by Ronnie Williams
In the late 1970s when the emerging field of holistic medicine first exploded into my life (thanks to my Dad who gave me a copy of The Magic of Findhorn, by Paul Hawken), I began opening my mind to the vast mind/body/spirit arena.
I was comfortable with the notion that working with pressure on reflex points in my feet could have a beneficial effect on my body and might help a wide range of symptoms. On a weekend healing course at Runnings Park in West Malvern, Worcestershire, I met Christine Jones who had set up the Midland School of Reflextherapy. Trained as a physiotherapist she came from a medical background but through her own experiences had discovered the power of reflexology, and had widened her outlook to embrace the understanding of traditional Chinese medicine. Hearing her talking at dinner about how she would cup her hands around a patient’s ankles and, doing “nothing”, just allow the energy to flow through the body, I knew without doubt that I had found my teacher. I signed up with her for a practitioners course in 1984, gained my practitioner’s certificate, and became a member of the Association of Reflexologists in 1985. I’ve been in practice since then, adding flower essences, Reiki and EFT to my “bag” as the years have gone by. I’ve taught reflexology in adult and further education and it’s given me great pleasure to turn others on to the power of this popular complementary therapy.
The earliest documented records of what we now call reflexology were found in the Physician’s Tomb at Saqqara in Egypt where there are step pyramids older than those at Giza a short distance away. Wall paintings clearly show the feet and hands of Egyptians receiving some sort of treatment from dark-skinned Nubians. These depictions have been dated to around 2,500 B.C. From those times we can trace a continuing history of people in different continents- Africa, the Americas, China, Asia, Scandinavia and Northern Europe- understanding the benefits of applying what came to be known as reflex zone therapy to all areas of the feet.
It was Eunice Ingham, a remedial masseuse working with Dr. Joseph Shelby-Riley and his wife Elizabeth in their practice in America in the early 1900s, who came to be known as the Mother of Reflexology. She drew the earliest foot charts, devised a method of walking around the feet using thumbs and fingers to apply an alternating pressure technique, and went touring round USA to teach what she knew not only to Doctors and medical workers but also to people like you and me, eager to learn something natural that could be used at home to ease simple ailments and improve overall health. Through Eunice Ingham a “lineage” of teachers was established in the early 1970s, Christine Jones and the Midland School of Reflextherapy being one of these.
The theory of reflexology is really quite simple, especially if you have an understanding of yin and yang, energy flows and meridians. Imagine making yourself very small and placing yourself over your feet, the two big toes together representing your head. The instep of each foot, from heel to the base of the big toe, links with your spine. The map of the body is then laid out in similar very small areas in each foot - the liver on the right foot, the spleen on the left, with other digestive organs, small and large intestines, traversing both feet. The soles of the feet link with all the soft, internal organs, the fronts of the feet with the front of the body. The sides of the feet link with the limbs and joints- shoulders, knees, hips etc.
The key to a successful reflexology treatment is knowledge of the map of the feet, understanding how to apply the technique, and precision. The size of a reflex can vary from a tiny area, the size of a pin-head, to a larger area representing, say, the stomach, or liver. But to have any effect each reflex area needs to receive some pressure, or at least to be touched. Walking round each foot with the thumb or fingers, using a creepy-caterpillar movement, pressing and releasing, and observing the client’s reactions, may take some time. Wherever there is discomfort indicates imbalance in the related area of the body - not necessarily Disease- it could even be “echoes” of an illness or condition going back a number of years- and these areas need to be worked until the discomfort in the feet subsides. The feet will “talk”, and love to do so, once they realize the opportunity to communicate that is being presented. Change happens both during a treatment and afterwards: the most usual responses are relaxation, improved circulation, and de-toxification, benefiting a wide range of conditions. All age groups can be treated. There are some cautions/contra-indications to treatment - a qualified reflexologist will always explain these before giving a treatment.
Is it advisable, or even necessary, to combine the two? I have to confess I’m a bit of a purist, I’ve changed my treatment very little over 25 years and would say that less is definitely more when it comes to “extras” such as adding vibrational essences to a treatment. But the effects, which can be dramatic, can also be profound.
In 1998 I attended the first International Flower Essence Conference at Findhorn in Scotland, and went to a workshop combining Metamorphic Technique- therapy derived from reflexology in which the areas representing the spine are very gently stroked on the feet, hands and head- with vibrational essences. Drops of Delph Essence, a dolphin essence made by Andras Korte, an essence-maker from Brazil, were very gently stroked into the sides of my thumbs, from the heel of my hand up to the thumb-tip. Not only was it extraordinarily relaxing but that night I had a powerful lucid dream which I remember to this day, traveling inter-dimensionally through a doorway to who-knows-where. The next day I felt I’d undergone a huge shift, and it took me a while to get grounded again. I have to say that I have hesitated to try anything similar with my own clients, feeling that such an experience could overload someone unused to the energy shifts that might occur.
In astrology, the feet are seen as the realm of Pisces, a mutable water sign, sharing the connection with the water that we use to make vibrational essences. Working the feet is like working a pump, stirring up the mud at the bottom of a pond to clear the water and allow it to bubble freely again. Remember that we are more than 70% water! The realm of Pisces is also that of the subconscious mind, the repository of unprocessed feelings and emotions. In reflexology we talk about our feet being our UNDER-STANDING, and through our feet we connect with the Earth. We can absorb energy through the chakras in our feet - indeed, the therapeutic properties of crushed garlic, spread on brown-paper insoles and worn inside socks, will quickly be drawn into and through the body - the garlic will be out on the breath within about half an hour. Rubbing a well-known de-congestant preparation - essential oils in Vaseline - over your feet will have a similar effect.
So if you feel drawn to using vibrational essences on the feet or hands and have not done so before, I ask you to be sure you can explain what might happen to your “client” if they have a powerful response. The book Floral Acupuncture - Applying the Flower Essences of Dr. Bach to Acupuncture Sites by Deborah Craydon and Warren Bellows (The Crossing Press) is also very helpful. With this in mind here are some suggestions:
Drops of appropriate essences can be chosen on the basis of the consultation with the client, and added to creams or oils, to be massaged into the feet or hands at the beginning or end of a treatment. A rescue/emergency formula would work well, or a customized formula.
The spinal reflex, running along the instep of each foot from inner-heel to the base of the big toe, or from the heel of the hand along the edge of each thumb up to the thumb-tip, is a particularly receptive area - the cream or oil, or even liquid drops, can be lightly stroked along this area using a “feathering” technique.
The solar-plexus reflex, located centrally under the ball of each foot, is another receptive area: pressure here can help regulate breathing, soothe anxious states, and improve sleep patterns. Using a rescue/emergency formula here can be very effective.
Using drops of essences placed with a little water in a small bowl, cotton wool swabs or q-tips can be soaked with the liquid then held in place over particular reflex points - this would work well over the kidney or adrenal reflexes, for example, for stress relief, or held under the shoulder reflexes to relieve tension.
Make up a spray with appropriate essences, misting lightly over the feet and leaving to dry naturally at the end of the treatment. Also mist the room before a treatment with your own formula to create a relaxing and peaceful environment.
Apply some cream or oil infused with appropriate essences to the area at the back of each ankle, then “cup” your hands around each ankle and just allow energy to flow - do nothing, just allow. After a while you may begin to feel the gentle pulse of the cranio-sacral system - stay with it while the energy and essences do their work. This can be a time of profound relaxation and realisation for the client.
Just invite the energy of an appropriate flower or tree to join with you and flow with the treatment.
Keep it simple!
Be prepared for a response, be able to explain what you’re doing and why.
Try these techniques on yourself or a good friend first, and use with awareness.
The Chippewa medicine man Sun Bear had a phrase: “Walk in Balance on the Earth Mother.” When we are in balance and harmony within ourselves we can literally tread light, peace and harmony into our beautiful Earth with each step.
Ronnie Williams, M.A.R., B.F.V.E.A., Reiki Master, A.A.M.E.T.