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THEORY AND PRINCIPLES
THE FEET, HANDS AND BODY: A Special Relationship
To the body, the feet and hands are special. No other sensory organ reaches out to touch the world around us, to travel through it and to manipulate it. The feet and hands sense what is underfoot and what is in hand.
The task is no small accomplishment. The infant struggles to stand and begins a life-long, two-legged, weight-bearing activity commonly referred to as walking. While it is not the fastest way to move about, walking on two legs provides a mobile platform from which the hands are able to interact with the world.
The demands of staying upright on two feet require a special communication between the feet, the hands and the rest of the body. The "language" the body uses to accomplish this is actually a combination of the stretch of muscles, angulation of joints and deep pressure to the bottom of the feet. This form of communication is indeed a silent one but it is most vital for it determines our very survival.
The feet and hands not only allow us to react to danger but they themselves also consume energy to meet the ordinary demands of the day. Survival and the energy necessary for survival link the hands and feet into a special relationship with the body. In case of danger, both feet and hands participate in the overall body reaction to ensure survival. This reaction is familiarly known as "fight or flight" because the body gears its internal structures to provide the fuel for either eventuality. The feet and hands must be ready to do their part. The hands are readied to reach for a weapon while the feet are prepared to find firm footing or flee.
The inextricable link between hand, foot and body is thus forged. The hands and feet provide the necessary moves while the internal organs provide the fuel. A special communication and relationship is required for such a system.
The system is also a participant in more mundane daily activities. For example, upon waking, the body not only assesses internal organ measurements but it also requests body position information. The feet are polled in this positioning process. The rest of the day is spent in silent dialogue between internal organs and the organs of movement. Every move made, whether to walk, sit, stand, jump, run or skip, requires up-dated information and continual communication. Every move made requires an allocation of the body's energy.
Thus the feet and hands are a part of day-to-day energy consuming activities. This demand forms the basis of very strong links within the body's communication system. To ensure continuity from day to day, the body learns a communication operating pattern. In locomotion, continuity is all important; any interruption in the communication or energy systems could be catastrophic, resulting in, for example, a fall. Therefore the signals of locomotion have major impact on the energy system, the sensory system and the overall tension level of the body. Tension is a state of readiness occurring throughout the body. A footstep requires a great deal of tension to be successful.
This high degree of muscular readiness not only consumes a great deal of energy but it also must be matched by the readiness of the internal environment. The readiness of the body to respond to any eventuality exists as a level of tone or tension throughout the body. Tone describes the constant communication with all parts of the body which provides the capability to move and to survive. This calls for knowledge of the position of every muscle, joint and tendon. The ability to survive requires a perception of the internal and external environments. The pooling of the information about both provides an opportunity of interaction for the parts of the body we cannot reach in and touch. As active perceivers of the external environment, the feet and hands thus communicate with the internal environment.
Any sensory information gathered must be evaluated as a potential threat. For this reason, any sensory signal can be viewed as a stressor, demanding interaction with the body's tone. Thus, as a sensory organ, the feet and hands contribute to the body's tone. The contribution is made in the body's language of proprioception. Gathering information about movement are some very sophisticated gauges, such as deep pressure to the bottoms of the feet, the angulation of joints and the stretch of muscles and tendons.
In summary, because the hands and feet are sensory organs of locomotion, they have a special relationship with the body. Furthermore, because of the special relationship, they can serve as a means of interaction with the state of tension and energy consumption throughout the body.
THE BODY MANAGER: TAKING ADVANTAGE OF THE WAY THE BODY WORKS
For every individual an opportunity exists to communicate with the whole body through the hands and feet. The special relationship between the feet, hands and body can be used for the purposes of:
• stress reduction
• energy savings
• building greater body awareness
The possibility for interaction becomes an opportunity for management when sensory experience is applied on a frequent and consistent basis. The body manager is one who deliberately interacts with a part of his or her body, in this case hands and feet, to influence the whole body. Such interaction allows one to manage the body's resources more efficiently and is at the very heart of the concept of "self help".
Energy is a body resource, a basis for the body economy. It exists always in limited supply, but there is a potential for regulation and an opportunity for conservation.
A certain amount of energy is required to move a certain distance. Each footstep can be seen as a unit of energy expended. Small savings on each footstep can add up to large gains. When one provides sensory experience to the hands and feet with this program, it helps break up the patterns of stress and allows one to begin to accrue savings and it makes it possible to apply these as investments in the body's total energy reserves. Energy-saving techniques for everyday activities may be applied to form a practical conservation program. So energy expended for tone or overall body communication may be influenced by applied sensory information.
Sensory signals provide a link of communication with the outside world and "local reporting" of information from the sensory organs which affects the body's economy. The sensing of the ground underfoot, such as in walking through sand, creates a demand on the whole body's economy and participates in the expenditure of the body's resources.
The application of consistent, frequent sensory stimulus creates a variety of signals which re-sets the body's tension level. In any learning situation, the more time a body spends "practicing" an event, the more proficient it becomes at it. The practice of variety lessens the demand on any one part of the body.
• the expenditure of energy
• a sensory signal
• a participant in the body's readiness system
In terms of the body's economy, it is a major consumer of the body's resources. The possibility for interaction and for taking advantage of the way the body works exists because locomotion demands organization. The hands and feet are a part of the organization, the body's economy. They are a part of the body's
(1) energy consumption
(2) tension/tone level, and
(3) body awareness.
Tone budgets the expenditure of energy, taking into account past expenditures, present demands and future concerns. It is the active decision-making process involving these expenditures that is necessary to maintain readiness. Sleeping, for example, requires a state of readiness different from that of wakefulness.
Tone is an on-going changing process which is influenced by sensory signals, particularly those of locomotion.
The body manager uses interaction with the hands and feet on a frequent and consistent basis for the purposes of:
• energy savings
• stress reduction
• building greater body awareness.
PRINCIPLES OF BODY MANAGEMENT
1. It is possible to affect the body through sensory signals.
2. The feet and hands are sensory organs which gather information.
3. The primary information gathered is about locomotion (walking, running, standing).
4. Locomotion is part of the survival mechanism ensuring the ability to fight or flight.
5. Information about locomotion and internal organ function is pooled to ensure survival and to set a state of tension throughout the body on a day to day basis. Locomotion as an activity has a major influence on tension levels throughout the body.
6. Locomotion takes energy.
7. The consumption of energy for locomotion can contribute to "wear and tear" on the body.
8. As a learned activity, elements of locomotion can be practiced to become a more efficient activity which lessens the consumption of energy.
9. The elements of locomotion communicate through pressure, stretch and movement of joints, tendons and muscles.
10. It is possible to affect the body by mimicking the sensory signals of locomotion. The feet are of particular importance in the sensory/locomotor system. The frequent application of varied sensory signals to the hands and feet produces a cumulative effect, the net result of which is to break up patterns of stress, resetting energy consumption levels throughout the body and achieving a greater body awareness.
LEARNING THE BODY'S LANGUAGE
The body manager's role is to mimic some of the key sensory signals of the body in order to communicate with it. Our tools for the manager are reflexology, stride replication® and propriocise®. (Propriocise® will be fully discussed in other written work). These three fields of interest represent an organized application of key sensory signals to the hands and feet.
The key sensory signals are those of locomotion. To provide locomotive sensory information, proprioceptive sensations are mimicked. Proprioception is the body's self-perceiving mechanism, its picture of itself in motion. Reflexology, stride replication® and propriocise® merely practice proprioception.
Proprioception: The Language of Movement
The body's practice of proprioception actually begins at childhood and continues throughout life (see box). The stress placed on the body by walking and its sensory signals of proprioception establishes a pattern of tension throughout the body. Repeated exposure to stressors on a continuous basis produces "wear and tear". The repeated demands of walking over a lifetime can be a contributor to the gradual wearing down process known as aging.
Breaking the pattern of tension, however, can interrupt the cycle, providing a "vacation" from the usual routine. A program which mimics proprioception interrupts the usual pattern of tension by placing new and different demands on the body. An "exercise" of proprioception yields results appropriate to the way the body works. Improved adaptability, flexibility and a change in energy all result from the repeated interruption of tension. After all, repeated exercise improves muscle tone and circulation. Why then should the body not respond to the deliberate exercise of proprioception by improving its overall function in a similar manner?
The exercise of proprioception is the practice of its elements. Reports from muscles, tendons and joints are taken in the body's language of pressure and movement. An opportunity is thus provided to the individual to interact with the body in its own language.
"Proprioceptive sensations are those that apprise the brain of the physical state of the body, including such sensations as (1) tension of the muscles, (2) tension of the tendons, (3) angulation of the joints, and (4) deep pressure from the bottom of the feet." Guyton, Arthur C., Function of the Human Body, W.B. Saunders Co., 1969, p. 272.
"Anyone who has watched an infant grow can appreciate the complexity of learning body positioning, especially in sitting, standing and walking. The waving of hands and feet in the newborn exhibits the beginning of a positioning awareness. The intricacies of sitting up are such that it takes two months for the infant to master it. Standing usually requires six months of experimentation, walking takes nine months, and bowel and bladder control take two years. Even at two years most infants have not perfected all of these tasks. The experimentation with possibilities of positions and movements can be seen throughout childhood. Tricycle and bicycle riding are ventures into balancing. Swinging on playground equipment, jumping rope, and other forms of what is considered 'play' are actually an educational process for the body. The awkward teenager is living testimony to the fact that this educational process is at least sixteen to eighteen years in duration." Reflexions, May/June, 1981, Vol. 2, No. 3.
"The positioning education of the body is a process of experimentation throughout childhood and even into the young adulthood ages of 18-20. An example of the body's learning process is practicing free throws in basketball. The first attempt may be far from the basket, but the body makes the gradual muscular adjustments to achieve the goal of putting the ball through the hoop. It is possible to consciously judge the ball as 'on target but too short' or 'long enough but off to the side'. But the actual means by which the body directs this muscle and that muscle to correct for 'off target' or 'too short' are unconscious and totally left up to the body's automatic positioning mechanism. It is this mechanism which receives its education in childhood.
What happens to this positioning mechanism in adulthood? The learning continues. The proprioceptive feedback is constantly provided and responded to. As we all know, however, the body response and performance is not quite the same in adulthood. That free throw is not accomplished with such ease at age 40 or 50 as it was at age 20 or even 30. Perhaps that crick in the neck does not allow ease of movement of the arm. Or perhaps the knee is not providing the spring it used to. What has happened?
The continuing education for body positioning in adults contains elements not present in childhood. In addition to the body's natural aging process, these elements include the body's experiences that sprained ankle, the crick in the neck from sleeping on it wrong, the pain in the stomach. All of these experiences cause the body to hold itself differently. The tasks of walking, standing, and shooting basketballs are all modified by the body's experiences. That sprained ankle caused the body to make changes in its method of walking to minimize the amount of pain felt from the ankle. These changes range from the noticeable to the barely perceptible. The tightening of just a few muscle fibers, however, requires a corresponding shift in other fibers. The effect echoes throughout the body. The cumulative effect of the body's experiences on its positioning mechanism make the free throw a different event for the 20 year old body versus the 40 year old body." Reflexions, July/Aug, 1981, Vol. 2, No. 4.
The sensations which arise from muscle, joint and tendon are conveniently grouped under one heading not because of their anatomical source, but because they collaborate to provide the brain with a distinctive form of information. Sherrington called this 'proprioceptive sensation'. It tells the creature what it is doing and what is happening to it as a result of what it is doing: whether movements are going according to plan, or whether they are being obstructed. In other words, it monitors and refashions the creature's muscular enterprises from one moment to the next.
Without such information, there would be no knowing how one's limbs were arranged, and it would be impossible to find one's nose in the dark. The proprioceptive system supplies the brain with a coordinated map of all the available muscular resources and their current state of readiness." From The Body in Question, by Jonathan Miller. Copyright © 1978 by Jonathan Miller. Reprinted by permission of Random House, Inc.
"...experiments have shown that exposure to...stressors can be withstood just so long. After the initial alarm reaction, the body becomes adapted and begins to resist, the length of the resistance period depending upon the body's innate adaptability and the intensity of the stressor. Yet, eventually exhaustion ensues.
We still do not know precisely just what is lost, except that it is not merely caloric energy, since food intake is normal during the stage of resistance. Hence, one would think that once adaptation has occurred, and energy is amply available, resistance should go on indefinitely. But just as an inanimate machine gradually wears out, even if it has enough fuel, so does the human machine sooner or later become the victim of constant wear and tear. These three stages are analogous to the three stages of man's life: childhood (with its characteristic low resistance and excessive responses to any kind of stimulus), adulthood (during which adaptation to most commonly encountered agents has occurred and resistance is increased) and finally, senility (characterized by irreversible loss of adaptability and eventual exhaustion) ending with death." Stress Without Distress, by Hans Selye, M.D. (J.B. Lippincott Co.) Copyright © 1974 by Hans Selye, M.D. Reprinted by permission of Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc.
Possibilities of Interaction: Working with Proprioception
The possibilities of interaction within the body's relationships lie in mimicking sensory signals. The signals of pressure and movement are the means by which we influence relationships.
To practice the sensory signals of proprioception on the hands and feet in an organized manner, the techniques of reflexology are applied on the basis of certain locomotive relationships.
Stride replication® is the practice of a variety of sensory signals applied on the basis of the locomotive responsibilities of the foot: weight-bearing and directional movement.
Self-help reflexology is the application of pressure to the hands and feet. Pressure may be applied to create either a stimulating effect or a deadening one. Alternating pressure is interpreted by the sensors of the body as a situation which demands additional information. The body attempts to "sense" a potential threat. The stimulation arises from the need for additional fuel, in the form of glucose and oxygen, demanded by the continuing evaluation of the on-going sensory stimulus.
Direct pressure is interpreted by the senses as a diminished need for information. The constancy of pressure poses no threat. The body evaluates direct pressure as a demand which is fixed and requires no further attention. Pain is one situation in which this situation would be desirable.
Our viewpoint is that the traditional definition of reflexology is actually a statement of observed effects. When reflexology techniques are viewed as the application of locomotive sensory signals, such effects would seem to be adequately explained. Locomotion and the body's state of readiness, tone, are inextricably linked.
"Foot reflexology is the study and practice of working reflexes in the feet which correspond to other parts of the body. With specific hand and finger techniques, reflexology causes responses (relaxation) in corresponding parts of the body. Relaxation is the first step to normalization, the body's return to a state of equilibrium or homeostasis, where circulation can flow unimpeded and supply nutrients and oxygen to the cells. With the restoration of homeostasis, the body's organs, which are actually aggregations of cells, may then return to a normal state or function as well."
Kunz & Kunz, The Complete Guide to Foot Reflexology, Prentice-Hall Inc., 1982, p.2.
Using the Body's Relationships
The application of sensory information is based on certain locomotive relationships. In traditional reflexology, these relationships have been observed and noted. It is our contention that they are a reflection of the locomotive process. The demands of locomotion are such that these relationships form strong bonds.
The Body's Relationships
The locomotive relationships are the zonal, the reiterative and the referral. The strong bonds are formed by the demands of gravity, uprightness and the finely tuned organization of all body parts which are needed for walking.
In reflexology, reiterative relationships are the focus of the techniques. The zonal and referral relationships provide added emphasis to the reiterative. And when it is not possible to work with the hand or foot, the zonal and referral relationships provide an alternative.
The application of sensory information on the basis of locomotive sensations and relationships provides a variety of demands on the body. Thus the body is afforded an opportunity to view itself from a different perspective. The variety of stressors in the form of sensory signals provides relief from the wear and tear of constant stressors. The body has more information on which to make decisions, adjust to change and to act in a more integrated manner.
This description of adaptation notes the changing nature of tone, or normal operating state, in relationship to sensory signals. A consistant program of sensory signals results in a changed nature of tone. The body reflects what is practiced. Variety of stressor or sensory signal lessens the wear and tear on any one part.
Zonal Relationships: Guidelines relating one part of the body to another.
The zonal relationship notes ten equal longitudinal segments running the length of the body which conveniently match the number of toes and fingers. The basic premise is that any part of one segment affects the entire segment. By extension, the application of sensory experience to any part of the segment affects the entire segment.
Reiterative Relationships: Mirroring the body whole on a body part.
Reiteration is a relationship in which the body whole is reflected on a body part. In reflexology, the body whole is reiterated on the hands and feet.
Referral Relationships: Relating the limbs using zones.
Referral relationships offer an additional manner in which to relate body parts, specifically the limbs. The relationship is based on zones. Following the basic premise, one segment of a zone affects and is affected by any other segment of the zone. Thus a segment of zone "one" in the arm relates to a segment of zone "one" in the leg.
A Locomotive View of the Relationships
Zonal relationships are a recognition that all body parts must move in relationship to gravity. Zones are a map of body parts in relationship to gravity while upright.
Reiteration maps the body parts in relationship to movement, it is a referral system of information necessary for movement.
"Reiteration is the body's systematic organizational scheme that establishes and maintains a communication throughout the body and thus ensures survival in a hostile environment."
Reflexions, Nov./Dec., 1982, Vol. 3, No. 6, p.5.
"In man, the nerve segments which together form the neck and arms are also the ones where the heart appears. The result is that the nerves bringing sensations from the heart are in the same segment as the nerves which bring sensation from the neck and arm. This relationship is preserved despite the fact that in the course of foetal development the heart migrates to a position which is quite remote from its original site...But the heart maintains its ancient parliamentary representation, despite its position in the body: the neck, arm, and upper chest continue to feel the pain for it. The same form of representation applies to all those parts which one would loosely call the 'innards'."
Jonathan Miller, The Body in Question, Random House, 1978, pp. 23-26.
The arms and legs must act in concert with each other to make walking a more efficient activity. Referral relationships relate the arms and legs using zones.
CHOOSING A PROGRAM OF WELLNESS: PUTTING TIME ON YOUR SIDE
The body manager deliberately uses sensory signals to interact with his or her own body. Consistency and frequent application is needed because of the way the body works. Basically, it learns what it practices. Interruption of tension on a frequent basis acts to teach the body that a different level of operating tension is possible.
Furthermore, with frequency of application, the sensory signals create a self-rewarding effect. The variety provides a rest and change of pace for the system. The contrast between what the feet and hands feel like before and after being worked on motivates one to continue.
Eventually the application of sensory signals will become second nature. The idea is to conveniently fit the techniques into the daily schedule. Factors to consider are the time available and finding a technique for the time and place.
There are ways to create time. You can do other things and still work on yourself. There is much possible free time, such as when riding in a car as a passenger, while watching television, while visiting with friends, or while talking on the phone. Keeping a foot roller at the dining room table makes it convenient for use while sipping coffee or talking after meals. Evaluate your schedule and discover what time you can create.
Set up specific times during the day for specific activities. Foot rolling can be done at the breakfast table, hand work on the way to work, for example. Make it a habit and you will find yourself doing it almost unconsciously. For further information see "Time Planning for Consistency."
TIME PLANNING FOR CONSISTENCY
Sensory signal techniques can be applied in a few seconds or over a period of time. To fit application of techniques into your daily schedule, use this chart to consider available time. Tie your program into something you do regularly, such as watching the evening news on television.
FINDING A TECHNIQUE FOR THE TIME AND PLACE
Not all techniques are appropriate to be applied at all times. It may not always be appropriate to remove one's shoes to work on feet, for example.
STARTING UP YOUR PROGRAM
1. Pick a starting point, choose an area of interest. Refer to "Special Interests" and/or "Body Parts" for information about patterns relating to the area of interest. Start with a limited number of specific techniques which fit conveniently into the daily schedule. An over-burdening, inconvenient program will be hard to stick with.
2. Select techniques appropriate to you. See "Finding a Technique for Time and Place". See "Techniques". The chapter includes easy-to-learn, quickly applied techniques as well as techniques which can be developed.
3. Make a rough plan of when to apply the techniques. See "Time Planning for Consistency." In planing, think in terms of your day. If your time is limited, plan around that factor. If you have more time available, your plan may reflect that as a factor.
4. Get started. Work with the area of interest daily according to your time available. Consider a whole hand and/or foot workout once or twice a week. At the end of a week, review your program. By this time, some techniques may or may not fit naturally into your day. Re-evaluate the time available and appropriate techniques.
If you should happen to miss a day here or there, just go back to your program the next day. If you find that you are missing more days than not, or if you don't seem to follow your program completely every day, review your program and your goals. Have you chosen too ambitious a program with too many areas and not enough time in your day to work them? Are you just discouraged with your lack of progress? For encouragement declare a break in your program and give yourself time to re-assess your goals and your available time. During your week's re-assessment, pick one area to work. The results in that one area should give you the incentive to go on.
DEVELOPING A CONSISTENT PATTERN
The sensory signal techniques are self-rewarding. The cumulative effect of their application calls for further exploration. This might mean the addition of a technique to work a given area or finding a new area of interest.
To further explore an area of interest, consider other techniques relevant to the area. For example, to a program of grip techniques, add thumb and finger walking techniques for variety.
Accomplishment in working with one area leads to the selection of a new one. See "Special Interests" and "Body Parts." The original area can still be worked with. To spend less time with it, choose a quick and easy technique.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Q. How long should I work on my hands and feet?
A. This is a matter of individual choice. Consistency is the important thing. Working five minutes every day, for example, is preferable to occasional work for twenty minutes.
Q. How often should I work on my hands and feet?
A. Note the affects of the technique applications and then gauge your work accordingly.
Q. How long will it take to get results? What kind of results can I expect?
A. The length of time needed to achieve results is an individual matter. One thought to keep in mind is that the effects begin upon the application of sensory signals. Results are the accumulation of the effects of applying sensory signals. The more time one spends applying the techniques, the more results will be possible.
Q. Which is better, working on feet or working on hands?
A. Both have their unique qualities. The hands have the advantage of accessibility. The impact of sensory signals on the feet is perhaps greater as the feet are the more neglected of the two sensory organs.
Q. What can reflexology tell me about my health?
A. Reflexology is an assessment in the body's terms. These are not the same terms as those developed by medical science for diagnosis. Reflexology provides an assessment of the self-perceiving mechanism of the body.
Q. Which is better, reflexology work done by a practitioner or done by myself?
A. The work of a practitioner has its benefits. The body's perspective of sensory signals as applied by a practitioner is different than that of self application. A talented foot worker provides relaxation unavailable through self-application. The services of a practitioner are another investment in a program of wellness.
On the other hand, whether or not you have access to a practitioner, a sensory signal is a sensory signal no matter who applies it. Self application is always a valid approach.
Q. I don't seem to have the energy to get started working on my hands and feet. What should I do?
A. Start a cycle of relaxation. Look at the techniques in this book and find one to begin with. Use it to build consistency. This will provide cumulative effects needed to develop a more ambitious program. Never force yourself to follow a rigid program. Find the energy through finding techniques which appeal to you.
Q. I'm not getting results. What should I do?
A. Try a change in program.
Try a different technique.