When was the last time you worried about your qi? For most of us, the answer will be never. According to Chinese traditions and the theory of reflexology, we have an energy field as well as a physical body and it is a blockage of the energy system that can cause pain. The whole body is mapped onto the hands and feet; with the application of pressure the body can send signals to ‘balance’ the nervous system, release chemicals such as endorphins and reduce stress and pain. Improving ones qi by manipulating the feet and healing all pain is the goal, and reflexology has become a popular alternative therapy in the UK.
Here on the Hotcourses editorial desk, it is safe to say we were a little sceptical. Yet with hundreds of reflexology courses listed on our site and reflexologists all over the world practising the treatment, we were ready to be proved wrong. With this in mind, we asked our intrepid reporter Eleanor Blackburn to find out more by taking part in a London reflexology class, focusing on head, ear and hand massage. When we caught up with Eleanor after the class she told us, ‘Spidering, hacking, suture pull and tornados were not terms I would readily associate with relaxation and healing. In fact, they sounded more like the kind of torture that would make James Bond reconsider his career! Luckily for me, I discovered that in fact they are all techniques designed to promote a sense of wellbeing.’
An aura of calm
We wanted to know what it was like entering the reflexology classroom, is it as calming as the course provider photos suggest? Living in a hectic city that doesn’t stop, in London it is often difficult to find the time or space to leave your worries at the door and truly relax. Eleanor was quick to reassure us; ‘As soon as I entered the intimate and comfy study area, I felt a sense of calm. This feeling continued as I met the course tutor and fellow students.’
Here at Hotcourses we are very aware of the stereotypical grumble that returning to the classroom later in life will be like reliving those school days we would rather forget. This could not be further from the truth; a part time or evening class is a great way to learn something new and make new friends. When it came to her reflexology class, Eleanor found, ‘There were people of all ages and different backgrounds, all bonded together by a genuine desire to help others. The warmth and easy feeling among my fellow students really helped lay to rest any reservations I might have had about massaging eleven strangers!’
‘I soon realised the majority of students already had a background in reflexology, as the course could count towards their Continued Professional Development points. However, as a beginner I thoroughly enjoyed the day and left proudly clutching my certificate.’ Don’t be put off by other learners who might know more and remember that everyone starts somewhere!
Use your head
There is no doubt that reflexology and other alternative therapies have their cynics. We asked Eleanor about this; ‘I actually found out that with more people eschewing conventional medicine, complementary therapies are enjoying an increased popularity. Yet there has also been a corresponding backlash, with sceptics dismissing such treatments as lacking scientific grounding. I was therefore relieved when the course began with a theoretical explanation of the reasons why the therapies are effective and the science behind the practice. This included an examination of the work of (the appropriately named) Henry Head, who discovered dermatomes – zones at the base of the skull that relate to the flow of energy to certain areas of our bodies.’
Every reflexology course will be slightly different, so it is worth reading the description carefully to ensure you find the one for you. For Eleanor, the variety on her course was the best part; ‘Although the course focused on head massage and body reflexology, it included many other therapies such as reiki healing and hot stone massage. This emphasised the principle that practitioners should seek to provide the best treatment for their client and not be restricted to one therapy.’
Blindfolds and caterpillars
Finally we got to the question we had been longing to ask, what was it like actually doing the reflexology? Eleanor laughs, telling us it was not until they had mastered the theory that they began to practise what they had learnt, ‘Refining our technique by giving and receiving treatments. The use of blindfolds helped us to focus our thoughts on the touch and pressures that were most effective. The teaching was innovative and fun and our tutor’s descriptions were colourful and memorable, with the “playtex cross-over bra move” and “caterpillars making love” two notable examples!’
Noticing our confusion Eleanor adds, ‘Joking aside, the reflexology course was thorough and instilled confidence in the abilities of all who attended. When I asked my fellow students if they had all enjoyed the course as much as I had I received a resounding yes!’ So all together now: breath out, breathe in, breathe out and let go.
If Eleanor has left you wanting to know more about reflexology, why not find a course and try it for yourself? With plenty of full time, part time and evening classes available, take a deep breath and get to know your qi.
This article was updated on 18.09.14.
Jane McGuire received her BA (English) from the University of Loughborough. A yoga enthusiast with a sweet tooth, in her spare time you will probably find Jane in the gym or online shopping.