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Reflexology Then and Now
The history of reflexology is an introduction to understanding complementary, integrative healing modalities. From the beginning humans have left records; be they oral, artistic or written, these accounts create a connection from the deep past to the clear present. The storyteller reflects history, every explanation told from a particular point of view. Reflexology is found in most eras; in every class of people, in medical practice to home remedy, reflexology has held a place of import. Practitioners of reflexology feel this is a unique form of work that can help anyone and can never cause harm historically this belief is constant.
The history of reflexology finds its roots in cultures around the world. Many cultures use feet as a way of healing the entire body. Footwork has been around for a long time. We can find traces throughout most ancient people, with references not only to working on the feet but also to the importance of feet in daily life and in spiritual life. In Egypt there is a wall carving in the tomb of Ankhmahor, who was the physician to the king at Saqqara. This pictograph has been used as the definitive reference to reflexology. The section of the picture dealing with reflexology shows two physicians working. One doctor is holding a foot the other is holding a hand, both are clearly working on these extremities. The translation, according to the Papyrus Institute in Cairo seems to say, "Do not let it be painful. " The Doctor replies, " I do as you please." Imagine traveling and encountering this historical artifact, especially if the traveler is a reflexologist! Clearly Egypt holds a strong root in the history tree of reflexology.
During the process of mummification in ancient Egypt the soles of the feet were removed to free the soul to travel beyond the earth plane. In fact many of the ancient cultures believed the feet were a key to the higher being, the sole to soul connection.
From Egypt we move along now to China where again ancient writings speak of a therapy where pressure is applied by the fingers to the feet, hands, and ears. Eventually this therapy evolved to the use of needles, along energy lines called meridians, however pressure from the thumbs and digits continued to be used as well. Dr. Wang-Wei developed this method in the 4th century B.C.
All things find their way to China, as a side trip to India will show us. In India we find first the feet of Buddha and then the feet of Vishnu, both with symbols representing life and the flow of energy to live life well. The symbols are not reflex points but they do seem to be placed in areas on the feet where a reflexologist might work.
We move on to Japan now where the proverb, " The foot is the gate of ten thousand different illnesses," illustrates the continued journey of reflexology. Here we find the ancient art carried over from China and continued by healers in Japan.
The Bible also mentions feet as a way of healing. To wash the feet of another was a symbol of humility and forgiveness. To remove shoes before entering the temple or holy place is an instruction not only in the Bible but is followed by Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus as well. Clearly ancient history demonstrates that footwork has been around!