When is Reflexology not Reflexology?



As a therapist specialising in energy-based techniques, I have spent the past 10 years studying, researching and developing my own unique therapeutic approach to working via the feet; Zu Qigong- Foot Energy Work, and I would like to offer some advice to those reflexologists who are now experimenting with “distance reflexology”, based on my own experience and knowledge of working with energy.

I applaud any therapist who is seeking alternative ways to support their clients in these times of social distancing. There is a growing need for the therapy profession to begin thinking outside the square in order to embrace the “new normal” that our world is entering into post Covid-19, and for many therapists remote or distance work offers a legitimate therapeutic intervention that has great potential. However, just as most reflexologists would be very quick to point out that a foot massage is not reflexology, in my humble opinion, distance reflexology is not reflexology but is instead energy work, and as such requires the therapist to approach this therapeutic technique with a different mindset and knowledge base to that of reflexology.

Reflexology uses mechanical energy to interact with / manipulate the structures of the feet, hands, face etc, achieving its therapeutic benefits by applying specific types of pressure to the muscles, nerve endings and soft tissues. To ensure safety and effectiveness all reflexologists are required to demonstrate an adequate knowledge of anatomy and physiology and a good level of understanding and practical application of the techniques used. “Distance reflexology” or energy work, utilises a different form of energy, the transfer of subtle vibration via the universal energy matrix and therefore crosses into a different modality, and as such ideally requires the therapist to embark on a relevant course of study in order to work safely and effectively.  The “energy” we are referring to in energy work has been recognised and understood by ancient civilisations for thousands of years and has many different names, Qi, Ki, Prana etc and is described as the universal life force, the energy of heaven and earth. This energy or subtle vibration is believed to be circulated throughout the body via a specific energy network, a physiological system that has yet to be scientifically proven by Western science but has been understood and described across the Millenia by the ancient physicians and philosophers of many cultures including those of the far East and Americas. The most widely recognised descriptions acknowledged here in the West being those of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) – the Meridian system, and Ayurvedic Medicine – chakras, Marma points and channels, each applying their own unique nomenclature and philosophies. The energy system is described by all as a single, continuous network that is both complex and delicately balanced, therefore any therapist who wishes to work with energy requires, at the very least a basic knowledge of the philosophies, theories, and described structure of this network as defined by their preferred system of choice; TCM or Ayurvedic.

We are all connected via the energy of Heaven and Earth”

Energy work, whether used hands on or remotely,  is both powerful and effective impacting the individual at all levels, physical, mental, and emotional, and like any therapy also has the potential to cause “harm” if not used correctly. Problems can be avoided by following some simple rules.

  • Work within the limits of your knowledge. Do not presume that you can diagnose or treat specific conditions, to accurately do so requires many years of intense study. Keep it simple, work holistically across the network and allow the recipient’s body to make any changes it requires, all healing comes from within.


  • Less is more when working with energy. Working simply and following the natural flow patterns of the energy network, taking care not to overload any one part of the network, will achieve the best result. I have regularly seen posts discussing distance reflexology, where therapists talk about adding in some Reiki or doing some Chakra work, unaware perhaps that although these are different approaches to energy work, originating from different cultures, each using different labels and terminology, they are actually describing the same function and are all designed to deliver vibrational energy into the network, it is simply a question of which language you have your “Sat Nav” tuned in to, using a slightly different route map perhaps, but ultimately aiming to arrive at the same destination, mixing and matching has the potential to cause an overload in parts of the system. Choose one philosophical / theoretical system and stick to it, this avoids confusion and potential problems. Keep in mind the old adage that you can “kill someone with kindness”, whilst your intention is undoubtedly one of offering as much help as possible, remember that too much of anything causes imbalance.


  • There is a fine line between positive intent and ego. An energy exchange should be offered unconditionally – supporting not controlling, it is not down to the therapist to decide where changes need to be made, allow the recipient’s body to use or discharge the energy as it requires at the time of delivery. Trust in the inherent wisdom of the body to know what changes, if any, it requires to make. Remember that your thoughts are also energy and will be transmitted – aim to still the mental chatter, quieten the monkey mind before beginning to work, focus on the gentle connection between client and therapist and allow the energy to flow. In Daoist philosophy there is a state of being referred to as Wu Wei. The translation of Wu Wei is “without doing, causing or making.” From a practical perspective this refers to working without interference or egotistical effort. When we learn to work with our own inner nature and with the natural laws operating around us, we reach the level of Wu Wei.

“No matter how much it gets abused, the body can restore balance. The first rule is to stop interfering with nature”

Deepak Chopra

  • Always work with consent, respect that not everyone will feel comfortable with the concept of remote energy work. Immediately before beginning a remote session I have found connecting face to face via one of the technology platforms offers both an opportunity to consult with your client and gain verbal consent whilst also improving the visualisation during the session.


  • Take responsibility for your own energy and wellbeing. Use whatever techniques work for you; meditation, grounding, Qigong, Taiji, yoga, a good diet, connecting with nature, breath work etc. You can only support others if you first care for yourself.

Energy work offers exciting possibilities for the future, it is an infinite subject and an area that is still shrouded in mystery with so much that we have yet to discover and understand. As we have only a limited understanding of the science involved then I would suggest that it is even more important to tread carefully when exploring these techniques. In my own work I have found the feet to be an immensely powerful conduit into the energy network and would therefore always advise a less is more approach.

To all therapists looking to work with “energy” – enjoy the journey, it is fascinating and exciting!

I am always happy to share my own experiences and knowledge, pulling together our collective experiences is the way to expand our understanding. if you have any questions please drop me an email: elspeth@footpaththerapies.co.uk




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