tension held within a muscle group, before reaching full relaxation the tension must be discharged. Which muscles twitch and how many times is also extremely significant, but the twitching during a session is a sure sign that the tension is being released from the nervous system.
3) The Breathing Will Change
Yes, snoring counts. But, I’m mainly talking about the spontaneous inhales and the occasional cessation of breath. Out of nowhere, and without conscious thought, clients will take deep breaths as the body resets their normal breathing rhythm during a Reflexology session and sometimes there will be a mini pause of the breath (cessation) as a side effect of the reset as well – fascinating to watch!
4) The Stomach Will Gurgle
Very common and embarrassing for some clients even when they are warned, although I view it as a compliment and a powerful sign of the body’s self-healing process. Movement in the gut is a huge benefit of Reflexology that I see time and time again as a sign that the bod is receiving the work properly.
When these four signs DO NOT happen, I get worried as the body has not fully received the work – based on my personal experience. Measuring Reflexology based on these four signs instead of how much an area hurts drastically increases the intelligence of the practice at hand.
As I continue to teach Reflexology, both live at the Foot Whisperer Reflexology Institute in Tampa and online, there are constant tweaks that I make to my material so that it better serves my students, who in turn serve their clients. Making sure that you are learning Reflexology from an instructor who practices Reflexology regularly, has seen an impressive amount of clients and can share extensive reasoning for their methods is very important.
Take the time to shoot me an email with any questions that you have about how Reflexology works or if live/online Reflexology instruction is right for you. I’m always happy to help you take the first steps in your relationship with Reflexology, as it is a modality that I truly treasure and that has taught me so much about the body.
Click here to see all of The Foot Whisperer Reflexology Institute’s live class offerings and click here to see all of the online class offerings. We look forward to sharing Reflexology with you!