Empowerment is the word reflexologist Joan Cosway-Hayes uses to describe the benefits of the natural healing arts.
In her book, Reflexology For Every Body, she describes reflexology as applying pressure to points on the hands, feet or ears, which sends messages to the corresponding body parts. The parts then begin to let go of excess tension, blood flows in, wastes are removed and circulation is normalized. “The body begins to heal itself.”
“Your feet are like opening a book, they tell about your life and everything that has happened to you,” explains 64-year-old Cosway-Hayes, who resides in Cochrane, Alberta.
As the story is told connections are made and normalizing takes place. From emotions to physical injuries “it all comes out.” As clients observe their own body during a session, some describe a sensation on their foot, while others tell of sensations directly in the corresponding part of the body.
“In a way the wording doesn’t matter as much as the fact that people are tuning into their body.”
She says that reflexology is a stimulus for people to “think differently” and not “buy into the status quo,” especially when it comes to one’s own health.
“Think for yourself, think outside of all the existing boxes.”
Cosway-Hayes says that reflexology does not just have to be about the stories the feet tell, and that it is, at its core, a powerful form of physical therapy to normalize the body. When the techniques are used properly, reflexology can impact the body in a very profound way.
Although there is evidence that the technique has been around since 2500 BC, the term “reflexology” was given in the 1930s.
Cosway-Hayes had her first reflexology session done on her own feet 40 years ago this fall and started offering it shortly afterward.
“It was probably the most profound thing I had ever experienced up to that point.”
She felt strongly she had been introduced to something “really, really powerful.”
At the time Cosway-Hayes was living in Vancouver, so she headed to Banyen Books (now called Banyen Books and Sound) and bought books by authors like Eunice Ingham, who brought to life the still-used reflex reference points. Ingham, a physical therapist, worked with a doctor who had worked with William H. Fitzgerald, MD. Dr. Fitzgerald formulated the longitudinal zones of the body for pain relief, and through this he discovered that the application of pressure on the zones relieved not only pain, but also the underlying cause of the pain. He wrote in the forward to his book, Relieving Pain at Home, “Humanity is awakening to the fact that sickness, in a large percentage of cases, is an error – of body and mind.”
That was in 1917. Fast-forward to a century later and humanity is still awakening to this concept of error of body and mind.
Cosway-Hayes believes that inflammation is the fuel for all disease—both mental and physical.
Her goal through reflexology is to “make a change in someone’s health” so that when they walk out the door after a session they can feel the difference. She also gives her clients some simple reflexology instructions on what they can do to help themselves.
Her advice to someone who has not experienced reflexology is to “give it a try.” She says the ideal reflexology experience is not a light touch, but a firm, confident touch that should, at most, feel like a “good hurt.” The relaxation techniques also blended in throughout the session are simply bliss.
She suggests that if you have tried reflexology and were disappointed, to try again with a practitioner who uses proper therapeutic reflexology techniques. She herself has given over 3000 reflexology sessions, has taught about 100 advanced-level students and almost 2000 beginner-level students. Her longest-standing client has come to her 377 times over 21 years. Her youngest client was a premature baby and her eldest was 95.
Cosway-Hayes holds many other certificates from her studies in natural healing. Some of these are reflexology related, and some are from her interest in medicinal plants as a certified herbalist, as well as in landscape design and gardening.
Her children are both grown and live in Calgary. Her daughter, Awun, is 36 and her son, Matthew, is 25. She has been married to William Hayes for 28 years, who describes his wife as passionate.
“Joan has strong feelings and beliefs in many aspects of life, including caring for her parents, her children and pets,” describes William Hayes. “She has a great belief in reflexology as one of many alternate means of promoting better health.”
He says his wife loves being outdoors: gardening, hiking, cycling, kayaking, snowshoeing and being inspired by the natural world.
Cosway-Hayes says that reflexology can even help children feel empowered when they know how to calm themselves before an exam, or to relieve their own headache or tummy ache simply by touching their own hand.
It also empowers parents to be able to relieve the pressure of their child’s earache or support their own energy levels due to their exhausting lifestyles.
She is inspired to learn as much as she can about natural healing and to customize what she knows to help the people she is working with. More information can be found on her website.
“I don’t believe there’s an ailment in our human experience that doesn’t have a remedy found in nature.”