What are the Health Benefits of Reflexology?
Our feet may be one of the most neglected parts of our bodies. Yes, we may treat them to the occasional pedicure, but have you ever treated yourself to a foot massage? We are familiar with the benefits of back massages for relieving the weight and stress from our daily lives, so surely there must be some benefit to massaging our feet. Given our modern lifestyles, a lot of our tension and stress are centred in our feet. Our feet are especially important because they are connected to other corresponding organs and tissues of the body. So, giving them some much needed attention is really an effective way to treat, detox and care for your entire body.
This type of massage is known as reflexology. Reflexology, or Padabhyanga, is a 4,000 year old natural, ancient art where specific points in the hands and feet (and even ears) are massaged to release toxins, or ama, that have accumulated in our bodies. According to Ayurveda, these massages balance our doshas, and in doing so, restore our overall vitality. They are specifically revered for promoting better circulation, especially for those of us who lead a relatively sedentary lifestyle. It is especially beneficial for people suffering from headaches, chronic fatigue and weakened immune systems.
WHAT IS REFLEXOLOGY?
Reflexology, also known as acupressure or zone therapy, is much more than a massage. It is an alternative form of treatment for a variety of conditions and has been practiced for thousands of years. There is documentation of people in Ancient China and Egypt using techniques similar to reflexology to treat certain ailments. With reflexology, a therapist trained in the art applies pressure to specific areas in the hands, feet or ears to connect directly to the body’s organs and glands through the nervous system. These techniques stimulate the complex neural pathways linking body systems, supporting the body’s efforts to function optimally.
There is an intricate connection between the zones of our hands, feet and ears and other parts of our body. By targeting these specific zones, we can actually strengthen, heal and manage specific areas of the body that are not easily accessible, like our lungs, liver, gall bladder or kidneys. You can use a reflexology foot chart to map which area of the foot is associated with your pain or ailment.
For example, if you have a headache (often caused by tension in the neck) you can first and foremost massage the big toes to relax your neck. Then, focus on applying more pressure to the upper halves of each toe to target the nerves connected to the head area. Pay attention to how your body responds as you move from one area to the next.
The more familiar you are with your problem areas and their touch points, the better. It may look a bit intimidating, but try to take some time to become familiar with it so you can begin to chart your course of treatment. If you are new to the process and would like to perform a session on yourself, you can start by massaging your toes and slowly moving down to the heel of your foot. Some detailed instructions are outlined for you down below.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF REFLEXOLOGY?
The health benefits of reflexology include its ability to promotes relaxation, improve nerve functions, raise energy levels, improve circulation, and much more.
IMPROVES NERVE FUNCTION
As we age our nerve endings become less sensitive in many parts of our body, especially in our extremities. In one reflexology session, you can stimulate over 7,000 nerve endings. Opening and unblocking these neural pathways improves the functionality and flexibility of many other areas around the body.
Perhaps one of the most well-known benefits of reflexology is its ability to improve circulation throughout the body. With better circulation, more oxygen reaches our vital organs, optimizing their functioning, healing damaged cells and therefore accelerating healing.
Reflexology has also been shown to improve how our body eliminates toxins and other foreign substances in our urinary system. By pinpointing and improving bladder function, it helps to protect our body from various diseases caused by urinary tract issues.
Known as an effective method of eliminating pain, reflexology is a great way to treat migraines and headaches since it relieves tension in the muscles that often cause these conditions.
Other benefits include:
- Relieves pains and aches
- Fights anxiety and depression
- Makes feet healthier and stronger
- Reduces PMS and menopause symptoms
- Lowers blood pressure
- Eliminates toxins from the body
- Boosted energy levels
HOW DO YOU DO REFLEXOLOGY?
If you would like to perform reflexology on yourself, here a few techniques you could try:
Specialized bowls (commonly made of copper) are warmed, coated in oil and massaged into the foot in circular motions. The strokes not only help to improve circulation and stimulates nerve endings, but because of the nature of copper, toxins are effectively drained from the soles of the feet.
This technique involves rubbing your foot thoroughly to generate better cardiovascular circulation in this area. The friction from these movements stimulates the required flow of energy in our bodies and directs it to areas that need healing. You will need:
- Ginger and salt
- A tub
- Warm water
- Massage oil (I prefer a high-quality, organic argan oil)
- Take a tub of warm water and add some fresh, crushed ginger.
- Add a teaspoon of sea salt into the tub and stir it well and soak your feet.
- Soak your feet for 20 to 30 minutes, then pat dry.
- Now, you are ready to start your foot massage. Take some warm oil in your hand and apply a generous amount all over your feet.
- Start massaging around your ankles first, starting with the area where your calf ends. Use your fingers and thumb to press the muscle from the base of your calf to your heel. The motion should be downwards and gentle.
- Now, using your fingers and thumb, massage the part just below your ankle, moving your fingers from the inner portion of your foot to the outside.
- Next, move to your toes and massage the area between each toe with your index finger and thumb. Gently press each part and pull away from the finger.
- Now, you can move to the base of your foot. Bend your leg at the knee and place your foot on the thigh of the other foot such that the bottom of your foot is facing upwards.
- Bring your thumb to the centre of your foot and massage down into the centre. Repeat this several times and then start massaging your heels.
- Repeat the entire process on the left foot.
- Once you have massaged both feet, wash them with warm water.
- Relax and enjoy all the benefits of this ancient art. Weekly or bi-weekly reflexology sessions are strongly recommended to achieve maximum benefits. With repeated sessions, it can help rebuild resistance to stress and rejuvenate the body by improving circulation and encouraging detoxification.