Reflexology – no mean feet
Get footloose, kick off your shoes and get on the zone, writes Margot Bertelsmann
THERE IS NO better way to get on the zone than to do reflexology!
WHAT IS REFLEXOLOGY?
Reflexology is an alternative health therapy, often mistaken with a massage, but it is holistic and helps keep the body in balance, thus helping activate the body’s natural abilities to heal itself. The practice of reflexology divides the body into reflex zones, which correspond to organs and zones of the body, in this way treating the entire body.
You may ask yourself how these maps of the body were discovered, and how one can prove they exist. A problem for reflexology is that there is disagreement on which body map of the foot is correct. The scientific method of coming to conclusions involves observation, and then testing of the data.
To date, no scientific evidence has been found to prove that reflexology works to cure ailments or diseases – barring some evidence that foot massage can reduce blood pressure.
Touch has however been found to release the feel- good hormones dopamine and serotonin, and lower the levels of cortisol and adrenaline in our bodies.
Reflexologists answer that their therapy is aimed at preventing, not curing, disease as part of a holistic health plan.
REFLEXOLOGY AND BABY
For parents, reflexology is a wonderful tool to promote wellness, relaxation and bonding between parent and child.
It is generally regarded as very safe for infants, and feels wonderful, so there is no harm in trying it out on your baby, no matter how sceptical you may be.
Reflexologist Melanie Martins says reflexology is pressure point therapy on the feet, lower legs, and hands and is effective across all ages.
“For babies, we focus less on the hands as they are still small and undefined. It is easier to practise on the feet of infants.”
It is a complementary therapy, which means it is to be used in combination with other treatments or lifestyle changes to improve your general wellbeing, and a preventative treatment, meaning it encourages wellness before disease even begins.
“We know that touch can influence biochemical reactions, that it lowers the stress hormone cortisol, that it has a potential effect on the immune system, that it helps individuals relax deeply and helps with sleep,” says Melanie.
“Although more research is needed, we think reflexology could help with pain – so it is worth trying for teething or digestive complaints.”
SO WHEN AND HOW CAN I START?
“I personally encourage moms and dads to start foot massage as soon as they feel comfortable to do so,” says Melanie.
“Once a baby’s foot loses its convex shape and elongates you can get more specific. As baby’s foot grows, it becomes more exciting to work on specific reflexes.
“Start by using your index finger to massage, later moving on to using your thumb. At about two months, you can start to target specific reflexes, but right from birth you can target the entire foot, ankle and lower leg with gentle touch in just five minutes. To aid bonding and to maintain health, you can do a gentle foot massage once or twice a day for five minutes. For specific ailments, stimulating a specific reflex every hour
or so may help support your baby.”
Melanie says babies are more receptive to therapy because they haven’t yet been overwhelmed by trauma, bad lifestyle choices and emotional upset from dayto-day stresses.
“Use baby safe creams and oils – baby powder works fine too, as does jojoba, grapeseed, or avocado oils,” says Melanie. “If you want to use essential oils, chamomile and lavender are usually fine (check the packaging) although some parents prefer to wait until the baby’s a little bit older before introducing essential oils.”
HOW DO I KNOW IF I AM DOING IT WRONG?
If parents are doing too deep a massage a baby can undergo what Melanie calls a “healing crisis”. “Although this is more often seen in adults, it is a toxic reaction. A baby is usually clear of toxins so their reaction shouldn’t be so serious,” she says.
Use very light pressure on babies and stop if they cry. Start for short periods. The older the baby gets the longer you can work on them, because they stay still for longer and start to really enjoy it. Don’t persist if you can tell your baby doesn’t want it by fussing and avoid rubbing on broken skin.
Also be aware that reflexology is contraindicated (so in other words should not be done) for conditions including broken bones, deep vein thrombosis, metastases and diabetes.
Finally bear in mind that a baby who is sick with fever or diarrhoea should always be monitored by a qualified doctor first and foremost in order to diagnose and treat any illnesses in case they are serious. YB