I recently asked this question on a massage therapists forum:

“Should you offer Reflexology if you don’t believe in the zone/mapping system? What if you just believe it’s a fantastic foot/hand massage?

I went off to get my popcorn and waited for the responses.

At this point before I go on, maybe I should just fill you in with a brief insight into the history and theory behind Reflexology.

While there is evidence of hand and foot treatments from ancient China, Egypt and North America, modern day Reflexology was pioneered by Eunice Ingham (1889 – 1974). She was responsible for mapping out the feet with organs and parts of the body. The idea was that stimulating that area on the foot or hand would trigger healing reflexes within the corresponding areas of the body and may also indicate where problems were within the body. (A painful big toe or crystals felt under the skin might indicate something going on in the head and so on) Reflexology also promoted homeostasis. (equilibrium or optimal functioning within the body) Eunice also furthered earlier findings by Dr William Fitzgerald in Zone Therapy. This works on a similar idea of drawing imaginary zones on the feet (the outer sides of the feet correspond with the outer sides of the body and so forth)

Back to my question.

“Should you offer Reflexology if you don’t believe in the zone/mapping system? What if you just believe it’s a fantastic foot/hand massage?

Not too surprisingly there were a lot of responses ranging from

  • Why would someone offer a service they didn’t believe in?
  • I was insulting the profession and in particular those who had trained and studied Reflexology
  • Clients would be angry that I was conning them
  • It would be unethical and essentially fraud
  • Why not just offer foot and hand massage?

For the record, I trained in Reflexology in 1995. I completed a 10 week course where I had to submit 10 case studies of six sessions per client. The exam was a written one. When I called for my results the tutor was so excited to tell me that I had scored 99% and the best of any student in the country ever. I then completed a follow up Advanced Reflexology course to continue my studies. More importantly, I was a believer!

I had incredible feedback from clients and still do about my Reflexology sessions.

But then in 2011 I became a Sports and Remedial Massage Therapist and started to learn more and more about evidence-based body work. Here it gets tricky.

Evidence practitioners will only use techniques and modalities with scientific back up. They look for research to ‘prove’ that their methods work. I can’t really argue with that.

And yet I find myself in a middle area. Agnostic if you like. I’ve had so many of my own experiences that I can’t quite explain. Here are a few

  • the western myofascial unwind (an unravelling of the blocked fascia and releasing stored memories) or was it a Shamanic exorcism where an entity was being expelled from my body?
  • The time when the Shiatsu practitioner put his hand on my back and I burst into tears, or when I’ve worked people’s psoas muscle and they have done the same
  • Resting my hand on a woman’s chest and thinking thinking thinking lungs. Thinking past the skin, thinking past the bones, past the muscles and pleurae to the lungs. Afterwards despite being asthmatic, she reported that she was breathing better than she had in 25 years
  • The client with back issues who I just wasn’t getting results with until I stopped thinking about the anatomical erector spinae muscles in the back and focussed my intent on the bladder channel of Chinese acupuncture. Suddenly his back was free from pain.

And now I’ve said the important word that one therapist replied to my post with:


How much of what I as a therapist do is governed by my intent? I’d say rather a lot. The more I work with mindfulness focus and compassion the better the results I get.

So, when I offer a Reflexology session, when I work the big toe I focus my intent on the head. When I work around the ankle or retinaculum (I just love that word!)  I focus on the groin area or fallopian tubes. My intent is true to the spirit and beliefs of Reflexology.

If you prefer evidence-based sessions, I will focus on the plantar fascia under your foot, the bones I feel and the quality of the tissues to look for restriction or possible tissue damage.

When you book, I have given you the option. Reflexology or Foot and Hand Massage. Take your pick.

Whichever you choose, I guarantee my intent will be to offer you the best session I can and to promote your relaxation and healing, be it mind, body or spirit.

Reflexology and Hand and Foot Massages are on special offer until the end of March 2019. Book yourself in at www.mariapali.co.uk

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