As a long term sceptic of many forms of medical treatment, please take everything you read here with a personal pinch of salt. Having spent a fair bit of time being poked, prodded and examined, or watching loved ones undergo such investigations, I have come to terms with the limitations of medical interventions of any kind, be it medicinal, or physical.
Over recent years, due to aches and pains, not to mention trouble with my mind, I have reached out to other services to try and get me back on my feet again. From sports physio, massaging and manipulating life back into sore and aching muscles and joints, to more recently going to see a chiropractor after a fall from my bike left me with a bad hip and lower back pain,
The more you read and research, the more negativity you will find about these services. Dig deep enough, and read through the barrage of neigh sayers, and you find comments from people who feel they have benefited from visiting one of these practices. The more diverse a practice, the harder it is to get some honest and frank opinions from genuine people, and filter out the noise from those just wanting to cast doubt.
Obviously, there are frauds out there, there are those who just want to make a quick buck, with as little effort as possible. It is those charlatans who make life so difficult for the rest of the people in their field who are actually trying to make a difference to other peoples lives.
The most recent physical service I have used has been reflexology. A friend of mine has been training in the field, and was looking for willing participants to try his new found skills on. Naturally, being the open minded kinda guy I am, I was happy to take part, and try something new. With very little knowledge of what reflexology actually is, and what it sets out to achieve, I was a pretty blank canvas. I should also mention that my girlfriend Ann was also part of the group of test subjects.
Before I get down to the nitty gritty, allow me to cast some light on the background of how I got to know James, the Reflexologist I am talking about here.
I have been on Twitter for many years now. After finally over coming the "what's the point of this" phase of my Twitter use, I finally decided that I would use Twitter to engage mainly with the local people around me. Finding my place, I have slowly grown a following of people from different fields, from cycling to locals. One of the locals was a lovely lady by the name of Angela. We would occasionally have a little back and forth about a subject, then all would fall quiet again for a while.
After we adopted Kallik, aka the Ginger Ninja a couple of years back, I spotted a Tweet from Angela saying they had been following the goings on, spotted we used All Dogs Matter, and decided to adopt a dog of their own. Jackson the Great! Naturally we had to meet him! So after a little messaging, we popped over one night, and met Jackson, Angela and James, I...R...L !!! IKR !!!
Talk about clicking, all of us very open minded, honest and straight shooting. It is not often you meet such kindred spirits! Jackson of course is amazing, and it is the little back story of getting Jackson that this whole background really focuses on. Why did Jackson get such an awesome home?
After a little chat with Angela and James, it turns out James had had a stroke a while back, leaving him a little weakened by the whole experience. While at home recuperating, things were a little lonely, motivation was waning, and there was a gap in their lives in general for a little one. I won't go into details about the whole matter, that is not overly important here, but needless to say, finding such an adorable companion as Jackson was just what was needed, and I think it is fair to say that he has played a role in helping James find his feet again. (mild pun intended!)
Keen to get back into the world, and do something constructive, he decided to pursue Reflexology. The journey from the stroke to the current day has been a long and sometimes challenging one, both physically and mentally, and of course not to forgetting academically too. But today, I am proud to say my friend James is a qualified Reflexologist! Good on you mate, well done!
Going back to the point of this entry, what is it, and what is it like?
Until it was mentioned by James, it was just another word and therapy I had heard of, but knew nothing about. I still would not profess to be any kind of expert on the subject, but will happily give my opinion on it.
Similar to a chiropractor, there are those who are sceptical about reflexology. With both having wide spread claims and aims. For me, as much as people told me chiropractors were some sort of fake profession, I have to say, nope! After just a few treatments, my back and hip were feeling much better, and the changes were felt mid session. Explanations given about what she had found, what she would do to correct it, and the difference was sometimes immediately noticeable.
For reflexology, the focus is on the feet, from tips of the toes to the back of the heel, with not a single inch missed in between. The thought behind it is that each part of the feet relates and connects to a part of the body, organs etc. Now I am not in a position to say I have any noted issues with other parts of my body, so seeing any change for me would have been hard to do, especially in the two sessions I had.
That said, as a keen runner and frequent cyclist, aches and pains resonating from my feet are plentiful. I should also add that while I have had plenty of sports massage in my time, having my feet touched, let alone massaged in any way is not a favourite thing of mine! When it was initially suggested, I thought, "oh crap!".
None the less, I was happy to put myself forward as a test subject, get James used to moldy, tattooed, sore feet! So one evening I went along to the house. Before we got started there was a quick consultation, some questions, and a little paperwork to fill out. Followed by a brief explanation of what was about to happen, and then some time for me to ask any questions I might have about Reflexology. Then, it was time!
I took a deep breath, and off came the shoes and socks. Sitting in the chair in the purposely set up room, I got comfortable, leaned back, and up came my legs. Using a zero gravity style chair is genius, giving support to the body, while leaving the feet high and open for James to work his magic. As I lay there, it became immediately apparent that my comfort mattered. Legs raised and supported further by a pillow, the offer of a blanket to keep my body warm, a choice of soft and relaxing music in the background. The icing on the cake (for any dog lovers) is Jackson, who likes to come and keep you company during your session. Happy to jump up on your lap for a snuggle, or simply keep watch at the door, his presence (for some) is an added level of comfort and relaxation. Of course there are no issues if you are not a dog person, Jackson will simply not be there.
Mood set, conversation put to one side, eyes closed, and breathing deepening. Let it begin. First a good once over with some wipes to make the feet, clean, hygienic, and ready for action. Obviously my feet were well scrubbed prior to my visit, that would just be unfair on James otherwise. Next up, some wax gently massaged into every nook and cranny of the feet. A little greasy feeling, but very pleasant I have to say. The preliminary massage of the feet alone was a game changer for me. Inhibitions overcome, I was comfortable with this.
After a few mins allowing the feet to soak up the wax, everything nice and warm, and a little bit slippery, it was time to get on with the main event. Wrapping one foot in a towel to keep things nice and snug, the "massage" started. Working from bottom to top (from recollection) one thing immediately became obvious.. My feet were tight, sore and achy. From heel strikes while running, to over flexed feet from riding hard in softer shoes, it was clear that things were going to feel a lot better after this session.
My feet are tasked with supporting my 200+lb body for most of the day, running, walking and cycling all take their toll in their own way. So it was only fair for them to have their moment of glory. My heels were pretty tough going, not a whole lot of sensation on most areas, but definitely a few areas which were more delicate than others. Once James reached the arches of my feet, and my plantar fascia , all sorts of fireworks started going off. Tender, tight, oooh, aaah, it was like a symphony. Fireworks of sensations triggered rapidly, feeling trigger points easing, flexibility returning, and sensitivity easing. I can honestly say I could happy have the arches of my feet worked on for much longer. Crazy, seeing as the arches were the one place I feared having touched due to tickling and over sensitivity. None of that! The word tickle didn't even cross my mind.
Moving to the balls of the feet, the sensations and relief continued, tiny pockets of tension, eased away in a few moments of delicate yet direct massage. I use the word massage rather than rubbing as there is clearly more to this treatment than a simple tired feet foot rub. If massage is the correct term or not, I do not know, so apologise if this is the wrong word to use. By the time James reached my toes, I was sure I was all out of surprises and pockets of tension and sensation, how wrong I was! Like an eternal bowl of Rice Krispies (other brands of rice based popping breakfast cereal are available), the sensations kept coming til the bitter/ sweet end.
At this point, I have to go back to the theory of reflexology, and the zones of the feet with their relation to other parts of the body. I can't honestly say I noticed any radiating or travelling sensations from my feet to other regions, but that was OK, my first foot was already feeling totally different to the untreated one. That alone was relieving tension in the rest of the leg. Comfort in moving my foot around was noticeable over the other, yet untreated, foot. Time for round two. Wrapping the now treated foot in the towel, James got started on the other foot. I won't repeat the descriptions again, as they were as relaxing, and invigoration as the first.
Before I knew it, the session was coming to an end. As James had started to work on the second foot, there were no surprises left for me, I knew what to expect, and could relax far more. Needless to say, by the time he was done with my other foot, I was in such a relaxed state, I was reluctant to speak when he told me the session was almost done, and inquired as to how I was. Almost unwilling to open my eyes, hoping denial would prolong the session, I finally accepted it was over, and gently begun to bring myself back to a fully aware state. For anyone who has done yoga, if you are familiar with Savasana pose, and the minds reluctance to come out of it... Well this is similar.
This for me is where reflexology and the mind connect. Any treatment or session of something that takes my mind into such a deep and relaxed state gets the thumbs up from me. Sports massage is all about releasing tension, other forms of massage can take you to a very relaxed state. Yoga, when done correctly and in the right environment can have a profound effect on your mental state. Resetting all the switches and levers in your mind, allowing everything to just drift away, leaving you in a zen like state, and taking all the stress and pressure away. Allowing your mind to relax completely for a while.
For someone like me, who doesn't get much in the way of relaxing and deep sleep, sessions like this are priceless for restoring the calm. Add to that, the soft floaty feeling which comes back to your feet after the session, and it is sheer bliss. I have to say, for an habitual trainer wearer like myself, putting shoes which cover the feet, back on after the session felt almost criminal. For your session, I recommend flip-flops or sandals for sure. The feeling of no tension in the feet is something to be celebrated and prolonged for as long as possible.
For me, finding a treatment like Reflexology, carried out in such relaxing surroundings is like finding a sanctuary. Somewhere to go and have something done which helps restore the balance in my mind and body.
I had a second session done a couple of weeks later, after returning from a long ride from London to Amsterdam, and the sensations and outcome were identical. I will without a doubt return to James for another session in the near future.
Whatever your beliefs about such treatments are, I would say, if you are open minded, and looking for a calm relaxing treatment, with the view to restore some balance to your life mentally and physically, reflexology is worth looking into. And if you are local enough, give James a call or drop him an email, and see what he can do for you.
Contact details can be found on his website.
Thank you to James for allowing me to be part of your training and journey.