Editor's note: This is the final story in a 6-part holistic health and wellness series
BENNINGTON -- Over the past six weeks, you've allowed me to share my passion for holistic health and wellness with you through this Tranquil Benningtonian series. I feel so fortunate to have had that opportunity.
It has been a pleasure to meet with local practitioners in Bennington who are equally as passionate as I, learn about their modalities, and relay their knowledge and expertise to our readership.
Whether you deemed the information I presented to you as being silly or (hopefully) helpful, my goal in this project was simple: To raise awareness about holistic avenues for reducing stress and how you might live a happier, fuller life.
I hope, at least, that the issue of stress, its harmful effects on the body, and the importance of reducing it, were brought to the forefront through these articles.
This week, the Banner's new assistant sports editor, Geoff Smith, was feeling stressed and was thus worthy to serve as the final Bennington Banner Tranquil Bennington guinea pig.
I returned to nearby Jophiel's Beauty and Inner Light Center at 532 Main St. in Bennington, with Geoff in tow, to explore yet another form of holistic bodywork: Reflexology.
Laurie Freeman Jesseman, the owner of Jophiel's, is a hairdresser with 32 years under her belt. She discovered her love and passion for energy and bodywork after suffering a loss in her immediate family.
During this time, Freeman Jesseman experienced reflexology for the first time and was immediately hooked.
"I was so deeply relaxed. I felt that I had just lifted right out of my body," she said. "It was so unbelievable. I was addicted right away."
She then went on to become a certified reflexologist.
"It became my passion," she said.
Freeman Jesseman explained that reflexology is similar to acupuncture and acupressure in that the modality deals with the movement of energy within the body.
"If you have an area of stagnant energy," she asserted, "reflexology will open the ‘flood gates' or meridians in the body, allowing for a better flow of energy throughout."
Freeman Jesseman added that reflexology is an ideal modality for those who may dislike modalities that require touching all over the body, like a conventional massage, as reflexology focuses mainly on areas of reflex in the body: The hands, the feet and the ears.
During a reflexology session, the practitioner will "work" one or more of those areas by rubbing or massaging vigorously, stimulating blood flow to the area.
Freeman Jesseman said that she has worked with people from all walks of life, even those in the final stages of their lives, which, she explained, served as a very therapeutic experience for them.
"It just made them feel like they were doing something good for their bodies, comforted them and made them feel well," she said.
Freeman Jesseman claimed reflexology is ideal for cancer patients and said she has even had doctors recommend the therapy to their patients.
Yet according to the American Cancer Society, "Evidence from some studies suggests that reflexology may be useful for relaxation and reducing pain and anxiety. However, these results may be at least partly explained by the placebo effect ... Available scientific evidence does not support claims that reflexology cures cancer or any other disease."
"People with cancer and chronic conditions such as arthritis and heart disease should talk to their doctors before having any type of therapy that involves moving joints and muscles," according to the Cancer Society's web site.
Nevertheless, Freeman Jesseman said, "Chemotherapy helps to get rid of the cancer but the after effects of the chemo and the chemicals setting in the body are not good. ... Reflexology helps to cleanse the body of any toxins and stimulates all of the inner organs."
For those seeking general stress relief, reflexology is also a perfect modality to undergo, Freeman Jesseman said.
She noted that it is a modality safe for everyone, but to always advise the practitioner of any existing injuries or bodily discomfort prior to the session.
When Geoff climbed onto the table, he noted general tension and stress.
Freeman Jesseman immediately began massaging his left foot, and continued to do so for about 10 minutes, before switching over to his right.
"I started to relax right away," Geoff said. "It felt wonderful."
Freeman Jesseman "worked" on Geoff for about half an hour, focusing solely (no pun intended) on his feet.
She said during the session that she was able to sense tension in his shoulders and lower back, which Geoff confirmed.
Freeman Jesseman said that she is sometimes able to sense areas in the body that are a cause for discomfort, but that it really depends on the person and the number of times she has had the opportunity to work on him or her.
Following the session, Geoff noted that he felt calmer and more centered than when he first lay down.
"I feel so much more relaxed," he said, "My feet feel amazing, like I'm walking on a cloud. I would definitely do this again."
Freeman Jesseman said she believes in making body work and therapies affordable for every budget.
"This kind of work is not a luxury," she said, "It's a necessity. We try to make it affordable so that everyone can reap the benefits."
She went on to say that in her opinion, health is a mind-body experience.
"People may not be open to what I do or believe that it really does work," she said. "But, I stand in my truth, as all of us should. I've chosen my passion and I just do it. I love helping people."
Freeman Jesseman offers half-hour reflexology sessions for $12 for area seniors on the third Wednesday of every month.
For those who may not quite be in their golden years, Freeman Jesseman and her colleagues at Jophiel's have launched a September Specials promotion, which offers a package including four, one-hour treatments, reflexology included, for $100. The only catch is that the sessions must be used by the beginning of December.
To experience reflexology with Freeman Jesseman, call 802-442-9404.
Contact Elizabeth A. Conkey at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @bethconkey.