September 1, 2020


Have you ever walked passed a  litte shop and seen some Reflexology advertising on a board or the window and wondered to yourself what is reflexology?

Well, Reflexology is a type of massage where a therapist would apply different amounts of pressure to a person’s feet, hands, and ears. It is well known in eastern medicine that these body parts are connected to certain organs and bodily systems, thus the purpose behind reflexology is based on the idea that by massaging and applying certain pressures to these body parts, will help to alleviate any stresses and/or blockages to the organs or bodily systems which may have experienced these stresses at any given time.

In short, Reflexology is a non-invasive complementary health therapy that can be effective in promoting deep healing, relaxation and wellbeing. It is a touch therapy that is based on the theory that different points on the feet, lower leg, hands, face or ears correspond with different areas of the body and reflexologists work these points and areas to promote a range of health and benefits

A brief history of Western reflexology

Whilst the art of reflexology dates back to Ancient Egypt, India and China, this therapy was not introduced to the West until Dr. William Fitzgerald developed ‘Zone therapy’ in the early 1900’s. Dr. William Fitzgerald came to believe through extensive study that reflex areas on the feet and hands were linked to other areas and organs of the body within the same zone.

Back in the 1920’s investigative studies regarding this concept allowed the first Western reflexology foot map to be produced. Since that time the other anatomical areas have been mapped allowing this model to be applied to the hands, ears and face.

In the 1930’s, Eunice Ingham further developed this zone therapy into what is known today as reflexology. Her opinion was that congestion or tension in any part of the foot is mirrored in the corresponding part of the body.

Thus, if the reflexologist simply works those reflected areas with their sensitive fingers, aiming to bring those areas back to balance and therefore aiding the body to work to release the tension as well as it can.

Working with Dr. Riley at St Petersburg as a physiotherapist, Eunice Ingham (1889 – 1974). Extended the work of Dr. Fitzgerald and painstakingly mapped the feet with all the corresponding organs and glands of the body. She was a real pioneer who was determined to help people to help themselves.

In the early years, she worked with doctors to prove her findings and to demonstrate to them that reflexology was a useful diagnostic tool. She lectured at a medical clinic headed by Dr. Charles Epstein in May 1939. In his report, he acknowledged that reflexology worked. However, while they knew it worked, doctors were not interested in using it, because reflexology was too time consuming and they could not make as much money.

Throughout her forty years of experience treating many thousands of people, Eunice Ingham devised a system of techniques, which enable the practitioner to contact the reflexes in the most effective and economic way. This system is known as the “Original Ingham Method” and though this method has been refined still further through research by Dwight Byers and staff at the Institute, her legacy is still thoroughly entwined in the practical techniques that we teach.

The years of World War II interrupted Eunice Ingham’s travelling for a time, but in 1947 her nephew joined her on her lecture tour. Each of Eunice Ingham’s seminars was unique. Her method of instruction was to demonstrate and lecture as she worked on the health problems of those who attended. Over the years, Dwight Byers has contributed to his aunt’s work by organizing the seminars into training workshops. These have been further developed to produce the Diploma course that we teach in the UK.

Eunice Ingham died in 1974, having devoted forty years of her life to reflexology. Today, her legacy continues and she would be proud to see how reflexology has been developed into a profession. So those of us associated with the International Institute of Reflexology are indeed fortunate that we have the opportunity to get so close to the originator of the techniques.

It is easy to be confused about the many different schools and methods of reflexology. It is worth remembering that the International Institute of Reflexology is the only organization legally entitled to teach the Original Ingham Method®. It forms the foundation of the entire therapy.