Did you know that the soles of your feet have roughly 7000 nerve endings? Pretty amazing, isn’t it? With all of those nerve endings it’s no wonder our poor feet are hurting at the end of the day. On the other hand, all of those nerve endings are precisely why it feels sooooo good to get a foot massage. Honestly, when I get my massages, I could have them spend an hour just on my hands and feet!
Aside from feeling good, there is another benefit to massaging your feet. The bottoms of the feet are an exact replica of the body so, in theory, you can access every area of your body simply by massaging your feet. This is referred to as reflexology and this ancient healing modality has been used for many years to improve sleep, increase physical and mental well being and alleviate chronic conditions such as sinusitis, migraines and digestive issues.
Reflexology is a very popular type of massage but it is quite different from traditional massage. Massage is the manipulation of the soft tissues of the body to relax the muscles. Reflexology focuses on applying pressure to points on the feet, hands and even the ears in an effort to create a therapeutic response in the body. In other words, massage works from the outside in to release tension and reflexology works from the inside out by calming the nervous system in order to release tension.
The theory of reflexology is when you apply pressure to the nerve endings or “reflexes” on your hands and feet, you are sending a message to the central nervous system telling it to relax. This state of relaxation allows the body to function at an optimal level. There is also a belief that there is an energetic connection between the reflex points and the other parts of the body. By applying pressure to these points, you are attempting to remove any blockages and promote health in that body part.
So, if you have a headache, you can massage your toes to release the blockages! Digestive issues??? You can massage the arch of your foot to relieve the stress in your tummy! Whatever issues you may have, you can certainly find a point on the foot to work on.
Although it’s wonderful to work with an experienced reflexologist whenever possible, it is really quite easy to do reflexology on yourself. There are a number of different ways to do this including walking barefoot, rolling each foot over a tennis ball or rolling pin or simply using the best tools of all….your fingers and hands!
Prior to starting a foot reflexology, it’s a good idea to do some ankle rotations in order to loosen up the muscles surrounding the foot. From there, you can start wherever you like…..at the top of the toes and work your way down the foot or at your heel and work your way up. Using your thumb, “inch” (imagine a caterpillar) your way pressing the different parts of your foot. If you find an area that is tender, you may want to spend some extra time there as it may indicate some blockage in the corresponding body part. End the session by lightly running your fingertips down the top, bottom and sides of your feet as if your fingers were a feather.
A reflexology chart can be a handy tool to have as you start your self reflexology journey. The chart is a picture of the hands and feet with a map of the entire body laid out so you know exactly where to find the organs and other areas of the body. I like this one.
Having been a massage therapist for the past 19 years, I am familiar with reflexology and I’ve even taken some courses to learn how to do it. Do I do it on myself??? Nope! But after researching and writing this article, I have started an evening ritual. Before I turn the lights out, I take a moment to give my feet some love. I feel like I have been a little stressed lately, so I am focusing on the upper part of my feet. This is where all of the main stress glands are located. I pay close attention to the area of the thyroid because my poor thyroid can really take a beating when I am stressed. I am not sure if it is just my imagination, but I have been sleeping better and not feeling quite as anxious!
Whether you are able to spend a few minutes or a full half hour on your feet, your time and effort will never be wasted. By taking some time every day to connect with your body through reflexology, you are able to let go of daily stresses and enhance your overall sense of well being. Self reflexology is an easy way to support your mind, body and spirit.
As with any alternative healing treatment, reflexology should not be used as the sole (pun intended) treatment for any condition but it can be a relaxing and therapeutic treatment for the whole body.
If you have any questions about reflexology, hit reply and let’s chat. In the meantime, give your feet (or hands) some much needed love!