To understand what reflexology is all about, you must first know the meaning of the word reflex; it is an automatic response to the stimulation of a nerve. Reflexology was previously known as reflex zone therapy and it is a holistic method of healing. It is a method, which involves pressure and massage on the reflex points of the feet and hands. In reflexology, the reflexes or reflections are found on the palm of the hands or even the soles of the feet, these acts like a reflector, reflecting the entire body.
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According to reflexology there is a life force or an essential energy, which is circulating in between the organs of the human body. If for any reason the energy is interrupted or obstructed, then that particular part of the body gets affected and all this is reflected on the hands and feet in various zones or locations. If the person is experiencing pain, then the obstruction can be found by utilizing certain types of pressure techniques. If the body shows the presence of gritty areas, then the pressure technique has to be applied on these areas, in reflexology these gritty areas or coarse areas are known as crystal deposits. Through this technique the foot and hand can easily reveal, which part of the body is not in balance. The technique applied according to reflexology, helps in opening this energy, which is blocked and thus breaks down the crystalline structure. The whole purpose of reflexology is to release the toxins or any unwanted substances inside the body, to help the body heal, stimulating the circulatory system as well as the lymphatic system.
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Where did reflexology originate from is still shrouded with mystery, but this type of treatment has been prevalent in India as well as China since 5,000 years ago. Though the knowledge of zone therapy seems to be a thing of the past because the method of acupuncture has been dominating the scene, which is quite surprising since both methods originate from the same roots itself. There is speculation that reflexology was discovered in Egypt, though it is known to be first practiced by the Incas, who are people who belong to the Ancient Civilization of Peru, dated as far back as 12,000 B.C. It is assumed that this therapy was passed on to the North American Indians, who still believe in reflexology till present day.
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It is a confirmed fact, that in 1500 AD reflexology or reflex therapy was definitely being used to cure various ailments and diseases. The Great Florentine Sculptor Cellini (1500-1571) had used this therapy on his fingers and toes to successfully cure a pain in his body. James Abram Garfield (1831-1881), who was the President of America and who was apparently assassinated, had used this therapy on his feet to get himself cured. Many books related to reflex therapy were published in Europe during the 16th century. There were reflexology books written by Dr, Adamus and Dr. A`tatis, and similar books were published and circulated in the market by Dr. Ball of Leipzig.
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Dr William Fitzgerald is the person who should get the credit to make reflexology prominent. He was born in 1872, and in 1895 he graduated in medicine from the University of Vermont in U.S.A. After working and gaining experiences in hospitals in Vienna, London and Paris, he became an E.N.T (ear, nose, throat) specialist and settled down in Connecticut. In Vienna he studied and researched reflex therapy and he also studied Dr. H. Bresslar's version of this treatment and wrote a book on his observations on this healing method. It is interesting to know that according to Dr. Bresslar therapeutic foot massage was prevalent in the 14th century. Dr. Fitzgerald had begun to practice reflexology on his patients; he applied pressure techniques by using things like rubber bands, clams and probes. According to his assumptions if pressure was put on some parts of the foot, it causes anesthesia in certain parts of the body. His further researches, made him divide the body into ten equal longitudinal energy zones. Five of the zones were related to the right side of the body, while the other five were related to the left side of the body. An imaginary line was drawn from the top of the head through the center of the body. The ten energy zones as portrayed by Dr. Fitzgerald shows that, they all end up on the soles of the feet and the palms of the hand.
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Dr. Edwind Bowers was Dr. Fitzgerald's co-worker; in 1916 he publicly said that the treatment, which was practiced by Dr. Fitzgerald, was Zone Therapy. After a year both the doctors combined their work and wrote a book on Zone therapy itself. The contents of the book were about suggestions, treatments, and recommendations for the whole medical fraternity like doctors, dentists, E.N.T specialists and chiropractors. But these theories were not well received by the general medical fraternity, but Dr. Joseph Shelby Riley and his doctor wife were quite interested in the zone therapy and attended all the courses offered by Dr. Fitzgerald and even used them in their own practices. What we know today about reflexology is thanks to Dr. Joseph Riley's assistant Eunice Ingham (1879-1947).
Eunice Ingham was a devoted researcher and it was she who pointed out that all the energy zones inside our body were located at our feet, and that the feet were the reflection of the entire body. She found that the feet were much more sensitive than the hands and therefore concluded, that the treatment should be carried out on the feet and not on the hands. During her lifetime, Eunice Ingham wrote two books: "Stories The Feet Can Tell" and "Stories The Feet Have Told". She traveled a lot for several years teaching and sharing her experience with various therapists like naturopaths, masseurs and osteopaths. In 1960 Doreen Bayly introduced reflexology to England. She was one of the students of Eunice Ingham and she even opened a training school on reflexology there.
Today reflexology is a therapy, which is growing rapidly worldwide. From the beginning it has developed into a more scientific approach established from the knowledge of anatomy and physiology. This is the reason it has been accepted into medicine and many countries have given their acceptance to associations related to reflexology.
Reflexology is mostly based on Dr. Fitzgerald's concept of zone therapy or the zone system. Ten separate energy zones circulate inside our body, five on the right side and five on the left side with the longitudinal lines known as the zones, and inside these zones lie the organs and muscles of the human body.
In 1970, Hanne Marquarett who was a German reflexologist and who wrote a book called "Reflex Zone Therapy Of The Feet" added her version to the method of zone therapy. According to her, it is much easier to locate the reflexes of the human feet by again dividing it into three traverse zones. She drew these three imaginary lines across the body, which corresponded to another three imaginary lines made across the feet. Her version showed the feet having a small map of ten longitudinal and three transverse zones.
First Transverse Zone: Is found in the level of the shoulder girdle and is connected to the head and neck. Concerning the feet, all reflexes related to it are found above the shoulder girdle.
Second Transverse Zone: Lies at the waistline and relates to the chest and the upper abdomen. All reflexes connected to this part of the body are found between the first and second transverse line (the waistline) on the feet.
About the hands, the reflexes concerned with the chest, upper abdomen, neck and head are found above the second transverse line.
Third Transverse Zone: Runs across the pelvic girdle and is related to the lower abdomen and pelvis. All reflexes concerned with this body part are found between the second and third transverse line (the pelvic girdle) on the feet, and below the second transverse line on the hands.
Along the longitudinal zones when the energy current flows, sometimes there is an obstruction at certain points, which is known as energy blocks. These blocks interfere with the smooth flow of energy, throughout the body, which is the root cause of pains and diseases.
To make sure the body has a free flow of energy and is back in harmony, the techniques of reflexology are used and specific massages and pressures are used on the reflexes of the feet and hands.
There are many reasons why our body goes through energy blocks; tension or stress, bad food habits or bad lifestyle, broken relationships etc. Before getting treated by reflexology, it is best to get a counseling done too. By coordinating both these two treatments you can also get rid of the cause of the heath problems, as well as get cured from the disorder or disease itself. If by counseling the patient is not able to accept the cause of the problem or cannot find out the cause of the problem, then the energy blocks keep recurring again.
Normally, if a person goes to a doctor to get an ailment cured, he or she would just get a prescription to consume some medicines and there is no such thing as taking responsibilities apart from having the medicines in time. But in reflexology, the approach is different; the patient is involved in the entire process and also must take responsibility with the therapist for his or her well being. If you compare conventional medicine to complimentary therapy, then the latter is definitely a much better option.
The entire process of reflexology is based on massage and pressure techniques that concentrate on the reflex areas of the feet and the hands, and it is very essential to learn the anatomy of these parts of the body. The position of the transverse zones is directly linked to the skeletal structure of the body; it is also essential to study these structures in more details so that the reflex area is located correctly.