Reflexology Strokes

Find out which massage techniques are most useful when treating different areas of the body.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images/javi_indy

In reflexology, the techniques we use to massage are circling on the spot, cat’s stepping, pincer grasp, and the mobilization of joints. Let’s look at each in detail.

Circling on the Spot

This massage technique can be both investigative and therapeutic, and depending on the intensity it will have a stimulating, neutral, or calming effect. Fast, vigorous circles will concentrate energy into a zone, whereas slow and soft circles are soothing and energy dispersing. For this technique, circle around one point, always remaining in contact with the skin, without sliding. If using a crystal wand follow the same procedure. After about five to seven circles move to the next point, overlapping with the previous massage circle as you go.

This technique can be used to feel the structures of the connective tissue under the skin. It can also be used as a means to spread relaxation into the surrounding tissue after the basic unblocking procedure (described in the next section) or to tone the tissue. Please carry out these circling movements very slowly, in time with the breathing rhythm of your client.

If you follow your intuition the direction of movement of these circles is generally unimportant. However if you should sense an inner resistance to a direction, or sense tension, or you notice an autonomic reaction in your client, simply change directions. An autonomic nervous-system reaction in reflexology massage might involve goose bumps, light perspiration, spontaneous need to urinate, increased flow of saliva, or dryness of the mouth, to name a few. All these spontaneous sensations indicate that the nervous system is having “digestive problems” with the incoming impulses.

Circle Direction

With circles there is always the question of whether to massage clockwise or counterclockwise. Which is activating and which is relaxing? Which is correct and which should be avoided? The answer lies in your own intuition, in following your hands. And if you are unsure or in doubt, there is an easy test: Circle a few times in one direction and then in the other direction while holding your thumb against the client’s thumb and applying slight pressure. The direction of circling that yields good muscle strength is the correct direction. The direction where the thumb feels weak is wrong.

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