The ancient art of reflexology offers benefits for both body and mind.
By Ashley Burnett
Reflexology, a treatment involving the use of varying pressure on specific points on the feet, hands and ears, has debatable origins. Some say it began in 4,000 B.C. in China, where foot therapy treatments were common, while others say it began in ancient Egypt or was utilized by Native Americans. According to Christine Issel, an expert reflexologist who has written several books on the subject, modern reflexology began with the work of American physicians Dr. William Fitzgerald and Dr. Joe Shelby Riley in the 1920s, and was later popularized by author and physical therapist Eunice Ingham. Wherever it began, it’s clear that this form of therapy has maintained a strong following, with today’s top spas embracing reflexology in all of its facets.
“The primary benefits of reflexology are relaxation and stress reduction,” Issel says. It is this reduction of stress that leads to the rest of the therapy’s purported benefits, with practitioners claiming it can help with everything from soothing tired feet to treating stomach issues. According to Issel, since the 1980s there have been around 300 studies into the benefits of reflexology around the world. Top companies in Denmark have even included the therapy in their employee health programs to assist workers with back problems, headaches and more.
“[Reflexology] helps to alleviate many physical and internal conditions,” agrees Cori Arlantico, lead massage therapist at Sea Island, who says it is very helpful for internal digestion, specifically. The service is similar to a massage, but the specific areas that it focuses on are believed to correspond to particular organs and internal systems of the body. Arlantico recommends the treatment to those seeking an alternative to full-body massages, those who are looking for shorter services (reflexology therapy typically takes about 30 to 60 minutes) and anyone who is on their feet all day.
At Sea Island, you can get your reflexology fix via the Sole Soother treatment. Guests will have their feet cleansed using a warm towel with compressions. From there, the reflexology therapist will begin a sequence of activating different pressure points and gliding strokes across the feet to induce relaxation and promote physical and internal balance. Mighty Mint Rescue Cream from Naturopathica, which features peppermint and menthol to cool the skin and refresh the senses, is utilized throughout the treatment.
For anyone suffering from the ill effects of stress, a little fancy footwork in the form of reflexology might just be the answer—after all, it’s an ancient tradition.