This practice soothes stress and boosts sleep.

By Lauren Wellbank
July 02, 2020
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reflexology feet
Credit: Getty / boonchai wedmakawand

If you've ever been curious about reflexology, an Eastern medical practice, but were overwhelmed by the amount of information available online, you've come to the correct place. Ahead, an expert weighs in on everything you need to know about this method (which is all about your feet!), including why you should add reflexology to your self-care routine.

Zone Theory

Theresa Amundsen, a licensed massage therapist with Modrn Sanctuary, explains that reflexology is an "early Eastern modality" on which Zone Theory was developed; it involves various techniques and acupressure. "To simplify, the foot is divided into different areas representing zones," she says. "These zones correspond to each of our organs, glands, and systems." For every spot in your body, there is a place on your foot to match. A reflexologist will then manipulate your foot in order to impact those corresponding spots.

The Method

There are different methods of manipulating the foot to achieve a desired result. "'Thumb walking' is done on the sole of the foot (deeper organs), while 'finger walking' is done lightly on the top of the foot and ankle (superficial areas), affecting specific areas associated with the organs," Amundsen says. Reflexology, however, is not a foot massage (though it can be very relaxing!), she says. Not only can reflexology be done on more than the foot—Amundsen says that it can also be done on the hands and ears—but the manipulation methods are not actually massage techniques. It requires a deeper touch, which is why it is often perfect for those who are ticklish.

What to Expect

Once your reflexologist has determined the areas of your body you are looking to address, they will begin their manipulation tactics. According to Amundsen, you can expect the process to be a soothing one. "Usually people feel relaxed immediately (many sleep!), therefore releasing tension that we tend to hold onto when we're stressed," she says. A buildup of these negative feelings can lead to serious health issues, she explains, including heart disease and cancer.

Reflexology Benefits

Beyond relieving stress, reflexology can also reduce pain, improve the immune system response, increase circulation, facilitate detoxification, and promote homeostasis—which is the balance of the body. And there are long-term mental health benefits, as well. "I find reflexology extremely helpful for people who lead a stressful lifestyle especially with work and family," Amundsen says. "It not only helps you relax, but keeps you focused!"

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