Don't hurt me," an ancient Egyptian tells the first known reflexologist on a wall painting found in the city of Saqqara and dated to 2330 bc. The practitioner gives a soothing reply. But sometimes it does hurt and, though only momentary, the discomfort is a surprise because reflexologists do not pierce your skin with sharp needles, or manipulate your bones with strong hands. All they do is gently squeeze your feet.
"Actually it's more of a wiggle," explains reflexologist Una McDade. "You start with your hand flat on the table and feel where the thumb touches the surface and the angle it's at. Then press, bend and stretch the thumb. It'll probably feel strange. Most people want to rub at first, which isn't effective at all."
Reflexology is based on the notion of a correspondence between parts of the human body and specific locations on the feet (as well as the hands). So the kidneys can be found halfway along the sole, the lungs are near the front of the foot, and the brain is in the toes. By manipulating feet or hands, practitioners can detect imbalances in the body and start a healing process.
A student who has had only two lessons is finding the wiggle tricky. "It is awkward at first," Mrs McDade reassures her, "and some people need more pressure than others. Now work right up into the apex, and once you get there push the foot away."
Her partner, Tracy Kennedy, has been attending the class for several weeks and is more confident. "I love it. Especially when you find wee crunchy bits in the foot and you know you're doing good. It's a great feeling."
This class took place at Priesthill Adult Education Centre, Glasgow