A foot massage is a very simple act and therein lies its beauty. Elegant and luxurious, definitely a good tool in stress management and the release of tension, and yet we pay so little attention to our feet that do so much good work for us.
Anatomy of the feet and ankles
The feet and ankles are very complex structures with twenty-four bones, that is a quarter of the bones in our body, thirty-three joints, and one hundred muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Then of course you have the network of nerves and blood vessels. Our feet do a fantastic job of carrying our weight and transporting us around all day. They deserve a rest and they have earned a regular massage. A foot massage, although focusing on the feet, does have an effect on the whole body and there are massage techniques which use correspondences between areas of the foot and other body parts.
Reflexology is a well know method that uses a correspondence map. In this method various areas of the feet correspond to zones of the body. Reflexology is not just about a pleasant foot massage, which it also is, but about using the feet as instrument of addressing problems in any part of the body. For a reflexology massage you need to visit a trained professional.
Shiatsu, which is normally a full body treatment, is based on the energy meridians of traditional Chinese medicine that also form the basis of acupuncture. It can also be done as a simple foot massage which would begin with massaging the soles and heel, stretching the toes and then paying attention to the meridian points. These are points along the twelve energy meridians by which the energy of that specific meridian is accessed. Several of these meridians begin or end in the foot. As each meridian expresses an energy particular to various body systems, Shiatsu on the feet can also have a full body effect. Again you would also need a professional practitioner for this kind of massage. However, a short introductory course, a familiarity with the meridians and points, and the aid of one of many of the do-it-yourself books on Shiatsu points and remedies will enable you to perform a simple massage on family and friends.
As a student you are on a budget and regular visits to a professional practitioner may not be realistic so here are some tips for giving a simple foot massage and sharing with friends. The first imperative is to always be sensitive. Feel the foot intuitively and do not massage too firmly or too lightly. You can practice on your own feet to get the right touch. Never press straight down on a bony or tense part of the foot and remember to respond to the receiver’s feedback. Make sure both giver and receiver are sitting comfortably, hold the foot in the palm of one hand and with the other bend the toes gently back and then forward to give them a stretch. Do the same with the whole foot to stretch the Achilles tendon. Now gently massage down between the metatarsals (long bones) of the forefoot that lead to the toes. A lot of tension can gather here so go carefully as it may be a sensitive spot. Then massage in semi-circular movements along the instep from heel to big toe. Usually it is possible to be firmer here as we are on a fleshier part of the foot. Next massage the sole of the foot with circular movements. Please try to be as intuitive as possible. Imagine you are the foot and how you would like to be held. Sudden, hard pressure straight down is not good. Move slowly and increase the pressure gradually. Finally hold the ankles and using fingers and thumb simply move around the ankle bone. Finish by stroking the whole foot downwards from ankle to toes. You can use the same technique to give yourself a foot massage.
The soul of the foot
No, that is not spelled incorrectly. I mean the soul and I mean in it in the sense that our feet are a part of ourselves that contain feeling and character. Our soles connect us to the ground beneath us, they feel the terrain and it is wonderful to walk barefoot along a beach or over soft grass. As a meditation exercise try to be aware of the energy of the earth through the soles of your feet. Or raise your arms high and imagine energy running from the sky down your arms and body, through the soles of your feet and into the ground.
Enjoy giving and receiving foot massage and reflect on the soul in your soles.