How, when and where Reflexology originated lacks consensus but on the basis of certain ancient documents, it is assumed that acupuncture and Reflexology, which work on a similar theory, were first conceived by Indian thinkers in primitive times. It was from here that the knowledge of these sciences disseminated to certain other countries through students, pilgrims and tourists.
History of Reflexology has not been very clear. But research in Russia has endorsed this contention. On the basis of this research, it is said that the art and science of acupuncture originated in India, not in China, as is believed by most people in the world. This astounding revelation is made in the publication ‘Indiskaya Meditsina Drevneruskom Vrachevaniyii’ (Indian medicines in ancient Russian treatment of diseases) by N.A. Bogoyavlensky published in 1956 by the Gosudarstbennoye Izdatelstvo Meditsinkoi Literaturi (State Publishing House of Medical Literature), Leningrad Department.
According to Bogoyavlensky, one of the prominent scholars of China of VIIth century, Heun Tsang spent many years in Nalanda University in India. On his return to his own country, he wrote a book in which he described in detail the teaching work done in Nalanda University, particularly in the medical science. Another prominent scholar from China, I. Tzin who visited India in 673 A.D., also studied in Nalanda University for many years. In his works, Tzin describes the customs of Indian people, their clothes, food and occupations. He calls India a ‘Noble Province’. He also mentions that the Indians are imparting medical knowledge to the Chinese viz the complete art of treatment by pricking, now called acupuncture. He also confirmed the flourishing of various branches of medical science in India. Chinese translations of many Indian manuscripts on philosophy, astronomy, mathematics and medical science have been preserved in various libraries in China till date. From China, Indian writings on medicine also circulated to Tibet, and some other countries.
On the basis of certain tomb drawings, which depict feet being massaged in a particular position, Egyptians are also believed to be practicing Reflexology like system in ancient times. In their present form Reflexology and acupuncture are attributed to China where intensive research and significant work has been done to make these systems more effective and popular.
Reflexology or zone therapy, in fact, got scientific approach during the early years of twentieth century when an American doctor William H. Fitzgerald, M.D. (1872-1942), a reputed medical physician and surgeon, who was the head of the Nose and Throat Department of the St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut, developed the modern zone therapy. Dr. Edwin F. Bowers, M.D. and Dr. George Starr White are two other great physicians of this period who also did remarkable work in elaborating this unique theory of healing. Dr. Joe Shelby Riley and his wife Elizabeth Ann Riley were two other stalwarts who tried out this system on their vast number of patients and made unmatched contribution towards its development. Dr. Riley wrote twelve books on zone therapy, the first being copyrighted in 1917 and the last in 1942.
Japan has taken a lead in developing and popularizing a distinct type of pressure therapy called ‘SHIATSU‘, which is also based on the principles of Reflexology. In Japanese language, the word ‘SHI’ means finger and ‘ATSU’ means pressure. In recent times, immense interest has been shown in reflexology by certain qualified health professionals in Europe, U.S.A., Canada, Germany and many other countries including India, the place of its origin.
Stephanie Rick in his book ‘The Reflexology Workout’ has mentioned that in Europe nearly six thousand medical personnel combine reflexology as a part of their healing process these days. The number of such practitioners is increasing gradually. More and more people are now taking deep interest in this system. In view of its multifarious qualities, Reflexology has now become one of most popular systems of natural treatment in many countries.
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