Published Denmark & South Africa 2009

Reflexology and the Nadis

By Sharon Stathis

‘Energy-based medicine’ is currently a buzzword amongst reflexologists. However, for many practitioners, the focus for a clinical session of reflexology is based solely on the physiological & anatomical aspects of body function. The role of energy in these processes is often less understood. Let me introduce you to some of the energetic components of Ayurvedic philosophy, and how they impact on reflexology therapy today. The energy channels (nadis ) are of particular interest.

Ayurveda is the ancient, complete medical system of India. Ayurveda provides a multidimensional approach to wellness. It includes surgery and medicine, as well as healthy daily living and spiritual practices. When referring to health or disease, the word ‘energy’, is the most important underlying principle involved. This energy can take many forms.

Within the Ayurvedic philosophy, our body and mind functioning is completely dependant on receiving a healthy energy flow. In a healthy individual the supply of energy is sufficient to maintain a healthy state. In one suffering physical and/or mental illness the energy has been disrupted in some way.

There are three major types of energy centres to be considered in the Ayurvedic system: the chakras, the nadis and the marma points. They are all involved with the flow of vital energy (prana). Prana is the equivalent of qi (or chi) of the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) system. According to Ayurvedic philosophy, the body (and mind) cannot remain healthy if the flow of prana is interrupted.

Prana flows within the body through micro energy channels called nadis (similar to the Chinese meridians). Situated along the nadis are vital energy centres called marma points which assist the flow of prana. The Prana flows from the chakras, through the conduit of nadis, to various points in the physical body.

The exact number of nadis within the body is not agreed upon among Ayurvedic scholars. However, there is general consensus that fourteen of the nadis are regarded as the most important. According to the Yoga system, these fourteen nadis emanate from the base chakra (Mulhadara). Each nadi is associated with a point or opening at the skin surface.

Two of the nadis are of particular interest to reflexologists due to their location on the hands and feet. Yashasvati is the nadi that terminates in the right hand and foot. Hastijivha is the nadi terminating in the left hand and foot. These nadis supply prana to the right and left sides of the body respectively, including the associated limbs.

The primary apertures for these nadis occurs at the ends of the thumbs and great toes, with secondary apertures at the ends of the other digits. Two of the five marma points occurring in each hand and foot are significantly associated with the flow of prana through these nadis.

If the flow of prana in Yashasvati and Hastijivha is maintained at peak efficiency, all marma points on the respective side of the body will benefit. Reflexologists, by means of working on the feet and hands are supporting the flow of prana in these nadis. Working on the thumbs and great toes is of particular significance due to the location of the primary apertures of these two nadis.

Put simply, working on the right thumb and great toe will support the flow of vital energy to the right side of the body. Working the left thumb and great toe will support the flow of prana on the left side of the body.

The great toes are also of significance in the Siddha system of medicine. The Siddha system is also from India. In the Siddha philosophy, two other major nadis (Pingala and Ida) begin at the interphalangeal joints of the great toes. Pingala nadi supplies energy to the right side of the body and Ida to the left side.

I find it fascinating that Dr. William FitzGerald’s zone theory has similarities with the Yogic and Siddha philosophies, in that emphasis is placed on working the thumbs and/or great toes to support physiological function on the respective sides of the body.

Unbeknown to most reflexologists, they are supporting body/mind function in meaningful ways according to the above mentioned Indian traditions. There is still much to discover about the energetic components of our beloved reflexology. Knowledge of the nadis, is but one.

(diagrams have been removed)