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Ancient Foundations and Modern Applications of Reflexology: The founder of the Southwest Institute of Healing Arts shares the basics of this natural healing art

Sep 30, 2013 07:58AM ● By KC Miller

“This little piggy went to market, this little piggy stayed home,” is a rhyme we hear as children, playfully explaining the significance of each toe. While the elementary explanation may be a little nebulous, the concept that each toe represents something special is true from the point of view of reflexology.

Reflexology is a natural healing art based on the principle there are reflex points in the feet, hands and ears that directly correspond to every part and organ of the body. Through the application of pressure on these reflex points by a skilled practitioner’s hands, along with the use of tools, lotions and aromatherapy, tension and dis-ease can be relieved or eliminated.

Practices resembling reflexology can be traced as far back as 2450 B.C. in ancient petroglyphs on the walls of an Egyptian tomb. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, wrote about the curative effects of this modality. In more recent times, Dr. William H. Fitzgerald, an ear, nose, and throat doctor, introduced this concept of "zone therapy" in 1915. American physiotherapist Eunice Ingram further developed zone theory in the 1930s into what is now known as reflexology.

Reflexology is a form of bodywork used specifically for the purpose of tension release. A scientific explanation describes how the pressure applied to a related area may send signals that balance the nervous system or release chemicals such as endorphins that reduce pain and stress. For example: tips of the toes reflect the head; heart and chest are around the ball of the foot; liver, pancreas and kidney are in the arch of the foot; and low back and intestines are toward the heel. Practitioners believe that applying pressure to these reflex areas can promote health in the corresponding organs through energetic pathways.

Recently, Dr. Andrew Weil, director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona, appeared on the Dr. Oz television program touting the benefits of the reflexology technique based on a 5,000-year-old theory of Chinese medicine of applying pressure to specific points on the body to activate channels, or “meridians”. This application of pressure helps to release tension and promote the free flow of blood and energy. Weil confirmed his belief that this type of therapy has been used for centuries to provide pain relief, improve circulation and alleviate muscle tension.

Louise Hay, best known for her 1984 book, You Can Heal Your Life, taught the transformative power of thought. She reported how she had refused conventional medical treatment when diagnosed with cervical cancer and began a regime of forgiveness, nutrition and reflexology to facilitate her healing.

Today, hundreds of practitioners around the world apply the ancient and classical theories of reflexology as a self-contained healing modality or as a part of a massage therapy session. Currently trained practitioners are incorporating this cutting-edge information on how the body, mind and emotions interrelate.

Life coaching and emotional reflexology are more recent additions to this time-tested healing modality. Trained reflexologists come to understand and literally feel in the feet where a person is ill, not functioning optimally or even holding negative energy. They learn to understand the connection between poor health and an individual's emotional well-being and how to read the feet and toes for blocked places that need specific pressure. By combining reflexology with coaching their clients through negative life patterns and adverse states of mind, they can help people clear the pathways to physical and emotional wellness.

While everyone loves a good foot rub, there is a precise science and healing art involved in touching and applying pressure to the feet. Reflexologists know that they can truly help this little piggy be healthy and joyful, all the way home.

KC Miller, founder of Southwest Institute of Healing Arts (SWIHA) and author of Toe Reading: Are You Walking Your Destined Path, has been a reflexologist for nearly 25 years. SWIHA offers reflexology educational programs. Learn more at

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