I recently wrote a post on the multiple benefits of Sports Massage; it’s a topic about which I still receive regular emails, so I thought I’d extend the series into this post looking at reflexology – how it works, along with its many advantages. That’s because in training, we rely on our feet far more than we perhaps realise; for stability in stance, springing up / off, gaining traction, sprinting, climbing, propulsive kicking in the pool… yet for all their relentless use, they’re generally neglected and often in need of some serious TLC. Reflexology is a holistic, ancient Chinese practice, which like a sports massage isn’t a cosmetic skin-level treatment but instead aims to bring relief to a wide range of conditions (including stress, muscle tension, hormonal imbalances, back pain, poor circulation, toxin cleansing, digestive problems, menopause, sleep difficulties, and migraines). My personal experience has been of extreme relaxation and refreshment, which really helped to invigorate my workouts. Read my top 10 benefits of reflexology HERE, along with these pictures we shot with Havaianas on my recent active trip to Santorini …
How does Reflexology work?
It’s a complementary therapy that targets specific reflex points we all have on our feet (as well as lower legs, face, hands, and ears). By massaging and applying manipulative pressure on the feet, practitioners can stimulate the central nervous system in quite precise ways. Specific points on the feet are shown to correspond to functions carried out by other parts of the body, and the pressure applied to them sends signals to release tension to internal organs and/or specific muscles (there’s a great ‘foot map’ HERE, at the Association of Reflexologists online). Importantly, reflexologists never claim to ‘cure’, ‘treat’ or ‘prescribe’; it’s a holistic practice.
Reflexology is believed to release ‘trapped energy’ – a build up of emotional stress or feeling unwell, enabling energy to flow more freely through relaxation. Sounds perhaps a little more whimsical than deconstructing the mechanical science of a deadlift, but there is a science to this too and plenty of educational study which goes into the practice of this discipline. Also, the post-treatment stories from staunch cynics are enough to suggest there’s genuine value here.
Anyone can effectively call themselves a reflexologist, so as with most ‘treatments’ make sure you ask where the person has been trained as it makes all the difference. On my recent trip to Katikes, Santorini (Active Escape coming soon), I spent some relaxing time in the space.
Below is my take on the 10 key benefits of Reflexology:
1) Improved blood circulation – reflexology can stimulate oxygen and nutrient transmission to the organs as well as helping with waste removal. Tension can have a restrictive effect on blood flow which could lead to under-oxygenated muscles, and adverse effects such as the dreaded cramp! This treatment keeps the blood flowing and the tissue fresh!
2) Improved respiratory function – There’s been a swathe of research written to address the way that Reflexology can help those suffering from respiratory disorders. For the asthmatic, the discipline encourages calm, enabling the sufferer to reach the end of the episode more readily – certain reflexology techniques, relating to pressure points in the hand, can help to relax the diaphragm, stimulate our lungs and boost an immune response.
3) Improved endocrine flow – the strongest practicing reflexologists believe they’re able to detect if an endocrine reflex is under/overactive, and can manipulate the reflexes accordingly until such time as they feel a balance returning.
4) Improved immune activity – some people experience healing reactions to reflexology sessions, whereby they’ll have a runny nose for example (I didn’t, personally). It’s thought to be a manifestation of the ‘detoxifying’ process, which is why many recommend that you drink plenty of fluid before and after the session, in order to facilitate the flushing out.
5) Reduce stress – a session of reflexology, from personal experience, promotes relaxation. There’s something surprising about having the feet manipulated in a manner which counteracts the usual toughness they require; this sensation of relaxation is a great combatant to the accumulated stresses.
6) Improved pain relief – in 2010, Dr. Carol Samuel (then of the University of Portsmouth) discovered that following reflexology for pain relief, patients experienced c.40% less pain, and could tolerate pain for 45% more time. That’s compelling.
7) Eases digestive problems – the likes of indigestion, heartburn, IBS etc are thought to be addressed by acupressure. Certain pressure points around the body are said to help in opening up the digestive channel and in so doing, calm the system.
8) Fatigue – many of us wake up drained of energy, stumbling zombie-like into our daily churn. Direct acupressure on the adrenal, thyroid and kidney points are said to help counteract the fatiguing effects of cortisol and adrenaline, which pervade the troubles of a difficult day.
9) Muscle tension – many of us are sat at desks in one position for too long, we lift heavy objects with poor form, we suffer from emotional bouts… all of which lead to stress and thus muscle tension which congests pathways linking muscles to the rest of the body and only goes to build stress further, along with possible knotted pain. A session of reflexology can help to stimulate the nerve-endings in your feet to release this tension, and in so doing, to render the muscles relaxed.
10) Detoxifying – cleansing the lymphatic, urinary or intestinal systems. Reflexology can counteract the effects of bloating and lethargy, releasing blockage and flushing toxins / waste. The result is a natural balance.
A huge thanks to Havaianas who generously supplied my well-treated feet with a selection of wonderful products, ranging from deliciously summer pale-canary espadrilles, to a fun snoopy-themed pair, and even a show-stopping Swarovski-embellished version of their iconic white flip-flop. All photos were shot on location at the exquisite Katikies Hotel in Santorini, which will be the subject of an upcoming post! Stay tuned x