“Power and speed be hands and feet.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Most people are familiar with the saying, “Take time to smell the roses.” When’s the last time you heard, “Take time to play your feet”?
As people prone to depression, it’s easy to get out of touch with our bodies. For so many years, I felt like I existed only from the neck up—and barely, at that. The numbness of my mind caused by the antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications seemed to extend to the rest of me. The fact that I gained weight due to the meds didn’t help any. I didn’t want to be in touch with any part of my body. I just wanted to feel better.
Good news: A quick, easy way to feel better is just a couple of feet away—literally. And it doesn’t cost a cent. Try this Easy Energizer I learned from my yoga instructor, Shelly Acree (see below). The first time she took our yoga class through this exercise, I was surprised at how much better it made me feel. I felt an influx of energy and clarity of mind. The fatigue with which I had entered the class fell away, and the process of doing the exercise made me smile. And it only took about five minutes. What’s not to like?
In preparing to write this article, I conducted a cursory review of reflexology as it affects depression. It turns out that the feet (and the hands) hold the stress patterns for the rest of the body. Who knew? By gently stretching, pressing, and slapping your feet, you can break up these patterns and release a lot of stress from the body’s nervous system, which in turn alleviates depression and anxiety. Eleven studies have demonstrated that reflexology reduces depression, while nine studies have demonstrated that it reduces anxiety (http://www.reflexology-research.com/whatis.htm). As I learn more about reflexology and how it helps relieve or heal depression, I will share this information with you.
If you are interested in learning more about reflexology, check out the website Reflexology Research Project. It has a really cool interactive, full-color reflexology chart for the feet.
You can do this exercise one foot at a time or, if you are flexible, both feet at the same time. Be sure to do every part of this exercise gently. If any part is painful (rather than merely uncomfortable), then skip it. If reaching your feet yourself is difficult or painful, ask a loved one or close friend to do this exercise for you. You can also make an appointment with a professional reflexologist.
1) Take off your shoes and socks, if you’re wearing any (wheee!). Wiggle your toes.
2) Thread your fingers in between the toes of the opposite foot, i.e., thread the fingers of your right hand in between the toes of your left foot and the fingers of your left hand in between the toes of your right foot. Leave them threaded for about 30 seconds.
3) Unthread your fingers and stretch your toes back and forth a few times by pushing on them with your hands.
4) Pull on each toe, massaging it as you do so.
5) Take your thumbs and press them into the soles and tops of your feet, all over. Be sure to get the sides of your feet, the bases of your toes, your ankles, and your heels. Do this for a couple of minutes.
6) Now, for the fun part: “Play the bongos” on your feet by gently slapping them all over. Do this for about 30 seconds.
7) Rest your hands on top of your feet and close your eyes. See in your mind’s eye the many thousands of miles your feet have traveled. Acknowledge how hard they work for you and how important they are to your well-being. Thank them for all they do.
8) Sit quietly and breathe deeply, sending the breath of life down into your feet. Enjoy your new-found energy and the release of tension. Smile!
(c) 2011 by Patricia R. Henschen, M.A.