Research is beginning to prove what practitioners have long known. Reflexology promotes good health. Nail technicians are uniquely positioned to catch the wellness wave as reflexology rolls into its own as a salon service.
Nestled in a narrow storefront on West Village’s Perry Street, Angel Feet nurtures New Yorkers’ weary feet with reflexology treatments while soothing their senses with candlelight, meditative music, and diffused essential oils.
The tiny, two-station reflexology boutique sports bare brick walls and vaulted ceiling that charm visitors. Indeed, Angel Feet has been written up in countless newspapers and magazines, including the French Marie Claire, Italian Elle, American Vogue and the global New York Times. “I had one client from England who was referred to us by a hotel concierge who had read about us upon learning the man would be visiting New York,” recounts owner Barbara Morrison.
Angel Feet isn’t the only business basking in the media’s glow: Reflexologists across the country say the write-ups and TV sound-bites recently have had a tremendous impact on their business. “I was written up in Los Angeles Magazine last year in a story on reflexology, and I had a huge influx of new clients,” comments Marla Fisher, a nail technician and reflexologist at Skin Sense in Los Angeles. “I’ve been doing it for seven years, and in the past two years my clientele has tripled.”
Believed by many to have the potential to improve the body’s overall health and sometimes aid the healing of various diseases and disorders, the 4,000-year-old healing art has come a long way in the U.S. in the past few years as the public’s interest in wellness and holistic health treatments has grown.
“There’s much more awareness and recognition of reflexology than there was 10, and even five, years ago,” says Jan Rosenstreich, who practices foot reflexology, neuro-linguistic programming, hypnosis, and Reiki. As founder of Edison, N.J.-based Mystic Gate-way holistic therapy center, he also facilitates healing circles, lectures, and workshops.
“It’s been featured on TV news segments. And it’s starting to make its way into salons as an adjunct to services, so it’s becoming more well-known that way, too,” he adds. “Beauty salons seem to be where the growth is happening right now because the practitioners are there and have a clientele who is coming there already for other services.”
While reflexology technically is not s massage technique, it is using pressure, stretch, and movement on specific points on the hands and feet to affect corresponding parts of the body. Therefore, it shares some similarities with massage in that it promotes circulation and the removal of toxins while, among other things, promoting relaxation. Nail technicians benefit, as well, from a highly profitable add-on or stand-alone service: The nail technicians we asked charge anywhere from 50 cents to $1 per minute for reflexology. Alicia Weathers, a nail technician at Z Salon & Spa in Louisville, Ky., says she incorporates 15 minutes of reflexology in her spa manicures and pedicures, and offers it as a stand-alone service for which she charges $60 for one hour. “Clients love it,” she says. “In fact, I had one new pedicure client who felt so relaxed afterward that she’s now booked a one-hour weekly reflexology session in advance for the next several months. This is in addition to her regular manicures and pedicures.”
“There are three reasons people seek reflexology,” states Kevin Kunz, a reflexology researcher and practitioner in Albuquerque, N.M., who also has authored several books on the topic. “One is for relaxation. There are people who find it lowers their stress levels. Then there’s another class who is coming for relief from tired, achy feet. The third class is using it to address a particular health issue.”
Mind, Body, and Sole
While reflexology’s roots are hard to trace, in modern times, interest in reflexology resurfaced when a doctor discovered that sticking a pin in a person’s face while applying pressure to a particular spot on the foot caused no pain. From this research arose the “zone therapy” theory, which finds its basis in acupuncture. Simply, zone therapy divides the body into 10 longitudinal zones that run from the head to the toes. Each finger and toe represents a corresponding zone on the both sides of the body. Then, in the 1930s physiotherapist Eunice Ingham, credited as the founder of modern reflexology in the U.S., studied the response of different areas of the body to zone therapy. Through her research, she began studying the relationship between tender spots and crystal deposits beneath the skin on the feet, to glands and organs in the body. Over time, she charted the corresponding areas and developed a map of the reflexology points on the feet and the parts of the body they correspond with.
Ingham’s work proved a basis upon which others have built, and different researchers have developed a number of theories as to how hand and foot reflexology impact other parts of the body. According to Kunz, who also hosts an informative website for those interested in reflexology (www.reflexology-research.com), there are six common theories of reflexology.
However, he is less concerned with the theories than he is in proving its effects on the body. “Right now, the research is just happening to discover the answers,” he says. “For example, there is a double-blind study on diabetes that is very interesting, and there is strong research on headache relief from reflexology coming out of Denmark.” In China, he notes, an association of 6,000 medical doctors is researching the impact reflexology can have on all the most common – and some of the not-so-common – medical disorders.