Interview - Complementary medicine
Put your feet up

Graca Ward has been practicing reflexology for the past 12 years. Callan Emery spoke to her to find out more about this increasingly popular form of therapy.

Callan Emery: What is reflexology?

Graca Ward: Basically reflexology is the stimulation of reflexes in the feet and those reflexes correspond to an area inside the body. The body has what we call meridians or energy lines that link one part of the body to another. So a reflexologist stimulates a point on the foot which is linked to another part of the body via a meridian line.

CE: Are these meridians nerve pathways?

GW: I’m not sure. As far as I know it has not been scientifically proven that they are nerve pathways. But there definitely is a connection between the reflexes on your foot and certain places of the body. When you are actually doing the treatment some people feel the energy in those places in the body. And a lot of people report feeling better in those places in the body. So we have to assume that there are energy pathways within the body. Acupuncture treatment, for example, also makes use of these meridians. Reflexology, acupuncture and Reiki work according to the same principles – that is releasing energy blockages within the body.

CE: Does reflexology, like acupuncture, have its roots in China?

It has been practised in Asia for a long time, but I think the earliest record of reflexology is from an image found at an ancient Egyptian archaeological site.

CE: Can you give me a brief breakdown of which parts of the foot correspond to which parts of the body?

It’s actually quite simple. If you start with the top of your foot, that corresponds to the top of the body. So the big toe corresponds to the head/brain, then the neck of the big toe corresponds to the neck and then you have the shoulders and so on. A diagram will explain it really well. This goes right down to your heel which corresponds to the pelvis. Some people ask “where are your legs and arms?” These are on the side of your foot. When you do the whole foot massage you actually stimulate all the areas of the body, not just the areas that the client says are affected. So if you come to a reflexologist with a headache, for example, we are not only going to do the head region because it is important to keep the body’s energy in balance.

CE: What sort of healing effect does reflexology have? What ailments can you treat?

GW: Firstly, reflexology promotes deep relaxation. It put you in an altered state of consciousness – in between being awake and being asleep. You know that feeling when you are falling asleep and you have that sensation of falling which only lasts a few seconds or a minute. Reflexology takes you to this state for the length of the treatment, usually an about hour. It reenergises your body by boosting the flow of oxygenated blood to all the organs and areas of the body. What can it heal? It can heal many different things. Essentially reflexology promotes relaxation so the body can heal itself. Reflexology itself will not heal you, but it creates a relaxed state so the body’s own capacity for regeneration can go to work easily. This includes premenstrual tension, arthritis, hypertension and so on.

CE: Do you have clients visiting you regularly or do they visit for one-off treatments?

If you were to go to a doctor with a headache, for example, it is unlikely that he would give you one tablet and send you away and that would be it. He would most likely give you a course of medication. In reflexology it should also be a course of treatment, although a lot of people feel better after two or three sessions. Obviously, depending on the treatment you should see your reflexologist for several sessions initially and then try to maintain a regular visit once a month or so.

CE: This is complementary medicine. Take flu for example, should your clients also be visiting an orthodox doctor?

Yes, definitely. In some cases patients are so run down they cannot heal themselves with the aid of reflexology. They need to see a doctor as well. The doctor will treat the symptoms which will strengthen the patient enough so that they can then treat the cause of the illness with reflexology.

CE: Can anyone visit a reflexologist? Can you treat small children, for example?

Reflexology is for all ages. No one should feel excluded. However, reflexology is not recommended for epileptics or people who have had a thrombosis. It’s recommended for pregnant woman and for post-operative patients. It promotes recuperation. People are always surprised at how fast they heal with reflexology. Although with flu, for example, it may make the client feel slightly worse initially, but it shortens the time of recuperation. Qualified Graca Ward has been practising reflexology for 12 years in South Africa and the United Arab Emirates. She was trained at the Reflexology Healing Academy of South Africa which is recognised worldwide. Ward points out that clients should be aware of a reflexologist’s qualifications as there are people practising reflexology who are not qualified to do so.

To contact Graca Ward call: +971 505659048 or email:

For a comprehensive list of reflexology resources visit:

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