18 November 2009

Feet up

How many people get paid to lie on their beds and get a foot rub? I was lucky enough. Reflexology has a new convert, writes Susan Erasmus.


Sometimes I get paid to do rather unexpected things. These have included attending a conference on gastroenterology in children, speaking on the radio about people who get married too young and writing an article on arthritis and gardening.

But how many people get paid to lie on their bed and have their feet rubbed?

This time I at least had a choice of what I wanted to do. Everyone on the staff was being sent off to go for alternative healing sessions and then write about them.

I wasn’t brave enough for the crystal healing session (too much of a confirmed cynic), the lymph-draining session sounded a bit like something a plumber should do in my bathroom, and the thought of going on a four-day meditation session in the middle of nowhere was about as attractive as living on broccoli for a year. I am simply not brave enough to brave the Great Outdoors and face my demons all in one go.

Why I chose reflexology
So reflexology it was to be. At least I have some faith in this. A friend, who knows something about reflexology, has always been remarkably accurate in diagnosing ailments by pressing on different parts of my hand, and waiting for me to wince. A bit disconcerting to find out your immune system is sending out distress signals, just as you reach for that second glass of wine in the middle of a restaurant. You can’t have it all, I suppose.

But there’s more to reflexology than this. A lot more, as I was to find out from the two calm, but energetic women who arrived at my house to introduce me to the world of reflexology. They unpacked several bags from the car – enough for a weekend away, I thought.

Here are the basics I learnt from Cornel Vermeulen and her assistant around my kitchen table, while my cat tried to decide whose lap was best:

  • - Reflexology is a modern Western therapy in which pressure is applied to distinct areas of the feet.
  • - Reflexologists do not diagnose specific illnesses and they cannot prescribe medication, but they can refer you to the right medical personnel.
  • - Forms of acupressure have been used for centuries by the Chinese, the Egyptians and inhabitants of Central Asia.
  • - It is believed that there is a network of energy lines throughout the body called meridians. These energy meridians are the conduit for the vital force which flows through the body.
  • - These energy lines can become blocked or stagnant, but can also be brought into balance through the activation of the acupoints.
  • - Pressure is applied to these acupoints, which causes physiological changes to take place. This stimulates the body’s own healing potential.
  • - Reflex areas on the feet correspond with all the body parts – in short, the feet are a microcosm of the body.
  • - Reflexology aims to bring about improved circulation, increased levels of organ functioning and more efficient distribution of nutrients.
  • - It encourages a lifestyle change.
  • - The purpose of reflexology is to assist the body to return to a state of equilibrium and balance by eliminating toxins and decongesting the meridians.

Getting down to it
It was time for action. I was secretly grateful that my domestic worker had been the day before – even my bedroom was presentable for public scrutiny.

I lay down on my bed with several cushions placed strategically. Cornel rubbed some ointment onto my feet (supposedly stress-relieving, so I had to ask whether they sold it by the litre) and explained that she was going to apply some pressure to the soles of my feet and I had to rate what it felt like. Was it slightly sensitive, sensitive, or quite sore?

By this stage I had overcome the strange feeling of having a stranger massaging my feet in my own house – and being paid for it.

In short, it was marvellous. I realise that touch is a rare commodity in our society. The session was not painful at all – on the contrary.

Picking up ailments
The amazing thing is how accurate she was in picking up ailments – even ones that are long gone. This included a chronic cough that disappeared ten years ago, and a bladder problem I had before I went to school. She also asked whether I had been in regular contact with someone who irked me immensely, but had now disappeared. Right again. In short, I was amazed.

She also massaged my feet and the lower parts of my calves, while her assistant took notes of everything that was said.

An hour later it was all over. I was told that I was mostly healthy (I am), but that I needed to find more of an outlet for my creativity (I do).

I waved them goodbye. I felt wonderful – calm and in control and relaxed. The kind of feeling that people are after when they want prescription drugs to calm them down. The good news is that there is a healthier and easier way. And I have now found it.

Not even the howling wind that blew down my wooden gate later that day could upset me.

I am going again on Saturday. Reflexology has a new convert.

(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated November 2009)

Source: The Art of Reflexology by Inge Dougans

For more information, contact: The International Academy of Therapeutic Reflexology and Meridian Therapy on 011 807 7184 / 011 807 2167 or visit Alternatively, contact Marian de Jager on (021) 883 2522.


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