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3. Reading the Feet Holistically

Visual Reflexology is about using the appearance of the reflexes to understand the person’s health holistically and within the broader context of our profession.

But, like reflexology itself, it starts by first considering a client’s physical energy and wellbeing. It includes using observations of the rest of the body during a treatment but does not use any other modalities other than Western anatomy & physiology.

There are many ways to read the feet, and ultimately, all foot reading teachers are working in different ways towards the same goal: a completely rounded, holistic way of foot reading. This should be possible because of how all the energetic aspects – physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual – replicate in appearance on the feet, e.g. hard skin appears as both a physical and an emotional shield at a reflex. While other foot reading books focus very much on personality or emotions, in this book, although I read the feet holistically, I will look at physical energy first and foremost. 

As reflexologists, we need to start with a solid understanding of how to read physical health on the feet for several reasons. Energetically, because the feet touch the earth, they represent and connect us to the material, i.e. physical world. And, as bodywork therapists, we have a responsibility to look after our client’s physical wellbeing. And ultimately, as it is the foundation, learning how to read physical energy will give us a much greater and more holistic understanding of the other energies. 

The Different Energy Fields

Before looking further at Visual Reflexology as a way of foot reading, it will be helpful to have a brief overview of how the different energetic levels on the feet can be read, either as a separate modality or as part of a reflexology session. (I also look at these in greater detail in a chapter towards the end of the book ‘Other Ways of Foot Reading‘.)

Spiritual Energy

There has inevitably been some confusion between other ways of foot reading and mine, so I thought I’d look briefly at how two of its most well known practitioners read the feet and the difference between our approaches. Chris Stormer was the original foot reader and has quite a spiritual perspective. As well as the reflexes based on Western Anatomy & Physiology, she incorporates the chakras and the elemental forces of earth, fire, air, water, yin/yang, and even theories based on Chinese hand reading into her method of foot reading. 

The Personality

Jane Sheehan has a similar approach to Chris Stormer in many respects but teaches a form of foot reading known as ‘Solestry’. This analyses the appearance of the feet to gain insights into the client’s personality and then gives feedback on how to best adapt their behaviour and lifestyle accordingly. It is, therefore, a distinctly different therapy from straightforward reflexology; in theory, it isn’t even necessary to be a reflexologist to practise it. 

However, both these ways of foot reading also use the reflexes to chart the feet, and many reflexologists use them either as a separate modality (in the case of ‘Solestry’) or as a backdrop to their regular reflexology treatments to help them understand their clients’ motivations and actions within a holistic context. Jane is practising Solestry in video 1. following, and obviously, it is very different from a reflexology treatment. This book is definitely not about reading the personality this way, and that is why I talk of Visual Reflexology, to put what I am writing about firmly within the field of reflexology as a form of holistic bodywork.

video 1.

The Emotions

N.B. This book covers holistically reading the emotions on the feet as an aspect of Visual Reflexology during a reflexology treatment. It does not cover reading the emotions when ‘stand alone’ foot reading or ‘Solestry’ is practised.

Visual Reflexology uses the Metaphysical Method of reading emotions, which is based entirely on modern Western Anatomy & Physiology, so it is readily understandable to reflexologists trained in the Ingham method and therefore needs no further study of other philosophies or medical systemsIt was developed to a large extent by Louise Hay, a writer who thought holistically long before most people in the West. 

She talked about energy transference between the mind and body and how one can affect the other, often with almost exactly like-for-like symptoms. I use her way of looking at illness and disease but apply it to reading the feet in their form as a microcosmic representation of the body. The list in the following link is from a website where the author took her search further. But it is the most comprehensive list of Louise Hay’s interpretations of the emotional connection to illnesses that I could find. 

Emotions can appear very clearly on the feet, and being able to read them is a powerful skill. However, as bodywork therapists, it can be challenging to relay what we see to a client and professional boundaries can become blurred. So knowing how you wish to use foot reading yourself and what a client wants and expects is essential. 

For some, it is a full-on discussion about how their emotions appear on their feet. While others will be horrified at the thought, and it is best to only use it as an unspoken backdrop to their session. Most people will fall somewhere between the two extremes, and you will likely already have an idea with your regular clients, but with new ones, talk to them and find out first.

Ethically, how reflexologists use foot reading to support a client’s emotional wellbeing is no different from using what we feel on their feet. It can guide our questions and encourage them to open up about their feelings while providing supportive, sympathetic listening in a safe place. But we should never use observations to tell clients what to do, how to behave or make judgemental comments. Nor should we tell them how they feel – we should only ask

This way, we can avoid bringing up emotions that they are not yet ready to face and that we are not equipped to deal with. We are not mental health professionals any more than we are doctors, and giving counselling that we are not trained in, is just as unprofessional as providing a physical diagnosis. And although it can be difficult, we must be aware of when to discuss with a client about seeing a bereavement counsellor, life coach or psychotherapist, for example.

Counselling courses

We know how helpful clients find talking about their problems during a treatment and how much it matters to us to support our clients emotionally. But if you want to take this further, you could train as a counsellor and offer it as a separate or combined therapy. There are many free courses in counselling available if you live in the UK, and this site lists some that other reflexologists have taken. Relational Reflexology is a blog in which a reflexologist who is also a counsellor explores the space between the two.

Knowing the limits of emotional foot reading within a reflexology treatment can be difficult. So I have co-written a set of ethical guidelines with Sam Belyea, a fellow foot reader, to give an idea of the boundaries when reading the emotions or personality during a reflexology session. 

Physical Health

Reflexology is a bodywork therapy

But ultimately, whatever energies we can read on the feet, although we work holistically, we are still bodyworkers. Our first responsibility to our clients is to be aware of physical issues. While their symptoms may be triggered by emotional or even psychic distress and providing a sympathetic listening ear can bring enormous relief, reflexology works through the medium of bodywork. We facilitate healing responses in a person that are stimulated through connecting with physical pathways and earth energy.

So if, for example, we see something concerning on the heart reflex, it is essential to work on the organ’s physical health first and consider referring the client for a check-up regardless of whether or not there has been a lot of ‘heartache’ in their lives. Of course, we should consider both, but no matter how much emotional issues matter, in our therapy, they come second after considering the person’s physical health and well-being.

Our Own Wellbeing

It is also essential to consider things from the perspective of our own wellbeing. We can quickly exhaust ourselves trying to work simultaneously with a client on more than one energetic level. Then, rather than being a neutral conduit for the client’s energy to pass through, we can leave ourselves vulnerable to absorbing it, which is not healthy for us, nor does it provide the optimum healing environment for them. 

The feet ground us and represent material energy

The Foot Chakra

Visual Reflexology does not include reading the chakras except for their connection with the nerve plexuses found in Western A&P (covered in the chapter on Reading Left- Right Balance). This is because they are from a separate modality and should be studied as such to be used appropriately and also so that those reflexologists who have no knowledge of them can still fully understand the reasoning behind Visual Reflexology. 

But aside from this, reflexologists can still use them for self-care and self-healing. Using the foot chakra is a particularly appropriate way to help ground our own energy, so I include it as an additional section to this chapter on working with different energies. While the feet are associated with the root chakra at the very base of the spine, they also have their own, mostly forgotten chakra, which is located around the centre of the sole on each foot

This is a fascinating website about it and the Indian philosophy from which chakra based medicine comes(NB, there are two parts to it; to get to part II, click on ‘next article’ in the right-hand side column.) The following video shows a meditation on the foot chakra which is easy to follow. It is meant to be done with crystals, but I find it very beneficial even without them.

This is the Q&A section, so please go ahead and comment on this chapter if you wish. If you want to ask me something privately so only I can view it, make a note and I will not make it visible to other members. 

Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to notify you when your comment has been approved, so you will need to check, but I aim to approve them all within 48 hours. You can also scroll down to go directly to the next chapter.


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