By Sam Belyea a.k.a. The Foot Whisperer
There are three fundamental aspects of Reflexology that I have now delineated and that I am currently integrating into our Certification Program. In this post I will explain, based on my experience, the aspects of a true Reflexology practice while I draw the line between a person doing extremity massage (regardless of how much training they say they have) and a true Reflexologist.
Obviously. But there are nuances. Reflexology has two sub-sections of technique that separate the wheat from the chaff.
The first sub-section of Reflexology technique is the alternating pressure technique known as ‘walking’ with the thumbs and fingers across the extremities. The press-release motion of walking during a Reflexology session creates signals to the nervous system via the sensitive nerve endings in the extremities. Those signals then put the client into an altered state which allows the body to run its self-healing processes without interference from the conscious mind. Without the alternating pressure technique the nerves are not being stimulated correctly to induce the self-healing response. The effectiveness of one’s technique can be easily measured by the frequency of the four major signs of receptivity: facial itching, muscle twitching, stomach gurgling and/or breathing changes.
The second sub-section of Reflexology technique is point work. During a Reflexology session, the Reflexologist uses their walking technique to simulate the nerve endings; there will also be points within reflex areas that require individual attention. Addressing these points takes finesse, receptivity and an active dialogue with the body. Perfect pressure is used along with deepening techniques that unwind these points which send deeper signals into the body to aide in self-recovery. Again, proper point work will result in an increased presence of the four major signs that the body is receiving the reflex work.
Rampant disregard for Western Reflexology’s theory and history is plaguing the bodywork industry. Clients, new students and other therapists I meet constantly ask me if Reflexology involves meridians, acupressure and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) principals. Reflexology as a modality originated in the West and the name only has been spread, largely by Asian foot-massage establishments, without reverence, respect or understanding for the meaning of the word they are using.
Without proper knowledge of Reflexology’s history, mapping and theory there is no true Reflexology. You are just getting an extremity massage. If the individual providing a Reflexology session cannot accurately relay basic reflex location, how Reflexology works and/or where its origins are then they have no right to call themselves a Reflexologist or to call what they are doing Reflexology. Yes, the body is extremely intelligent and there is benefit to simply massaging the reflexes, but there is a huge physical, mental and emotional gap between someone who is giving a foot, hand, ear or face rub and a professional providing a Reflexology experience. Knowledge is key, without it there is just dump technique.
Unlike the first two points, assessment is a personal development of my own. When I went to become a Certified Reflexologist I was taught the above two points: technique and theory. The extent of the assessment knowledge I received was this: if you felt crunchiness within a reflex that indicated congestion which had to be worked out. Now, I have developed an accurate ability to assess (what my clients call ‘whispering to’) the extremities and accurately apply technique with theory to deepen the effects of a Reflexology session. A Reflexologist must develop the ability to know what a reflex looks/feels like when it is out of balance through multiple sessions, hands-on experience and active discussions with clients.
We can argue about technique and theory all day long, but what we cannot debate is whether we accurately interpret the language of the body. As I grew into the name of Foot Whisperer that my clients gave to me and applied my work throughout the four extremities it became clear to me that other Reflexology professionals had totally neglected this part of the practice and had settled for only the first part of learning technique. Now, I am passionate about the ability to accurately assess the physical, mental and emotional meanings behind the reflexes on the extremities and to teach this content during our trainings. When this final piece of the puzzle wakes up, that is when I know I am speaking with a true professional.
Reflexology is alive; growing, advancing and developing. The practice deserves respect and its practitioners need to be respected. However, we have to clear up the misconceptions first and I hope this article has done that to some degree for you.
If you have any questions, comments or think that Reflexology is right for you please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org any time!