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.
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?
GW: 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.
Can you give me a brief breakdown of which parts of the foot correspond
to which parts of the body?
GW: 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
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
GW: 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
GW: 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
CE: Can anyone visit a reflexologist? Can you treat small children,
GW: 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:
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