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VOL 3. NO. 31 Monday, August 13 - Sunday, August 19, 2001
Dr. Njideka Olatunde Spans the World to Learn the Benefits of Traditional Medicine
By Asantewaa MAWUSI
A great healer is one who possesses great loving energy. Dr. Njideka N. Olatunde is no doubt one. The founder and director of Focus On Healing, Inc. (Institute), based in Washington, DC, she has been practicing reflexology for over 15 years. One of a few African Americans on the cutting edge of reflexology, Dr. Olatunde has written an invaluable self-help guide entitled Reflexology Today - A Family Affair. In it she leads us to that healing space within ourselves.

Dr. Olatunde has also participated in several traveling delegations to study traditional medicines. She was the first African-American woman and reflexologist invited by the Director of Reflexology Association of China and the Reflexology Society of China to study their most current research, education, training and medical treatments. There was a special focus on traditional Chinese medicine including reflexology, acupuncture, Tai Chi and herbal medicine.

Now Dr. Olatunde has extended her focus to a region closer to home, Cuba. Wellness Exchange 2001 and Focus On Healing, Inc. has organized the first African-American and Hispanic Healthcare Practitioners delegation to travel to Cuba in October 2001. She explains that he purpose of this trip is to study the integration of complementary/alternative healthcare with conventional medicine. "The study of healthcare systems in Cuba can provide some valuable information and lessons that can be beneficial and useful for the undeserved populations in urban and rural America," said Dr. Olatunde, the delegation's leader.

Here is a Q&A session I conducted with Dr. Olatunde after experiencing her healing and relaxing touch for myself.

ASANTEWAA: Thank you Njideka for sharing with me your gift of love! Please tell us what or who inspired you to "focus on healing" with reflexology?"

DR. OLATUNDE: I had a mentor name Sun Bear, a Native American, whom I had the opportunity to study with. He was very involved in protecting the Earth. I thought originally that I was going to be a herbalist. He told me that there is more to healing than just the herbs, to look to my hands. Perceiving that to be massage I went to massage school. I found that I liked working on the hands and feet. Another major opportunity was receiving training in West Africa. Since my childhood, healing has always been the essence of my being, from my family to growing up in a neighborhood of a community of healers. It really came to me; I didn't come to it.

ASANTEWAA: What is reflexology?

DR. OLATUNDE: It is the art of working specific areas of the hand, feet or ears, which correspond to all organs and parts of the body, to improve circulation and elimination. It is the first and oldest modality. The first tools that (wo)man had were their hands. The oldest documentation was found in Egypt. When these energy points are contacted, they unblock congestion in the corresponding region of the body. I'd like to point out that reflexology is NOT a massage.

ASANTEWAA: That leads me to my next question. What is the difference between reflexology and massage?

DR. OLATUNDE: I love that question. When you see a reflexologist working on the hands or feet, visually it looks like they are giving a hand or foot massage. In reflexology you are working the nerve endings. This means that you are working on the nervous system. With massage you are working soft tissue, the muscular system. Through the hands and feet you can activate the whole body. The reflexologist works specific reflex points to relieve the stress and pain of the body.

ASANTEWAA: What are some of the benefits of reflexology?

DR. OLATUNDE: Reflexology brings harmony and balance to the body. It improves circulation and provides energy. It helps to relieve stress and pain of the body by fully relaxing it. Touch is important, it gives and heals.

ASANTEWAA: How long should one expect to wait before seeing benefits from reflexology?

DR. OLATUNDE: A session can last one day or it can last a week. The nervous system is the message center. Therefore, whatever messages the nerve endings are sending that they are in need of that is what the reflexology session will do. With every session the body can have longer periods of relief, from four minutes to four hours or forever.

ASANTEWAA: When is the best time to undergo reflexology?

DR. OLATUNDE: Reflexology is a preventative approach to healthcare. It is good to include it in your wellness maintenance program. You do not want to use it in a crisis situation. You want to use it to maintain optimum health. I'd like to see one member in every household know some basic reflexology techniques from the standpoint of it being a first aid tool. I say this because then it can be used in dealing with crisis intervention. From example if you have a headache you'd be able to use it as a pain management piece.

Dr. Olatunde's book Reflexology Today - A Family Affair, is a perfect introduction to the practice and benefits of reflexology. And for a more hands on approach she also coordinates classes that will guide you through the step by step process.

In the meantime, the Wellness Exchange delegation is busy preparing for their trip to Cuba from Oct. 27 to Nov. 7, 2001. They will share and exchange information and techniques with healthcare practitioners in Havana, Holguin and Santiago de Cuba. Dr. Olatunde informed that these three provinces were selected because they have successfully integrated traditional healthcare approaches such as acupuncture, herbology, massage, tai chi and reflexology, with conventional medicine. The three provinces are located in urban and rural areas that are quite similar to cities in America.

The delegation extends a special invitation to healthcare groups, organizations and programs that serve the African-American and Hispanic populations to send a representative to travel with the Wellness Exchange 2001 delegation to Cuba. For more information about reflexology, classes or the delegation call 301-779-8005 or email: fohnno@cs.com.

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