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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Healing Gardens and Stony Walks

Sometimes a vision improves substantially as developers consider the employment of the creation. Such is the vision of a SOLACE Healing Garden. So much research about the many benefits of the project is new and just currently being acknowledged as significant. In fact, new publications are full of articles and studies about the health benefits of a natural, holistic approach. Who would believe that something as simple as stones might aid the health of an entire community?

Would you believe the stones in your pathway could help improve your body and mind? The impact on one's health through walking on natural surfaces is steeped in tradition: (1) traditions of doing something actively to impact one's health, (2) traditions of doing something to one part of the body to impact the whole body, and (3) traditions of doing something to specific parts of the feet to impact specific parts of the body;

This practice is likely unknown to most of us in the Western world, but every morning in Asia, millions of people walk reflexology paths to enhance their well-being and to reduce chronic pain. Walking these paths comes from the tradition of walking on a surface specifically designed to pursue health. The bare-footed exercise is grounded in the traditions of its location. Special paths have been built in parks, spas, condominium complexes and country clubs across Asia.

In Asia, the history of the reflexology path began with cobblestone paths. Cobblestone was the common building material for paths and roads. One elderly Japanese remembers villagers volunteering their time to repair the roads near the village. The availability of these surfaces for transportation probably lead informally to the tradition of walking on them for health.

Researchers Kunz and Kunz currently speculate that the recent interest and building boom in cobblestone paths in Asia is a further impact of the work of one man, Father Josef Eugster. Thanks to the work of this Swiss Jesuit priest who heads a parish in Taiwan attention was rekindled in ancient Chinese foot working traditions some twenty- five years ago. Since that time foot work has spread throughout Asia. All across Asia, in China, Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, and Singapore, the impact has reverberated. (Barbara and Kevin Kunz, editors Reflexions: The Journal of Reflexology Research Project, Volume 25, Number 2, January 2004) 

"In nearly every village in Taiwan they have built special paths of pebbles
and every morning at 3 or 4 o'clock, people walk barefoot around the pebble path
for a half hour before they go to work. Hundreds, even thousands do this. 
It has become a way of life. I think this is very important. 
We eat three times a day for our health. For me it is like praying or meditation,
I need it for my bodily health and I think every body needs it." 

-- Father Josef Eugster

 The Benefits of Reflexology

A 2005 Oregon Research Institute study, backed by the National Institute of Aging, found that older adults who walked on cobblestone mats had better balance, mobility and blood pressure in comparison to participants who walked on a conventional flat path. These benefits are tied to reflexology because the uneven walking surface is believed to stimulate and exert pressure on the reflex points on the feet, according to the study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. (Fuzhong L., Fisher K., et al., "Improving Physical Function and Blood Pressure In Older Adults Through Cobblestone Mat Walking: A Randomized Trial," Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, vol.53, 2005)

Reflexology can help reduce anxiety levels -- even in those who deal with serious medical problems. A 2005 study from the Michigan State University College of Nursing found that breast cancer patients benefited the most from reflexology in comparison to the use of reminiscence therapy or guided imagery. The study participants had less anxiety and depression, contributing to an improvement in quality of life. (Gwen Wyatt, "Breast Cancer Patients Turn to Reflexology for Comfort," Michigan State University College of Nursing, February 14 2007)

Thanks to Doppler sonography, Austrian researchers proved in 1999 that reflexology on the kidney reflex increased blood flow inside the kidney. When reflexology was applied to reflexes other than that of the kidney, the measured blood flow inside the kidney was not altered. So, when the specific area on the foot corresponding to one of the kidneys was stimulated by deep Reflexology techniques, the amount of blood flow inside the corresponding kidney became greater. This means that more oxygen and more nutrients were immediately brought to the kidney to improve its function. (Sudmeier I., Bodner G., Egger I., Mur E., Ulmer H., Herold M., "Changes of Renal Blood Flow During Organ-associated Foot Reflexology Measured by Color Doppler Sonography," Forsch Komplementarmed, 6, June 6 1999)

Supporters of reflexology also believe the practice may help people notice the signs a migraine is about to occur so that they can take preventive steps before significant pain begins, such as avoiding bright lights or loud noise, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. As a form of massage, reflexology can make a person more relaxed, reducing the number of tension headaches as well. ("Tension Headache," University of Maryland Medical Center, 2011)

Reflexology Pathways

 The Reflexology Pathway at the NSU Medicinal Healing Garden

United States, Nova Southeastern University

In April, 2010, Nova Southeastern University unveiled the first foot reflexology pathway built on the U.S. East Coast situated in The University's Healing & Medicinal Garden. Guests were offered educational tours and barefoot walks throughout the Garden and Pathway. University President, George L. Hanbury II, Ph.D., and College of Pharmacy Dean Andrés Malavé, Ph.D., noted in their inaugural addresses that the NSU Medicinal & Healing Garden marks the commitment of the University to wellness and integrative medicine.

Carsten Evans, Ph.D., Assistant Dean at the NSU College of Pharmacy, is the person responsible for the vision, action plan and finances of incorporating the reflexology pathway and the healing component into a decaying weed over run medicinal garden.

After cleaning the grounds back to fifteen original medicinal plants, he commissioned Elizabeth Marazita of Geneva, Switzerland to design the reflexology pathway. She arrived in early January with her installation team to lay special stones from Mexico, Peru, China, India and Tennessee in patterns to address the science of foot reflexology. Jesse Durko, of international landscape fame, was commissioned to create a support setting of rare and unusual plants that would enhance and promote healing through the senses of smell, sight and sound (eg. spices, mints, brilliant plant colors, bamboo, chimes and waterfalls).

 "Walk of Health" at Bastyr

United States, Bastyr University

Elizabeth Marazita, a licensed acupuncturist and a doctoral student in oriental medicine, designed the reflexology "Walk of Health." During her walk, Marazita said she could feel the effects of indulging in junk food at the Puyallup Fair in her heel, an area linked to digestion.

"The better shape you're in, the less pain and wincing you'll experience along the way," Marazita said.

"My 2-year-old can run this thing," she said. Marazita, a former international banker who worked and lived in China for four years, first noticed reflexology paths in Taipei, Taiwan, during a break from a business meeting. An elderly man was walking a path the length of a football field constructed almost entirely of 3-inch-high stones -- a difficulty level comparable to black diamond ski runs, said Marazita. (Bastyr's path is considered moderately difficult).

Located at the edge of Bastyr's herb garden, the pathway mimics therapeutic walkways found in Asia. The path is 3 feet wide and 64 feet long. The concrete at the entrance is carved to read "Walk of Health" in Chinese, with the symbols for the five Chinese elements -- earth, metal, fire, water and wood. Benches are set up for those who need a break along the path.

"It's like walking in a riverbed," said Virgil Miller, an herbal sciences student at Bastyr earlier this week.

 Shiseido "Stroll" Path

Shiseido, Japan 

The following is part of an article from Pathways Magazine.

"Silicon chips, biotechnology, sensors, exotic materials, and bizarre mathematics are par for the course for Japanese new products. Even to market something not stemming from the latest scientific discoveries runs against the grain for some companies.

"But happily, traditions of the new have not totally usurped values of the old. From Shiseido, Japan's leading cosmetics maker, comes a remarkable product based on ideas that go back to the dawn of recorded time. It's based on ideas about foot massage, a.k.a foot reflexology, that trace back to the Chinese Emperor Hwang who lived about 5,000 years ago. Hwang's studies, called the Method of Toe Observation, were one precursor of acupuncture and Oriental medicine.

"Shiseido's new product is a custom-made stone pathway. Stones of different sizes and shapes make up different sections of the path. The result is aesthetic, but the idea is not to look at the path. Barefoot, or in stocking feet, you stroll along the track. In doing so, you are on an ancient pathway to renewed health and fitness.

"The varying shapes of the stones enable them to press 36 different spots on your toes and the soles of your feet. Each of the pressure points relates to a group of body organs. Walking along the path stimulates energy flows within the body. This has a beneficial effect on the organs, health, and wellness.

"Shunichi Abe, Deputy General Manager of Shiseido's New Business Development Division designed the path. He came across Foot Reflexology while living in Taiwan. The way it could relieve a variety of intractable medical problems and help people feel healthy impressed him. Back in Japan, he joined a team looking for new ideas to promote employee health.

The stone pathway provides a do-it-yourself foot massage without the need for an expert masseur. Simply walking along the path massages key pressure points on the foot in progression." (David Kilburn, "Business Unusual: High Tech for Toes," Wingspan, Nippon Airways, December 1992)

SOLACE and Healing

The Oriental concept of health, called "Qi," (or "Ki" in Japanese), a vital energy that is part of the natural world. Human beings have varying amounts of it, depending on the state of their health. The right kinds of stones possess Qi as well. So walking along a stone path massages the feet and enhances Qi. This concept seems so simplistic but so natural to human understandings of health.

The construction of a healing garden containing natural elements that contribute to good physical and mental health is a vision embraced by SOLACE and the Scioto Rx Drug Action Team. A reflexology pathway would be a wonderful addition to the project. A variety of natural flora, spaces that attract native fauna, quiet areas for respite, water features, and even labyrinths can both attract visitors and increase the potential for healing in garden spaces.

Given the proper resources, SOLACE and the Action Team would like to work with Southern Ohio Medical Center to construct a healing garden somewhere on SOMC grounds. The garden would be a benefit to  patients, staff, and visitors. It would also be open to the public and to the educational community. The healing garden would be a place conducive to contemplation and transcendence. We hope to establish an area in the garden as a memorial to those who have lost their lives to drug abuse. We believe this site could be a National Memorial To the Victims of the Disease of Drug Abuse, the first healing garden in the nation to contain such a permanent, positive commemorative.

Also, we believe that the healing garden would be an appropriate place to memorialize those lost to other diseases such as cancer and diabetes. So, this place would be a garden that might grow as other support groups choose appropriate healing features to include within the real estate.

Speaking of a vision, Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter has said, " A vision is not just a picture of what could be; it is an appeal to our better selves, a call to become something more." Of course, our groups are dedicated to making "something more" as we continue to fight drug abuse and its horrible consequences. One essential of prevention, intervention, and rehabilitation is a living and lasting healing.

 Aegis Living Corporation Office Path - Redmond, Washington
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