Pampering Your Feet Massages a Key to Good Health
Foot-massage centers are always packed with everyone from hordes of tourists to a steady flow of locals in need of rest and relaxation. What's the secret behind this ancient method of foot reflexology that dates back nearly 1,800 years?
We tend to ignore our feet, for the most part, until we spend hours walking. Then, they cry out for some loving care. It's lucky for our feet that there's an ever-growing galaxy of foot massage centers in China; they care for our sore bunions, heels and arches. The Chinese Government estimates five million, or more, people work in reflexology. College graduates are entering the field, and given the popularity of the specialty, many are opening foot-massage centers.
What's the attraction? A foot massage is not only a way to relax, but, some suggest, it provides key health benefits, especially if you have poor blood circulation or if you need to relieve stress. Thousands of years ago, an acupuncturist in China discovered that feet hold the key to overall body health. By skillfully placing pressure on specific points on each foot, toxins can be eliminated, blood circulation and vital organ functions can be stimulated and nerves can be calmed.
Bao Tiangui, 27, a masseuse at Fayi Fengcai Foot Massage Center, says, a "foot massage can help improve the body's immune system, and can help release body fatigue. If you receive a foot massage regularly, it will improve your intestines." The center where Bao works uses some Tibetan medicines and herbs, such as angelica. Other massage centers use lavender and rose oil in the water while washing their clients' feet.
Reflexologists say you can discern the condition of your body's organs by pressing on the sole of the foot. On a personal note, I once had a stomach ache and the masseuse could tell immediately, by pressing on a specific part of my foot. Needless to say, I was impressed. Sometimes a foot massage can be painful, especially if it is your first time.
If it is too unbearable, and if you cannot sit still through the massage, that's not a good sign. "If you feel pain, it means that your internal organs are not working well," said Wang Rui, 30, a masseuse at the Tianhe Liangzi Foot Massage Center.
Foot reflexology was not widely practiced, especially in public, during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), because its practitioners feared persecution. It is experiencing a revival, especially among foreign tourists. Getting a foot massage is the trendy thing to do when in China. As soon as friends from overseas touch down in Beijing, I treat them to a foot massage—to help them get over jet lag, and to introduce them to a local Chinese treat. The sight of a row of masseuses pounding away, in sync, on feet and calves is a cultural experience. The cost of a foot massage is not prohibitive, and it's something you can do on a weekly basis, if you can afford it. Some expatriates go to massage centers that cater to locals. Hourly rates for a massage range from 30 yuan (US $4) to 138 yuan (US $18).
If you're willing to go all out, you can give your feet the royal treatment, if you're willing to dish out more than 1,000 yuan (US $128).
(Source: Women of China)