Heal Your Soles

Giving your feet a good rub down after a long day of shopping or running around not only feels great, but according to alternative medicine, it can also be therapeutic.
Maya Vardaman reports on foot reflexology.

There is much documented on the effects of a stressful life on the body' health. Seventy-five percent of illness is said to be stress related, from general headaches, neck and shoulder tension, colds and flu, to cardiac illness, respiratory problems and cancer. Reducing stress is the best preventative measure one can take, and one easy way to do so is to head straight for your feet.

According to Eastern medicine, your feet are the "two other hearts" of your body. Certain areas of them correspond to distant structures and organs in the whole of the human body. Applying pressure to specific areas on the bottom of your feet cause sensory nerves to carry that information to the brain, stimulating it to function in another part of the body more efficiently. This regulates the digestive and circulatory systems, stimulating blood flow; while blood carries vital nutrients through the body, it also carries away toxins and waste products.

Throughout history, foot reflexology has been depicted in relics from ancient Egypt, China, India and Japan. It has been so integral in the history of alternative healing that some hypothesize that it's an archestructure, or a physical demand within the nervous system that creates the impetus for whole cultures to practice the activity. With high heels, long and crowded train rides and paved roads, many people suffer from sore feet. Reflexology can be used by anyone who can spare a few moments (if you do it yourself), or a few thousand yen if you visit a reflexology salon.

Reflex and relax
Do-it-yourself foot reflexology is easy and very relaxing. Wash your feet first, and make sure you drink something warmer than your body temperature afterwards to flush out any wastes. You can use the chart provided to locate the specific areas of the foot you need to massage to cure what ails you. Being careful not to hyper-extend any of the joints in the fingers or wrist, feel free to use all of your "tools:" the fingers, knuckles, fists, palms, and elbows. There's no need to endure any discomfort; apply enough pressure so you feel a small amount of pain at first, and then it should start to ease out and feel good. Trust your intuition, though: if there is any excessive pain, stop. Never work on areas that are bruised, cut, scratched, inflamed or infected. Steer clear of swollen, puffy, red, and/or oozing areas.

Try doing it in the bath, or sit in a comfortable chair. Lotion or oils should be used so that the hands can flow smoothly over the foot receiving the treatment. Lotions work best, as oils can be too slippery. If you don't want to use your hands, there are fancier, more creative goods available at Tokyu Hands or Loft in Shibuya - they have dolphin-shaped massagers, foot tubs that create bubbles and vibration, massage oils and bumpy mats to step on.

Tender foot
Instead of an at-home treatment, why not indulge yourself at one of the foot reflexology salons in Tokyo? Popular among women is Mammy's Touch, located on the sixth floor of the Kobayashi Building on Aoyama Dori, which gives massages using aromatic oils. After filling out a simple medical/clinical record sheet, you can change into a bathrobe, wash your feet and then soak them in a footbath. Next, choose from either the foot reflexology session or the calves massage session, which are both JY5000, and last for half an hour. If you think you'll need both, there's a combined hour-long session. They will adjust your massage according to whatever requests and physical problems you may have. Soon you will start to sweat, and then the initial pain will subside. Not only will your feet feel refreshed, but your mind as well. Mammy's Touch is open weekdays 11am to 9pm (10am to 8pm Sundays and holidays), and is closed on Tuesdays. You can't make reservations, but try calling them at 03-3470-9855 for details.

Dr. Foot is located near JR Hamamatsu station. They wash your feet with an antibacterial liquid, then massage the bottom of your feet and your toes with lotion. They have you replenish your body by drinking hot water. You'll get sweaty as they flex the stiffness in your body. It may be painful, but your legs will feel lighter and more flexible afterwards. You can make a footprint that will help the clinicians there find out what your physical problems are, and they will give you suggestions on how to solve them through foot reflexology. This salon is open all year from 11am to 9pm on weekdays, and until 6pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Call 03-3436-1183 for more information.

Abish Reflexology Room, a women-only salon, also doubles as a hair salon. One session lasts 60 minutes and costs JY6000. Win Shiroganedai 1F, 3-16-36 Shiroganedai, Minato-ku, Tokyo. To make your appointment in English, dial 090-9294-6235. To set up an appointment in Japanese, call 03-3449-6077.

Foot reflexology, or the art of massaging pressure points on your soles, heels and toes can relieve fatigue, some pain and improve overall vitality. Walk - don't run, or it'll damage your delicate feet - to your nearest reflexology salon. It may be good for your health.

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