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Defining Reflexology Part 3: Mapping the Body

The things we can see are the same things that exist within us. There is no reality except the one contained inside. This is why many people live in delusion. They take images outside as sole reality, never realizing that they are linked to internal causes.

Herman Hesse

For centuries at least physicians and healers from around the globe have projected maps onto the body to aid their processes of diagnosis and prescription. In the case of Reflexology, maps of the entire body are projected onto its constituent parts – typically the soles of the feet, palms of the hand or ears and precise stimulation of zones and points is applied to treat dis-ease. Now, using the newest Reflexology on the planet, the entire body can be mapped and its interconnection understood by us all more than ever before.

It should be acknowledged that the notion of of invisible energetic pathways around the body has been studied since antiquity.

Typically, such schemes depict connections between physical body parts and their mental, emotional or spiritual counterpart(s). By now the Meridian system of TCM and Chakra centres of Ayurveda are the most popular and best researched, but they are not the only ones...

From the ‘Zodiac Man’ of the Middle Ages to Leonardo Da Vinci’s ‘Vitruvian Man’, mapping the body has for a long time recalled also the portrayal of humans as a microcosm influenced by the macrocosm of the Universe. And indeed, Reflexology more tangibly than any other approach integrates this idea in a way that is relevant today as science provides a vision of our inner and outer worlds.

It is impossible to say exactly when or where Reflexology originated though some claim that certain pictographs and engravings found on Egyptian, Chinese and Mayan sites proove it to be an eternal practice employed by several early civilisations. Inspired by such ideas, in the 1880s an Irish-American ear nose and throat specialist began to investigate the use of reflex maps for analgesia. Dr. Fitzgerald then developed his findings into 'Zone Therapy' which later, with the contribution of Eunice Ingham that validated reflex maps for the feet, morphed into what we now call Foot Reflexology in the West.

Later, in the 1940's Penfield's Homunculus or 'little man' showed us that the brain contains a map of the physical body which is ‘coded’ to the motor and sensory functions and reflexes in each part. When precise zones of this scheme are ‘stimulated’ using an electrical charge, there is a kinetic response elsewhere in the body.

With this background, the discovery of 'multireflexology' in Vietnam in the late 1970s seems a little less absurd. This method originated with old Vietnamese diagnostic face maps and, thanks to the intuition of Vietnamese Professor Bui Quoc Chau, was developed into the world’s first complete method of Reflexology which covers the face, arms, legs, back, hands, fingers and feet. If they exist on the feet and in the brain, why not elsewhere too?

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this technique is its simplicity. Influenced by their ancestral language and its description of body parts, the founders were able to decipher an important rule in identifying effective reflex maps: the law of Similar Form. What this means is that projections of the body's organs are placed upon the face (or elsewhere) according to the similarity in shape or proportion of the feature and corresponding body part.

For example, one projection of the back presents a figure with his torso draped down the nose from root to tip, his spine ending where the bone finishes and his pelvis reflected in the round ‘wings’ of the nose. Can't you just see the shape of a back when you look at someone's nose in profile? Likewise, the zone around both eyes from the sockets inwards correspond to the breasts with the pupils recalling the nipples. And finally, to introduce an aspect of the multireflexology, to treat a sore elbow on one side of the body we may work on the knee of the other.

This to me is fascinating. Just as scientists have drawn correlations between the iris and the nebula or the brain cell and our Universe (images), Dien Chan Zone® invites us to explore our own bodies with the same marvel and leads us to the same conclusion: as above, so below; as within, so without. This Universal Law indicates that there is harmony, agreement and correspondence between the physical, mental and spiritual realms; that the same pattern is expressed on all planes of existence from the smallest electron to the largest star and vice versa. All is One.

Just as man reflects the cosmos, his own parts reflect his whole. Therein, an attention to reflex maps offers insight not only to how we are composed, but also who we are and where we come from. In a culture committed to measurement and physicality we are entering an incredible time to explore the science of the golden ratio, sacred geometry and our cosmic origins. But, we should at the same time be conscious that the more we discover about anatomy, the less we can claim to know.

Facial Reflexology has taught me time and time again that what takes place during treatment is far bigger and far greater than myself or my receiver. It reminds me to stand in awe of what I cannot fathom and to be weary of anyone that treats the body as an organised mechanism with distinct and separate functions. I've learned to honour my own unique experience of the body and listen to its wisdom over the loud dictates of convention. This four part series will conclude next week with a discussion of the new roles of therapist and receiver in a bid to conclude my definition of Reflexology. I hope you will join me.

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