Reflexology, Stress and the Immune System
This could be an article on any health paradigm – wellness or disease. That’s because the immune (a.k.a. the lymphatic) system is the first line of defense for all that ails us and keeps us well.
Understanding the Immune System, Chronic Conditions and How to Manage Them
The immune system is responsible for protecting the body from external influences, removing metabolic wastes and facilitating the ebb and flow of interstitial fluids. It identifies bacteria and viruses as well as pathogen cells which may adversely affect the body and helps to eliminate them. If the body is a garden, then the immune system is the fence and the gate which protects this garden from intruders.
Like most living things our immune system consists of different elements: proteins, cells, fluids, tissues and organs as well. All of these combine together to function as a system with the singular purpose: keeping the body safe from potential harm. Parts of the body involved include the spleen, the bone marrow, the lymph nodes and T-cells (which mature in the thymus) all which perform very important functions.
Our immune systems evolve as we age in order for the body to adapt and combat new pathogens. A healthy immune system is the foundation for health in an individual. And, we all know that stress plays a part in our immune function and therefore reducing stress may accelerate the process with which the immune system can function to our benefit.
Any disorder in the immune system is a concern. Disease can be particularly harmful in affecting the body when the immune system is at a less than optimal level. A number of chronic conditions affect people with a weakened immune system too. Some immunodeficiency diseases may result when the body reacts to pharmaceuticals, an infection or even as a result of a genetic disease.
On the other hand, when the immune system performs hyper actively, it tends to attack otherwise healthy tissues as if they were pathogens or foreign organisms. In this case we have diseases of the immune system which may result and which is known as autoimmune disease including rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes mellitus type 1 and lupus erythematosus. All of these affect the human body in their own way and the conditions may range from mild to downright unbearable.
Any condition that affects the human immune system will undoubtedly leave a person weak and sometimes painful to a debilitating degree. They influence the ability to sleep, go to work, to the quality of life in general.
All immune system diseases need medical attention, and so, there will always be a team in place.
Diet and exercise can help alleviate some of the symptoms of the chronic conditions. Of course I add reflexology to the help menu because when stress is reduced, everything in the body not only functions better but, has a better chance for rejuvenation (or a return to homeostasis).
In the case of painful condition like arthritis, exercise or range of motion techniques may not seem like the thing to do but in moderation, doctors have suggested that exercise with such conditions has immense benefits. Other benefits include increasing bone and muscle strength and increasing energy levels. Exercises like walking, yoga, tai chi, (cycling and jogging which are more advanced) should be done with doctor supervision.
And, people should remember to be consistent with their complementary health protocols such as moderate exercises and refrain from overdoing anything. Remember as with any advanced disease stages a person must get their doctors permission before embarking on any complementary health routines including exercise and/or reflexology. It’s also best to exercise when the pain level is at its lowest. It’s a good thing to build up gradually and not to overwhelm you by trying to do too much, too soon.
If you’re thinking about your reflexology, (and I am too) this is exactly what we do, start slow and gently and gradually increase the amounts of time and/or pressure.
Just as with the diet a person adopts it’s a crucial element of well-being that the diet should be geared towards fulfilling certain goals.
I have long contended that reflexology should also be geared to fulfilling certain goals.
So what does that mean for reflexologists?
One of the most powerful things we do in our reflexology is to connect to the fluid tides. Not in the way that massage does. No, in a more subtle “conversational” way through the touch that is inherent in our reflexology.
Now, let’s go deeper. I’m talking about the touch that is gentle, compassionate, touch that is about the focus, the concentration, the listening and being non-invasive. What I’ve just described here - our reflexology alternating thumb and finger walking pressure. The tiny incremental “bites” as we inch along, stopping to notice even the most minute changes in tissue texture.
That’s the touch I’m talking about.
But there’s something more, something greater than the sum of all our concentration and safe, compassionate touch.
There’s a symphony of movement beneath our thumbs, there are rivers and streams, canals and tributaries all moving in their rhythms, their orchestrated ebbs and flows.
The fluid that is moving there, beneath our thumb and finger tips is busy helping the body by transporting and removing metabolic excess, waste, fluids, lymphocytes, pathogens… the list of events goes on.
And we’re talking in a perfect world here. What if things get sluggish? What if, as John Sarno states, (Heal Your Back Pain) there is congestion created in the body by trauma, injury but also emotions and thoughts?
What’s a body to do?
You know I’m going to say Reflexology…
And, as a reflexologist, you also know this is what we’ll focus on - the lymphatic system reflexes: the groin lymph reflexes - located around the ankle bones, anterior aspect; the axillary lymph reflexes - located between the webs of the toes, dorsal aspect; the spleen (largest lymphoid in the body) reflex - located midway between the lengths of the 4th & 5th metatarsal shafts, plantar aspect; and the thyroid reflex - located at the heads of the 1st metatarsals, medial aspect.
I detail these reflexes at least once in every session.
Okay, you know that. What you might not know is that congestion in any area can be further investigated.
By listening to the bones – in reflexology, I call it “Foot Whispering”.
If the bones are hard and tight, (every bone has its own range of motion) then there is a pull in the connective tissue somewhere. That pull is impeding the structure elsewhere to move in it’s natural flow or it’s homeostatic rhythm.
These pulls or adhesions can poorly influence the fluid tides of the body. And, a possible byproduct is “congestion”.
Now all this is happening on the most subtle of layers and I would never try to manually effect any change to any of these body structures. This is the job of a medical professional.
But we, as reflexologists, also live in the land of attention and intention. Many would say that’s the most powerful place to be.
So for your next client session, and the next one and the next one, bring your attention to the level of the bones. It’s the deepest, densest layer of the body that everything else floats on.
Put your ear to the ground and listen. Be attentive, truly listen.
Hear the whispers and you’ll be amazed at the power of the shifts that will occur.
© Wendy I. Coad
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Wendy Coad MFA, B.Ed, LMT, RPP, NCTMB, IAHP, Reiki Master, ARCB Certified Reflexologist is a licensed massage therapist (FL & NY), a Registered Polarity Practitioner, a certified Reflexologist and a certified Feng Shui consultant.
Wendy also holds a Masters Degree in Fine Arts (MFA) and a Bachelors Degree in Education (B.Ed).
Formerly the Director of Wellness Services at the New York Open Center, Ms. Coad is a past Director of the American Reflexology Certification Board.
As Program Director of a 400 hr. Professional Reflexology Training Program and an educator for 26 years, Ms. Coad is trained in both Eastern and Western methods of bodywork including; Reflexology, Massage Therapy, Mechanical Link, Acupressure, Polarity Therapy, Reiki and Cranio-sacral Therapy.
For over 26 years, Wendy has been teaching classes and workshops for business and learning centers including: Viacom, New York University, Queens University, the New York Open Center, the Learning Annex, the Seminar Center and the Omega Institute. She has also made various media appearances including Metro TV and the Gary Null Show.
Ms. Coad currently teaches in New York City and Ft. Lauderdale. She has been in private practice for the past 17 years.
As an educator, Wendy brings knowledge, skill and experience combined with humor and enthusiasm to all her classes and training programs.