Have you ever taken time off work, trotted to the doctors, waited half an hour in the waiting room only to leave after your three minute window with the GP with no real solution to those period niggles that have been bothering you for months? Hmm it happens. With a slew of complementary therapies out there though, we decided to get curious about the alternative ways that we can heal our bodies and alleviate PMS and period related symptoms. This week PP experiences a reflexology session.
What’s the hype?
Not to be confused with acupuncture (where needles are placed in the body), or Reiki (the Japanese energy healing technique), reflexology is an ancient Egyptian and Chinese complimentary therapy based on the idea that different zones in the feet and hands correspond to all the organs and parts of the body. Everything is linked like a mini-map and by working on the reflex areas, overall health and well-being can be improved as well as addressing specific hormonal issues. Intrigued? Yep, me too. I booked in to visit Rima Shah, reflexologist and owner of London’s Calm and Clear Complementary Therapies, to see how the treatment would *really* made me feel.
The PP experience
In the last few years my PMS symptoms have progressed from me feeling slightly teary and tired before my period is due, to experiencing skin-crawling anxiety, poor concentration and cramps that feel like they're cracking my pelvis in two. Nice. For a couple of days every month, I feel the absolute worst version of myself and then normality is restored a few days into my period. To say I was getting a bit fed up of the cycle was an understatement. I was open to anything that could improve my PMS.
I saw Rima in her studio in Neal’s Yard, seconds from the noisy bustle of Covent Garden. Her treatment room is dark, quiet and cosy and before she starts the session, Rima sits and chats to you about your medical history and health. I was asked a lot of in depth questions about my cycle – everything from the colour of the blood to the texture of my flow. Rima said some new clients are sometimes taken aback about how period-nosy she gets but the intel is all necessary. From the information you share with her, Rima builds a picture of your health niggles and hormones so she knows exactly which zones of your feet to target. My symptoms were apparently indicative of slightly off-balanced hormones and possible adrenal fatigue, likely to be caused by the usual modern day suspects; a busy lifestyle, too much caffeine and sugar, and exercise that focuses more on energising, not relaxing, the body. Guilty as charged. Sigh. Rima explained that when the adrenal glands have been overactive for too long and subsequently the cortisol levels are not quite right it can cause a number of symptoms, including severe PMS and other symptoms such as cold sores (yep, I get those too).
She also mentioned that the brownish, slightly stringy bleeding (TMI? Sorry!), that I have right at the start of a period is actually 'old blood' from my previous cycle that my uterus didn't fully shed. She explained this is common if you have a slight hormone imbalance and can sometimes cause problems with women trying to conceive – a fertilised egg will always struggle to implant into the wall of the uterus if there is a layer of left-over blood blocking the way. Makes sense really and while this might not be directly relevant for me right now, it’s interesting for the future.
For the session, I lay on my back on the treatment bed. The lights are dimmed and you're covered with a blanket so that you don't get cold. Lovely. Stupidly though, for someone who has *ridiculously* ticklish feet (pedis are totally out of the question, thanks) it only dawned on me as I lay down that I’d signed up for an hour of someone touching my feet! My absolute worst nightmare. But while I might have been expecting (ok, dreading) some kind of strokey foot massage, I was pleasantly surprised that reflexology isn't like this at all. Rima’s touch was firm and concentrated on manipulating various points on the soles of my feet, toes, at the base of the toes. It didn't tickle, wasn't painful but some parts did feel more tender than others. I'm not sure if I fully dropped off to sleep during the treatment, but I was definitely close – it was deeply relaxing.
When Rima had finished she told me she was sure I'd just ovulated, and it was likely that I'd released an egg from my left ovary this time. How could she know this? I was seriously impressed.
Rima told me to avoid alcohol and take it easy that evening (damn, I was actually looking forward to that glass of wine) because I’d be more tired than usual following the treatment. I really wasn’t prepared though for how zonked I’d feel that night and had the best, deepest night’s sleep I’d had for a while. In fact for the rest of the week I could barely keep my eyes open past 9pm, and made the most of this surprise exhaustion by succumbing, crawling into bed early each night and catching up on sleep. What a treat.
Worth a mention?
You know how Rome wasn't built in a day? Well, it’s unlikely you’ll leave one reflexology session a changed woman (you will feel relaxed though) and significant improvements are made after several sessions of treatment. Rima works like a true pro and follows up your treatment with an email, asking details on how you’re feeling and then giving further specific feedback. Supplement advice, things you can do at home to help your period flow and nutrition tips (such as eating organic meat to minimise oestrogen-overload in the body) are all part of this.
5/5 – For the deep understanding of the female body
Calm and Clear can offer reflexology to specifically help women with hormone balancing, the emotional links associated with it, and/or fertility support. Each session of reflexology is £ 70 for 1hour.
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