The ‘walking’ technique has been the default setting for reflexology since Eunice Ingham first described it in her seminal book, Stories the Feet Can Tell, published in 1938. Since that time it has undergone various interpretations and dilutions.
The prime objective of reflexology is to detect disturbed reflexes and apply the appropriate contact. In a recent blog I made the point that reflexology has something of an Alice in Wonderland quality when it comes to the detection of reflexes: not everything is as it seems. It is impossible to make a reliable reflex assessment and give the appropriate contact by using only one technique. Reflexology is not a ‘one size fits all’ therapy.
And yet, this is how most reflexologists practise. Erroneous practice protocols are based on this notion. Case histories and even research evidence are drawn from this one-dimensional approach.
A comparison can be made with the Indian parable of the five blind men and the elephant. It was suggested that each of them feel a different part of the elephant. To the one who felt the trunk it felt like the branch of a tree. To the one who touched the tail it felt like a snake or a rope. To the one who touched the ear it felt like a fan, and so forth. In the same way, each reflexology technique reveals only one perspective or layer of the reflexes.
To make a comprehensive assessment of disturbed reflexes it is essential that, in addition to walking, a range of techniques is used. This can only be achieved by using the fingers, thumbs and hands in a variety of ways. It was with this in mind that I conceived a protocol that became known as ART (Advanced Reflexology Techniques) in 1983. The techniques have been steadily developed ever since, and now include Focused Reflexology©
Another important factor is the depth of contact. Reflexology has mainly become identified as only something to lull the patient into a somnolent state. This may have a use in a spa setting, but this approach does not explore the full therapeutic potential of the therapy. This can be achieved by a more focused and positive approach.
The fingers and thumbs can be used in ways other than walking: there are variations of contact such as static, pulsing and sliding. Sometimes lubrication can be used, but in a specific and frugal way. It should not be used in conjunction with the walking techniques.
This is why it is important to begin a treatment without lubrication.
Working without lubrication reveals certain types of reflexes, enabling a range of contacts to be made. For instance, thumb walking can be used with manual flexing of the foot, or the application of pulsed and static contacts.
The dorsal/lateral surfaces of the feet are generally neglected in traditional reflexology, yet they contain a matrix of therapeutic reflex areas. Again, these are best contacted without the use of lubrication. Focused movements which move the skin over the skeletal structures of the dorsum, and a static application of the same contact, can only be performed without lubrication. The same goes for the dorsal surfaces of the toes, another neglected area which elicits a powerful response that can be felt throughout the body of the patient.
Effective contact of these areas can only be achieved through controlled and focused contact of the fingers.
Lubrication can be used for specific techniques and adds other dimensions to the treatment. The dorsal/lateral areas can be contacted effectively in a different way with lubrication, using specific focused techniques. This also applies to the dorsal areas of the toes. Lubrication is not necessary for every patient; it depends on the type of foot, texture and other factors. If used, it must be used very sparingly, or the treatment will become more of a foot massage.
The use of different types of contact and stimulus reveals a new perspective to the potential of reflexology as a therapy. Like discovering buried treasure, these contacts will reap rich therapeutic rewards. Having a range of techniques, literally at your fingertips, enables the individual reflex textures in all variations of feet to be detected and contacted effectively. Once experience of these alternative ways of working has been gained, a different world of reflexology will be revealed, not only to your benefit but, most importantly, to the patient.