Category Archives: Natural Therapies

Natural therapies that can help maintain good health.

Stress Relief in the Palms of Your Hands

Reflexology was the first natural therapy that I became certified in 15 years ago and its simple yet powerful efficacy amazes me to this day. Although I no longer have a healing practice except for the occasional treatment or exchange, it remains my favourite natural therapy for its holistic effects on the body.

I use reflexology on myself daily by working the reflexes in my feet before bedtime to promote relaxation and a good night’s sleep. It also allows me to check in to see where I might be developing congestion in my body. I also work the reflexes in my hands throughout the work day to help reduce stress. I’d like to share with you a few key hand reflexes so you too, can enjoy healing in the plams of your hands.

Reflexology has roots in Chinese medicine and the endpoints for the 12 meridians  can be found in either the feet or hands. I was trained through the Reflexology Association of Canada which uses a westernized approach to Reflexology, but I had the privilege to attend a workshop by  Lillian Morten where I learned how to incorporate meridian theory into my reflexology practice.

Lately, I have noticed that reflexology is referred to as “reflexology massage’ and I find this odd because the treatment’s benefit comes from the stimulation of specific reflex points. Most reflexologists include a relaxing foot massage as part of their practice to warm up the feet before a treatment and again at the end for pure enjoyment, but the heart of the treatment lies in pinpointing the reflexes. The mastery of the reflexologist comes from the skill developed in pinpointing the reflexes on each client’s unique physiology.

I digress – you want to know how you can help mitigate stress as you go about your day. The reflexes on the feet are easy to identify because there is more space on the surface of the foot. The reflexes on the hands in comparison are stacked on top of each other and it can be difficult to be certain that you are on a specific reflex. However, the following three reflexes are easy to find and will help you to calm your nervous system in the middle of a busy day. The beauty of the hand reflexes is that they can be done anywhere and do not require the removal of shoes and socks.

Solar Plexus Reflex

This is my go-to reflex when I am feeling overwhelmed. Located in the middle of the palm, this reflex instantly calms me down. By combining the pressing of the reflex with a slow inhalation and releasing with an exhalation, you have the ability to interrupt  the physiological response to stress.

You can discreetly press this reflex while walking to a meeting, waiting in the elevator, sitting in a meeting or any other opportunity when your hands aren’t busy. Repeat on the opposite hand.

Solar Plexus Reflex |

Adrenal Reflex

It can be a little tricky finding this reflex as there are several reflexes in this area. This reflex is found in the fleshy part of the palm below the thumb and is often sharply sensitive. Push and reflex this reflex until the sensitivity decreases. Repeat on the opposite hand.

Adrenal Reflex |

Shoulder Reflex

I personally don’t find the shoulder reflex in the hand to be that effective in reducing shoulder tension but it might work for you so it is worth sharing. Find the head of the metacarpal bone just below the baby finger and push in a circular direction. The left hand corresponds to the left shoulder and the right hand corresponds to the right shoulder.

Shoulder Reflex |

Stimulate these reflexes throughout your day to promote relaxation.

Feet Reading: Exploring Health Through Reflexology

Years ago, when I was unwell from working too much, I saw an ad in the local paper for a reflexology course offered by an instructor from the Reflexology Association of Canada. I didn’t know what reflexology was or had ever received a treatment, but I was compelled to register for this course. I didn’t know it then, but synchronicity was in action and this first step opened a door to a new way of seeing the world and my place in it.

Each week, we learned about a different system in the body and the corresponding reflexes in the feet. The simplicity of this very effective treatment still amazes me today.

I remember when we were being taught the spinal reflex. The instructor had a diagram of the human skeleton and beside it a diagram of the spinal reflex. Looking from one diagram to the other – back and forth, left and right. I blurted out, “Oh, my God!” They’re the same!” The shape of the curve of the foot along the big toe mimics the shape of the spine.

The curve of the big toe corresponds to the occiput and cervical vertebrae. The sesamoid bone corresponds to the thoracic vertebrae. The slim curved part above the heel corresponds to the lumbar spine. Amazing. How is it that our foot is a microcosm of our body? That is some pretty incredible engineering!

Reflexology foot chart courtesy

I brought this awareness of the feet as a miniature body into my practice and used reflexology effectively to restore balance in my clients. Reflexology also provides a great boost to circulation so it is particularly beneficial for people suffering from circulatory disorders.

In Denmark, where reflexology is covered under public health care,  research has been conducted studying the benefits of reflexology. However, the first thing that most people will tell you about reflexology is how relaxing it is. In fact, most clients either fall asleep in the chair or need a nap after a session and couldn’t we all use some relaxation.

As we approach the arrival of spring, rejuvenate yourself with a relaxing, therapeutic treatment of reflexology. When searching for a practitioner in your area, ask about their training. A weekend workshop is not sufficient education for a reflexologist. Ideally they should be certified in their country and have completed a practicum before starting their practice.

This cartoon was created for my business, “Barking Dogs Reflexology” by the talented J. Reichl. ©holisticsailor

May your “dogs” not be barking!


Kapha with Vata Rising

I am a terrible sailor. I hate the wind. When it is blowing a gale at the dock and the boat is heeled over in her slip, it makes me cranky.

Perhaps you can relate to this? You may have noticed other tendencies that seem to be part of who you are. Maybe you like spicy foods and hate sweets? Maybe you always like to be active, but have very little endurance for long hikes? Are you a calm, easy going-person or are you quick to anger?

Welcome to the world of Ayurveda – a method of explaining our constitutional tendencies by dosha: Vata, Kapha and Pitta. You are born with a predominant dosha, but usually we are a combination of two doshas. Your good health is determined by how closely you live your life in balance with your dosha type. Disharmony and illness are a result of making choices that do not support your dosha.

There are numerous Ayurvedic questionnaires that you can take to help you determine your dosha. I was first introduced to this Indian system through Deepak Chopra’s book, “Perfect Health”.  The questionnaire helps you determine your dosha and then suggestions are made for foods and activities that will help keep your dosha type in balance.

As a Kapha, I am averse to dampness – a condition also addressed in Chinese medicine. Living on a sailboat in Canada is not the best environment for a Kapha. To keep myself in balance, I dress warm, eat hot foods in the winter months as opposed to raw, cold foods and need to exercise regularly.  Applying sesame oil to my skin before showering and then washing it off also warms me up. Kaphas need their sleep.  If you needed an excuse to sleep in, you are welcome.

My secondary dosha, Vata is aggravated by too much wind. It pulls me down into an unbalanced state quickly. As long as I keep my Kapha nature balanced, I am able to deal with the wind. If I have not been taking care of myself, I will end up as a  short-tempered, easy-to-gain-weight, insomniac. Nice.

I like the philosophy behind Ayurvedic principles because it addresses our unique constitutions – a concept that Western medicine has trouble grasping.  I challenge you to take an Ayurvedic questionnaire and find out your inner dosha. You will be surprised to see that many of your preferences for food and exercise as well as, personality traits can be explained by your dosha.

Use Your Smelly Sense

The use of essential oils from flowers, herbs, trees and fruit can be traced back to the ancient Sumerians. However, from the proliferation of commercials on TV, you would think that aromatherapy is a recent discovery. Other than using the word “aromatherapy”, there is no similarity between a synthetically produced piece of plastic that you stick into a light socket and an essential oil extracted from living matter. None.

It is not surprising then to understand that there is also no health benefit from the synthetic scent and in fact, exposure to chemicals can create ill health in people who are sensitive to them. Commercial “aromatherapy” products often contain synthetically-made fragrances with perhaps, a trace amount of essential oil.

In comparison, each essential oil can be broken down into its naturally occurring chemical constituents. It is the chemical constituents that give essential oils their therapeutic benefits.  A trained aromatherapist blends essential oils after consulting with a client. The oils can then be applied through an aromatherapy massage or for the client to take home to apply after showering or to use in a diffuser. Never put undiluted essential oils directly on the skin without first consulting an aromatherapist.

Diffuser blend

During the craziness of H1N1, a diffuser filled with water and essential oils can be beneficial. Try this recipe at home, 3 drops each of the essential oils of:

  • lemon (citrus limonum)
  • eucalyptus (eucalyptus globulus) and
  • pine (pinus sylvestris).

(Please note that eucalyptus should be avoided if you have high blood pressure.  Substitute tea tree oil (melaleuca alternifolia) for the eucalyptus.) Place the diffuser in the room where you spend the most amount of time.

Essential oils can be used effectively to treat a wide variety of health issues. For more information, consult a professionally trained aromatherapist in your community.