Tuesday, 4 November 2008
Rachael Hannan gets under the skin of a new, yet relatively unknown alternative therapy.
Face reflexology sounds a contradiction in terms but it is actually a new complementary therapy that combines looking good with feeling good through a unique marriage of three ancient techniques; Chinese energy meridians, Chinese acupuncture points, and Vietnamese and Andean tribal body maps.
It has been in the UK a mere three years having been created and brought to the regulatory body, the Association of Reflexologists (AOR) by a Danish lady called Lone Sorensen Lopez, who has been formulating the therapy throughout her work over the past twenty-eight years.
We spoke to Nikke Ariff, a practitioner and teacher of face reflexology in London, to learn more about this intriguing yet relatively unknown new therapy.
Nikke was an oil trader until a serious car accident seven years ago prompted her to change her lifestyle and train in alternative therapies.
"I was working in a very stressful environment and used to have complementary therapies on a weekly basis so I could bring myself back to the lions den the next morning, so to speak. In 1998 my company in London sent me to South Africa to build up some of the market there, and that is where I had a very bad car accident. Afterwards, all the clichés started to fall into place like; this is the first day of the rest of your life; life is not a rehearsal - and the most natural thing was to start training in complementary therapies."
"In fact, only recently I tried to look up an astrologer I had been to see in 1993. Unfortunately she's passed on now, but she asked me way back then if I had ever thought of a career in healing. I looked at her as though I had come to the wrong place, but five years later it just made a huge amount of sense, and that's when I started my journey if you like."
Nikke trained in a variety of alternative therapies before finally discovering face reflexology.
"I began with Reiki, then Indian head and shoulder massage, then a body massage course, anatomy and physiology also followed after that, as did my interest in nutrition. I wanted to do a body therapy course but because I am quite petite, I found body massage tiring, so instead I trained in a fantastic therapy called the Bowen technique which is soft tissue manipulation. It is gentle for the therapist to practice and gentle for the client to have, plus it is a very fast and effective treatment. It was then things just started to open up. I trained in football reflexology and in 2003 met Lone Sorensen Lopez, the Danish lady who has devised face reflexology."
"Discovering face reflexology has become a significant moment for me. It is a powerful therapy, and having experienced so many therapies myself, I thought I had done a lot of clearing and a lot of journeying. I knew there would be some surprises, but I think because of the trauma I had experienced to the face from the accident, this really did leave an extra dimensional impression on me."
It had such an impact that Nikke can remember the exact date she met Lone, on April 27th 2003. Lone, a multi-disciplined practitioner herself, started studying reflexology in 1978 in Denmark. She was always interested in facial acupressure points because of the success of her work with hyperactive children and children with learning difficulties, but it was not until she moved to Argentina that she fully developed face reflexology.
Reflexology itself was virtually unknown in Argentina when she first moved there, but in the twelve years she lived there, she founded three schools of Facial and Foot Reflexology, and treated more than 100,000 patients.
Now she and her husband Marcellas, a medical Doctor, live in Barcelona where they run a face reflexology school. Nikki teaches the first half of the London course, and then Lone and her husband come over to London to teach the second half.
As with all holistic or alternative treatments, the therapy aims to get to the root cause of any health problems and discomforts, healing on a physical and psychological level. The success and effectiveness of face reflexology lies in its ability to identify the root cause of the imbalances causing ill-health, and its ability to stimulate the healing process within the individual using the balancing properties of the combined three disciplines.
"All your sense organs are located in your head so on a physical level, face reflexology is incredibly relaxing," Nikke explains.
"From the time you are born, people are looking at your face and gauging your mood, and in fact that is the one part of your anatomy that's constantly being judged. In an effort to paint a mask we decorate it with makeup and adorn it with jewellery such as necklaces and earrings. Equally, it is our means of expression, whether that is expressing expression or trying to hide it and suppress it. So a lot of the tension such as chewing, grinding, clenching, talking swallowing, you name it - all happens around the face and face reflexology releases some of this tension."
Just like reflexology, the face is a map of the entire body so specific parts of the body or health problems can be targeted, although Nikke says it is not as well organised as the feet.
"Face reflexology is very closely aligned with the Chinese energy meridian system which - the energy lines that flow up and down your body. You have twelve major meridians in all, each named after what the Chinese considered thousands of years ago to be your vital organs. So we start off the therapy working on thirty-five different acupuncture points that are on the face. Acupuncture points lie on energy meridians, and they are the points on the energy lines or meridians that are closest to the surface of the skin."
"For us, however, the thirty-five points we work on are also important nerve junctions within the face, and vital blood circulation points, so they have three functions for us; they are a direct route into the nervous system, the circulation system and the energetic Chinese Meridian system."
Another one of the main differences between foot and face reflexology is that working on the face allows direct access to the brain, and could explain why some people make life-changing decisions after a course of treatments.
"As a therapy, on a deeper physical level, where foot reflexology has the entire surface of the body to travel through before it hits the control centre of the body - which is the brain, face reflexology gives you a direct path into the brain through the cranial nerves."
"These are twelve nerves which run from the brain into the face, along the side of the head. They are nerves which essentially connect a part of the brain to each of the sensory organs such as speech; creation of speech; interpretation of what you see; the act of seeing; they control sense of smell and hearing; and so on. So face reflexology provides direct access to these areas."
During a session, a variety of moves are used to stimulate these points on the face, so to protect the skin Nikke uses a specially prepared rose oil moisturiser.
"You have a lot of layers in the face so in any face reflexology treatment you have nine, maybe ten stages that you go through. In each stage I am either stimulating something, rebalancing something or assessing something. There is no substitute for touch in face reflexology."
"There is a stretching type of move which we use when we start assessing the maps which are essentially your energy meridians. As you go through the entire surface of the face, bar the eyelids, we are working on and assessing the energy meridians and to do so, we have five grades.”
“Some people ask if you can tell from looking at the face where the imbalances are, but you can’t because we are not doing a surface analysis in face reflexology. We have to get into the deeper layers of the skin, so the pressure we are applying is not a ticklish feathery approach, it is part of a firm but slow stretching movement from which we are trying to assess tissue degeneration within the face as a result of poor nerve supply."
"For healthy tissue you need a good blood supply so that it is bringing nutrients into the tissue, and getting rid of the waste products. You also need a good nerve supply to the area as well. If the nerve supply is poor, it means that the tissue starts to become a little bit hard, and so the five grades of deposits that you are looking for range from grains of sand, which will be minor irritations, to something like coagulated porridge, to perhaps a hard pearl in the fifth grade, by which time you are probably on medication and you probably have a named medical condition, and you know you do."
The benefits of face reflexology are predominantly health based, with the additional benefit of releasing some of tension you have probably been holding in your face for years.
"I have clients who have been for a regular course of treatment because people comment on the condition of their skin, whilst other people also make pretty radically lifestyle changing decisions because it works on a physical, emotional, mental and a more esoteric; either spiritual or energetic level if you like."
"The physical benefit is a release in muscle tension which is released because the pressure we are using is quite deep and we are also stretching out the muscle fibres. As a result, there is better blood circulation, better nerve supply and you feel more relaxed so your body behaves more relaxed and you do look better. It can also help with specific conditions such hot flushes during the menopause, digestive complaints - it can help with any health problem."
Nikke runs a holistic treatment centre called Mind, Body Positive based in Baker Street, London. She chose the name because she believes that our state of mind does affect our health, but by gradually changing our attitudes, we can overcome health problems in a more efficient way.
"I am very aware of the mind, body relationship. This morning a lady came for some Bowen because she suffers from sciatica. She has had two sessions and is absolutely fine, but now and again she gets tweaks. She is a caterer so her job involves a lot of standing and her mind starts thinking, 'I've got a big job tomorrow, I am going to be standing for hours,' and she is basically gearing herself up for an outcome that she is helping to create."
"So, we have talked, and she now accepts that she is making it an eventually by her thoughts. Now she thinks, I know how to do the stretches, I will do some extra stretches tonight, I will make sure I keep my water intake up, I will make sure I stand level, and then it will not happen - and if it does, I will go to Nikke; simple."
"That is, if you like, the whole link and she now accepts that is one of the ways to prevent it - by not pre-empting it and making it happen."
Nikke Ariff practices a range of alternative therapies, including face reflexology and the Bowen technique at her practice Mind, Body Positive based in Baker Street, London. She can be contacted on 07941 417441. She also organises courses.
Alternatively visit her website at http://www.mindbodypositive.com/
Rachael Hannan 2006
Publlished on 50connect.co.uk