Did you know that the whole body is mapped on the feet and hands? By applying pressure to specific points (‘reflexes’) which relate to body parts (including internal organs like the heart and kidneys), a reflexologist can help release blocked energy from the client’s system allowing the body to heal itself.
Based on ancient Chinese healing traditions going back 5000 years, reflexology has taken off in the Western world over the past hundred years thanks to physiotherapist Eunice Ingham’s studies and research.
As well as owing much to the Chinese tradition, modern reflexology has similarities with healing practices found amongst the ancient Egyptians and indigenous people around the world including Native Americans.
We all have energy systems (in the Chinese traditions and reflexology, this is known as ‘Qi’) as well as physical bodies. When these subtle bodies get blocked (this may be caused by stresses, imbalances or trauma), it can turn into physical issues. Treatments are said to nourish the spirit as well as the body.
Some benefits of reflexology
While foot reflexology is most popular, hand reflexology is ideal for people who don’t like their feet to be touched and also can be used more easily as a self-help tool.
A range of studies show that reflexology is more beneficial than a foot-rub. Positive improvements have been measurable via brainwaves, blood pressure and pulse rate as well as people’s experiences with it lowering blood anxiety and stress.
Because a reflexologist works on the hands and/or feet, it’s an accessible treatment for all ages. Reflexology can ease symptoms of a wide range of acute and chronic conditions including arthritis, menopause, back pain and muscular issues, hormonal issues, migraines, digestive and circulatory issues, stress and anxiety.
Stress exacerbates many conditions (up to 90% of doctors’ visits are estimated to be stress related) so its relaxing benefits can have far reaching positive impacts. Reflexology’s restorative benefits are often experienced as lasting longer than the treatment. Treatments are also wonderful ways to release blockages (detoxing and cleansing the whole system) leaving the body better able to find natural and lasting balance.
What will you learn?
Depending on the level you choose to study to, you could learn self help reflexology tools and techniques as well as ways to help friends and family. If you choose to study beyond the basics and qualify, you will gain experience in practising on potential future clients, too as well as learning about anatomy. Courses mix theory with practice.
Your hands on experience will include case studies which will form part of your workload ensuring you are ready to begin a professional practice by the time you graduate.
You will also learn about healthy living practices and ways to help clients have confidence in you, as a practitioner, and themselves in following positive lifestyle change recommendations and perhaps even maintaining self help homework between sessions.
Keeping your coursework and notes organised will be good practice for keeping good records when, if you choose to set up a practice yourself, you’re keeping your own professional records.
If you want to become a reflexologist, you might benefit from a business course too in order to get a great grounding in what’s needed to build up a successful practice.
Once you’re qualified, you might choose to join an established health and wellbeing practice or set up on your own. As well as working from boutique hotels, exciting events and all sorts of workplaces, many reflexologists work with charities offering reflexology services to people struggling with health conditions.
You might choose to specialise in a specific issues (for example, doing additional training to work with pregnant women or another specialist area that you are interested in) or work with the wide range of issues clients may bring.
Is it right for you?
If you’re a tactile soul (or sole – get it?), and like helping people who may have issues (health, weight or confidence related) which prevent them enjoying other types of massage treatments, you might love this line of work.
As with all types of professional qualifications, research the most appropriate professional bodies governing the industry to ensure you’ll be eligible to join once you qualify. This will enable you to access ongoing support, benefit from being on their registers and their guidelines regarding ethics and best practice.
If you like flexibility, becoming a reflexologist offers a wide range of options in terms of specialisms and even for hours of work.
Many famous names have talked about benefitting from reflexology. Metallica’s lead singer, James Hetfield called it an addiction, No Reservations chef, Anthony Bourdain, has tried it and Princess Diana was said to have had three reflexology sessions a week at one point. Even back in Ancient Egypt, Anthony and Cleopatra were said to enjoy the treatments.
By Eve Menezes Cunningham