Today I am interviewing Reflexologist Helen Nowakowski who has been healing others for over 16 years. She earned her degree in 2009 as a Natural Health Practitioner from the International Academy of Health Sciences in Ottawa, and in 2013 her Certification as a Registered Reflexologist with RAC (Reflexology Association of Canada). She uses her experience and practice of applying reflexology to help heal others by relieving pain, improving one’s innate healing ability and maintaining proper blood circulation within the body. Helen’s goal is to provide the best treatment and care for your body, mind and spirit through the principles and benefits of Reflexology.
What is your background?
I am originally from Toronto and came to Ottawa in 1986 due to my career in the military. I furthered my studies at Ottawa U but, soon discovered I had personally changed and went on a new career path. During my studies in College in Toronto, I suffered with health issues, food allergies and sensitivities. This gave me the opportunity to educate myself on a healthier path which led me to move into the natural health field. So; in 2000, I enrolled into an International Academy of Health Sciences program, and 9 years later I graduated as a Natural Health Practitioner specializing in nutrition counseling, aromatherapy, shiatsu, reflexology and herbalism.
Why did you enter the field of reflexology?
During my military career, I injured myself. Due to this injury, I decided to study for a new career at International Academy. At the beginning of my studies, my interests were to study massage therapy or acupuncture; but I could not do so. I chose reflexology because it was easier on my body at the time. Reflexology helped me heal and experience many positive benefits to my health. Now I want to share my knowledge with others who want to heal naturally and holistically.
How long have you been working as a reflexologist?
In 2006, as a student at International Academy, I represented the school by promoting reflexology at events. In 2009, I graduated as a Natural Health Practitioner. And in 2013, I became a Registered Reflexologist specializing in Foot Reflexology. Then in 2021, I became a Registered Hand Reflexologist.
How is it performed?
It is not like a foot massage. It is totally different. Reflexology is done differently in different parts of the world, but the majority is done with hands and finger techniques. Reflexology applies pressure on the reflex points on the feet, hands and/or ears. These reflex points correspond to organs, systems and functions of the body. Basically the whole body is mapped on hands, feet and ears. I stimulate these points with finger and hand techniques to release tension; induce a state of relaxation; increase blood flow and decrease blood pressure; and bring the body back into an optimally healthy balance.
What are the benefits of these techniques?
Reflexology is a non- invasive natural health therapy. No need to feel uncomfortable taking your clothing off like a massage treatment;, only need to take off your shoes and socks. Plus, no worries for people about being touched due to trauma or religious reasons like with massage or acupuncture. This modality is a non-invasive therapy.
What are the effects of this treatment?
After a treatment a lot of people say when they get up” it is like walking on air”. That is because during treatment your feet are put higher than your heart, the blood is circulating through the body, especially in the heart, and in your feet.
Due to our daily work lives; where we sit for long periods of time, the blood gets stagnated in our feet and after a treatment the blood in the feet will become reoxygenated.
People experience feeling relaxed and more balanced. Shifts happen called “healing crisis” in their sleeping patterns or digestive issues for example. Some people will feel released tension in their neck and all of a sudden they will feel a pop in their sinuses, like something gets released.
How long does a typical treatment last?
A basic treatment is 45 min;
Children under 12 and seniors is 30 min;
Majority is 50 to 55 min; and
Combo package is 90 min
What length of first time session do you recommend?
If you are hesitant, do the basic 45 min and give it a try. If you like it, try 60 min.
Who are your typical customers?
They come from all walks of life. The majority are women mostly because they are used to having their feet scrubbed and pampered in manicure treatments. The men usually try after the women have raved about their experience with reflexology. Once they try it, they are pleased about the experience, and see the benefits of reflexology for their health. Average age is between 30 to 55 years old. This group is typically sitting or standing a lot in their job .
What symptoms can you heal with reflexology?
As per the Reflexology Association we do not diagnose by symptoms. People come to us looking to relieve any pain or tensions in their feet and body. This is a holistic non-intrusive treatment for their overall wellness. Reflexology has been known to help people who have anything from asthma, digestive issues and everything in between.
What are the most commonly seen issues for reflexology patients?
Poor circulation, shoulder and neck tension, sinuses issues, not sleeping well, swollen ankles, digestion issues. Some patients come in under a friend’s referral who had the same issues that were resolved by reflexology treatment.
How many reflexology sessions should I take?
As per the reflexology association, if you want overall wellness maintenance, once a month is good. Example, say you have an acute condition like a sprained ankle , as long as the swelling has gone down and it is not inflamed, you can come every two weeks. Any type of treatment you choose, you need 24 to 48 hrs to let your body rebalance itself. If it is a chronic condition that you have had for a while, once or twice a month may differ depending on your schedule, insurance coverage and financial situations.
What are patients to expect when they come to a session?
Fill in a health issue form. This can either be done verbal or written. This form will ask questions such as your health history, any health concerns, any current medication. Some medication may affect how you react to pain or how you react to getting a treatment.
For example, people who have diabetes have problems with their feet. It could either be with nerve problems like neuralgia or they might have infections like gout. For these patients, it would take a little bit more time to respond. Compared to someone who just has a cold, I would concentrate on working on lungs and sinuses reflexology points, and suddenly their nose would unblock.
Do you recommend reflexology for children?
Usually you can start treating children 10 years of age because anything younger their attention span is not steady. By the time they are teens, they can sit for 45 min to an hour session.
Example of patient reflexology healing experience.
I had a patient who had diabetes. One of the common effects of nerve pain is neuralgia where one loses feeling in their feet. They feel like their “feet are on fire”. This is due to the nerve reflexes being constantly overstimulated 24/7, it feels like you are walking on hot coals. She had tried medications; shots; seeing many doctors; changing diets; staying off her feet; and wearing special shoes, but nothing was working. She was in constant pain and could not sleep. After years of her symptoms, she finally chose to try reflexology. On her first session, half way through she started feeling the effect right away, and by the end of the session the pain had disappeared. My patient was shocked by its positive effect. Reflexology gave her relief from pain for 2-3 days after treatment and now comes every month.
What type of combo reflexology package do you offer?
Most people come for foot reflexology because the foot has a bigger area to work on than the hand or ears. I create a 90 min combination for feet and hands reflexology. This is good for someone who has ticklish feet as I can switch from feet to hands. For example, if a patient has back pain, I will focus on the same concerned area, by emphasizing on those reflex points in the feet and hands. By reemphasizing and giving a little TLC to help stimulate that area, it will help to flow, release, reshift itself into a better state and then your body kicks in to do the rest.
I also created a 90 min combination of feet reflexology and Indian head massage. This is very popular as it has a relaxing effect. The Indian (Indie) head and shoulder massage is a discipline that was created over 1000 years ago by Ayurvedic medicine. It stimulates hair growth and relieves any tension in the head, neck and shoulders. A Special blend of essential oils blended with a carrier oil is used to help relax the body like lavender essential oil in a carrier oil of coconut oil.
Who would you not recommend to do reflexology?
People who have ticklish and sensitive feet. Active cases of psoriasis or planters wart on feet. Depending on these symptoms I would need to wear gloves to stop cross contamination or suggest rescheduling their appointment once symptoms are gone.
Can pregnant women receive treatment for reflexology?
Yes they can. For this treatment, I avoid reflex points for the reproductive area during their 1st trimester and last month of their pregnancy. During the 1st trimester, the fetus is still latching on the uterus wall, we don’t want to take the chances. In the 8th month of the pregnancy, we don’t touch the reproductive area reflex points to avoid having an early delivery . But if the expecting mother is overdue, we can. These overdue mothers are either tired of being pregnant, feet are swollen and they are feeling tense, stressed, desperate to try anything. Why not try this natural modality treatment?
Are you taking any new training in reflexology?
Yes, Lymphatic drainage for reflexology. Very popular in the UK. It is recommended for anyone who is undergoing cancer treatment or swelling in their body can benefit. These symptoms could also arise from asthma, psoriasis, inflammation. The swelling is created from lymph nodes becoming clogged and are not working properly. Normally, all that stuff called lymphatic fluid drains into your lymph glands and then your kidneys filter this fluid . And then the remaining fluid gets released through your urine. If this stuff doesn’t get filtered properly within your body, this creates puffiness, swelling and discomfort in the fatty tissue under your skin. This puffiness is called lymphedema. Lymphatic drainage Reflexology is similar to lymphatic drainage you see through massage; but this way is done through reflexology points. We stimulate the lymphatic glands and concentrate on the lymphatic drainage points; on certain areas of the feet, to unclog the lymph nodes to open up and release. So , lymphedema within the fatty issues of your skin can shred all that swelling. We start the treatment by measuring where you are holding swelling in your body, and take measures afterwards to see the effects. We have the innate ability to heal ourselves. Unfortunately; in the medical field where we pop pills for everything, we do not give our body a chance to heal intuitively and naturally. By taking a holistic approach, we can learn to heal our bodies for the long run. All I ask is that you come with an open mind. And if you don’t see any benefits after 3-4 sessions, then with an open heart it is not for you.
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