Korean Reflexology could not be more different from American Reflexology. It is based in the energetic understandings of Traditional Chinese Medicine like Acupuncture and Shiatsu, and is preformed using those chisel-like oak sticks you see photographed at left. Don’t go crazy looking for Korean Reflexology at your local establishment…it’s a rare find, as Hui is a second generation practitioner. The modality was created by her Sister, who owns a Bodywork Training Center in Korea. Like most forms of Traditional Asian Bodywork, it can be…let’s see, what is a good word…Intense? no, not quite…Deep? Painful? Yeah, that’s it.
In many parts of the world, bodywork is done right in the home by family members; and people are often used to having these practices at a young age. These modalities are seen as basic maintenance-much like brushing one’s teeth. It is not performed with a “spa” understanding, but rather is intended to help move Chi, kick out toxins, and be effective in one’s overall health. Also, the people who live in these regions are more accustomed to bodywork, and therefore are less “tender” than your average American who gets gentle, “pampering” bodywork once in a while if at all. My tender American ass was in for a treat today!
This type of reflexology, while focusing on the feet, involves treating the legs and required one to wear shorts or, in my case, underwear. If you have never had any type of foot based work done, I suggest giving it a try even if you are ticklish (like me), as the pressure used often does not trigger the tickle response. Hard pressure on the soles of your feet can feel especially good. Things started off innocently enough with a massage of the feet and legs, which was quite blissful, followed by deep finger pressure on some of the foot reflex points. Then, out came the sticks. Yikes!
Let’s back up for a moment-I worked at Philadelphia Community Acupuncture for about two years, and in that time was treated very successfully and frequently with acupuncture. In Chinese medicine, often if a point or channel is tender, that can be a sign that something there needs to be addressed…and my stomach and spleen meridian locations are etched into my mind, because they were just so darn tender. Every so often, especially in Winter, I tend towards something Chinese Medicine terms “dampness”, and my symptoms include a diminished appetite and very low energy. With repeat acupuncture treatments, I am generally able to get my appetite restored, giving me the ability to eat, fuel my body, and have more energy.
So, into my tender stomach and spleen meridians with pointy wooden sticks! Not so much “poking” but more “sliding”. Sliding really, really firmly. (I’ll have video up later this week!) Did it hurt? Uhm…YES! At times, I had a hard time not wincing in pain. I can only describe the sensation on those meridians as searing pressure. But did it work? YES, YES IT DID! Within 15 minutes, I was ravenously hungry. All I could think about was stopping at the grocery store on the way home. My stomach began to growl. Acupuncture usually takes many treatments-maybe half a dozen or more-for me to get my appetite back like that. But just 15 minutes into a 45 minute session, I could have eaten the table I was laying on.
When the treatment was finished, I spoke with Hui about what she had seen in her years of offering this therapy. She told me she felt people with fallen arches, or flat feet, could benefit most from this treatment. Why? It is theorized that the arches of the feet help the blood to circulate back up into the body, and take with it not only Chi, but toxins. Moving these toxins back up could help the body to then cleanse and remove them. An interesting thing happened before I left-I noticed that I was sweating profusely. We had just had a snowstorm, and it was quite cold out, so this was surprising.
As I got home and ate, ate, ate everything in sight; the sweating continued…and had gotten quite stinky. Seriously, I have never smelled myself like this. It was like someone else’s body odor was pouring out of me. And I had just showered that morning! What was going on? Ahh, toxins! As the body releases toxins and metabolic waste, it often has a smell to it. Since I had just gotten over a cold a few days prior, it would make sense that my body was doing all that it could to cleanse itself. This is why some people’s feet smell so bad even though they wash daily. It’s just their body doing a good job of getting rid of stuff they no longer need, or the abundance of these things in their body to begin with. I drank plenty of water to help to process along, and ended up showering three more times in the next 48 hours.
The appetite lasted, in a big way, for about 2 weeks or so. I had double servings of everything, and metabolized them quickly without weight gain-a sign that my energy had also returned. I am still amazed at just how effective this was. It really worked like a charm! Discomfort be damned, I am absolutely getting this modality done again. The other fine treat for my tender American ass? Experiencing Asian style bodywork from someone born, raised and trained in that culture. Hui was an absolute doll, I adore her, and I thank her eternally for the opportunity to experience this rare gem of Bodywork.
Special thanks to Hui Kyung Kang for this session. Hui was trained in the art of Korean Reflexology by her Sister, the Founder of the modality, in their native Korea. Hui also studied massage and bodywork in the US at DPT Business School in Center City Philadelphia. You can receive a session from Hui in Drescher, PA (Near Willow Grove) by contacting her at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you cannot get out of the City you can schedule with William Burton, whom she taught the modality to, at Philly Community Wellness by clicking here.