When mankind went barefoot, walking on sand or uneven ground, they were unknowingly stimulating the reflex points of the body. Nervous people pace back and forth, rub hands together, and bite their nails, and some even handle worry beads. By doing this, they unknowingly relieve their tensions by working on the reflex points. The surface of the skin, apart from being a receiver of external stimulus, also holds mirror images of the internal body organs. These images are reflected onto the soles, palms of the hands and ears and are called reflex areas or points.There is a circulation of vital energy between the organs of the body, permeating every living cell and tissue. When this energy becomes blocked, this block is reflected on the hands, body, head and feet, in one or more of the areas located there.
These blocks can be detected by experiencing pain or, by the presence of lump like or thickened areas, often referred to as ‘crystal deposits’. By applying varied amount of pressure using the thumb, knuckles, these imbalances can be corrected. This ancient healing art has been known to man for many thousands of years. It was first practiced by the early Indian, Chinese and Egyptian people, and evidence for this stems from an Egyptian tomb drawings, dating back to 2330 BC.
In 1917 Dr. William Fitzgerald, an American ear, nose and throat surgeon, introduced this therapy to the west. He noted that pressure on specific parts of the body could have an anaesthetizing effect on a related area. Further, he divided the body into ten equal and vertical zones-five on each side of the body-extending from each toe, up through the leg and the body, to the head and brain, and then down the arm to each finger. He concluded that pressure on one part of a zone could affect everything else within that zone. Thus, reflex areas on the feet and hands are linked to other areas and organs of the body within the same zone.
A German practitioner Mrs. Hanne Marquardt, felt that it would be easier to locate the reflexes found on the feet, if the human form was further divided into three transverse zones. She divided the foot into three imaginary lines placed across. These transverse zones help locate the levels of the shoulder girdle, the waist, and the pelvic floor. The first transverse zone in the body is found at the level of the shoulder girdle and relates to the head and neck. On the feet, all reflexes relating to this part of the body are found above the first transverse line – the shoulder girdle. When the energy currents that flow through the longitudinal zones build up at certain points, they create an accumulation of energy, or blockage, at those points. Congestion or tension in any part of the foot reflects an altered function in the corresponding part of the body. Patients may feel tenderness or sharpness in these places. By applying varied amount of pressure according to patient’s vitality, age and structure of the feet, the energy block is dissipated.
The second transverse zone lies at waist level and relates to the structure of the chest and upper abdomen. All reflexes pertaining to this part of the body are found between the first and second transverse line – the waist line – on the feet.
The third transverse zone in the body, runs across the pelvic girdle and relates to the lower abdomen and pelvis. All reflexes associated with this part of the body are found between the second and third transverse line – pelvic girdle – on the feet.
It was not until the 1930s that Eunice Ingham (1879 – 1974), a physiotherapist in the early 1930’s in St. Petersburg, Florida, first introduced this method. She was particularly interested in Zone Therapy and found that probing with fingers and thumbs instead of applying pressure to the extremities, showed best results. This is partly because the soles have a larger working surface than the palms, and also because the feet are generally more sensitive. Intermittent pressure on the feet of the patients produced benefits greater than pain relief, actually allowing the body to balance itself for better health, with a faster healing time. She identified and documented reflex areas in the feet corresponding to all areas, organs and glands of the body and developed the “Ingham Method of Compression Massage”. This was later renamed Reflexology.Reflexologists do not diagnose illness, practice medicine, or treat specific diseases.Reflexologists only work with subtle energy flows, revitalizing the body to use its own natural internal healing mechanisms.
Through stimulation of the circulatory and lymphatic systems, and by the release of toxins, reflexology promotes the body to heal itself. Reflexology decreases patients’ perception of pain and is an potent therapy in cases of stress, tension and tiredness, insomnia, allergy, migraine headaches, sinusitis, asthma, psoriasis, back pain, menstrual problems, constipation. It is highly effective in maintaining health in general.
Many schools literally understand Reflexology as feet massage, while, for some other schools, it is hand massage. Only a few schools have a broader view on Reflexology and understand it as a plural complicated system of links between internal organs and skin surface, and that the surface of the skin is a huge informative zone, containing many micro and macro representatives of the internal organs.