We blink, and just like that, it’s Summer!

We blink, and just like that, it’s Summer!

Ask Giovanna!

Wendy Reichental and Giovanna Daniele

We blink, and just like that, it’s summer! And with it comes the urge to get outdoors and soak in all of its glory. Did you know, Giovanna, that several studies have even shown that revelling in the great outdoors promotes certain health benefits and has been linked to even lower stress levels, blood pressure, and feeling more alive, among a sleuth of other positive outcomes?  Foot reflexology and a unique practice called “forest bathing” share some things in common and in this segment we explore both, starting with what is this Japanese phenomenon “shinrin-yoku”?

GD: Yes, summer is finally here and you are so right. The ancient technique of foot reflexology and forest bathing have a lot in common. As you mentioned, both practices have been well documented for their restorative benefits and both seem to elicit a positive health response.  However, unlike the activity of soaking our feet in a basin of water before a relaxing foot reflexology session, forest bathing does not actually involve or use any water.  The latter refers to an immersive experience where the focus is on nature and a natural environment.  Forest bathing or shinrin-yoku originated in Japan in the 1980s. Today, forest bathing is practiced by cultures all over the world. And who would not want to seek ‌‌this available form of free natural therapy? It only requires that you do some mindful breathing as you stroll along slowly in a forest, park, or tree-lined street while noticing and absorbing the space and surrounding around you. 

Take a few deep breaths and observe what physical sensations arise from soaking up the sights, smells, and sounds of a natural setting. Allow yourself the opportunity to really feel each sensation. For example, you might smell the earthy soil, or gaze high ‌into a tree, or hear birds chirping, things that link you to the world outside yourself. Listen to the crunch of the leaves as your feet walk over branches and fallen pine cones.

Speaking of feet, how ‌are forest bathing and foot reflexology similar?

GD: Just like a onetime full session of foot reflexology, even a small amount of time in nature can have a significant impact on our overall physical and psychological health. Both practices can help you be present and clear your mind, reduce stress, and feel more relaxed. But the benefits in common don’t stop there. Forest bathing and foot reflexology have been shown to produce better sleep, improve mood and boost in immune function. Add to that mix are reduced blood pressure, an increase in energy, and homeostasis or a state of balance, where this balancing might bring about healing to the whole body. Another similarity is that people on nature walks and clients receiving a reflexology session tend to engage in less rumination or negative self -thoughts. 

That’s for sure, Giovanna! I would think it’s difficult to have negative thoughts when you feel relaxed, as when you are having a full foot reflexology session or when you experience that sense of awe from viewing natural beauty.  It’s incredible how both practices – reflexology and forest bathing aim to stimulate the senses. Could you break down a few of the senses and how they are affected, in particular in a foot reflexology session?

GD: Before I do that, did you know that reflexologists often compare a person to a tree? The roots are the feet, the trunk is the spinal column and the leaves are the face. We already know that the sole of the foot has thousands of nerve endings and many reflex points are connected to vital organs of the body. Through stimulating the reflex areas on the foot, we are awakening all the five senses of the body to help with the release of stress and tension.

Starting with sight. When my client first enters my room, they are greeted with soft lighting, and they are taking in the entire setup. Your eyes are signaling your brain. Your brain is then deciding if it likes what it sees, and if it is pleasing, the client is ready to start the relaxation journey. In foot reflexology, the eye reflexes are located in the middle part of the second and third toes. 

Another sense that is stimulated is your hearing. Some reflexologists will play some kind of atmospheric soft music during the session, because of its calming effect and ability to enhance the ambience of a reflexology session. It is best to check with your client for their preference. The ear reflexes play an important part in maintaining the body’s balance. The ear reflexes are situated on the cushions of the fourth and fifth toes. 

Then we have the sense of taste. Following a reflexology session, we will ‌offer the client a glass of water or suggest drinking a glass when the client gets home. This is because following the reflexology session, the client might discover that their mouth and throat feel a little dry. It is important to remind clients ‌they stay well hydrated both during and after a reflexology session. The mouth and teeth reflex are represented on the big toe at the lower inner edge, the bottom of the toe pad and the toe base.

Touch is one of the first senses that we acquire. In touch, we receive comfort. In reflexology, it is at the centre of what we do. Reflexologists use a variety of pressures on the feet, from firm to a lighter touch. When pressure receptors in the skin are stimulated, it has the effect of lowering the cortisol (our stress hormone) and increasing oxytocin (love hormone) that contributes to relaxation. When we perform our reflexology routine on the feet, this act of physical contact and being connected with our clients has the added result of improving their sense of overall wellbeing.

Well Giovanna, when you talk about touch, it makes me also think of “grounding.” But in this case, being “grounded” means being connected with the earth, preferably barefoot on the ground. Can you briefly tell us about “grounding” and its positive benefits?

GD: For sure, there has been plenty of research on “grounding” outlining how electrical charges from the earth can have beneficial effects on your body. For example, planting your feet on the ground and walking barefoot even for a few moments on your lawn and the natural environment around you can have you feeling more focused, centered, and balanced.

What would you say are the takeaways from the similarities between forest bathing, grounding and reflexology?

GD: The main one‌ is that all these practices offer us an opportunity to quell the chaos of modern living.  Our feet are amazing conduits of not only electricity, and grounding us to the earth, but as we know in reflexology, our feet can reveal a lot about our health. Our feet can show evidence of disease even before it shows up in other areas of our body.  For example, a foot ulcer that doesn’t heal may be an indicator of diabetes. What eco-therapy and reflexology can aspire to do is to calm the nervous system and tap into nature’s healing power by reducing tension and allowing you to feel more relaxed and, yes, grounded.

Well, see Giovanna, all of this just proves what we have known all along that time spent immersed in the beauty of nature or in the compassionate, skilled hands of a registered reflexologist is – truly good for our souls/soles.

GD: Brava Wendy!

1 Comment
  • Bruce Harris
    Posted at 16:11h, 01 June Reply

    Another great article ladies! Please keep them coming!

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