By Lonnie Burstein Hewitt
Reflexology, a type of massage that uses pressure points on the feet to relieve problems in corresponding parts of the body, probably had its beginnings in China over 5,000 years ago.
These days, massage practitioners don't often pay much attention to the feet we stand on, run on, and imprison in torturous shoes for most of our lives.
De La Sole Reflexology Spa is trying to remedy that. This little oasis on Camino Del Mar states its aims on its website: "We are here to relax your mind and body, and to balance your soul through your sole."
Owner Kelly Conti used to go to a shabby shop in Kearny Mesa to have Chinese-style foot massage.
"I'd sit there wishing somebody would do this in Del Mar, where I live. Something with more atmosphere and comfort," she said. "Finally, I decided that somebody should be me."
Six months ago, she quit her high-tech job and opened De La Sole, a "local escape" with six chairs and 11 practitioners. "The Oldest Form of Healthcare," says the sign out front, or sometimes: "Come inside for a hug."
"It's just been amazing," she said. "We've had hundreds of clients, and since we were featured on GroupOn, they've come from all over the country."
Reflexology here means more than your feet. Practitioners massage your ears, neck and hands before getting down to your tootsies. And they do all they can to get you to relax.
First there's the peaceful feeling of the place, with soft lighting and the soothing sound of indoor fountains and quiet music blocking any outside noise. Then the super-comfy reclining chairs, and the lush fleece blankets. And the warm footbath with Chinese herbs to detoxify your body from the bottom up. And throughout, the caring touch of your practitioner.
No surprise if you start to hear gentle snoring-maybe your own!
"It's amazing how many people-men especially-fall asleep," Conti said. "And sometimes, there are tears. The treatments release so much."
They don't promise healing, but this is a place where healing can happen. People feel safe to relax here. You might say De La Sole is a Relaxology Spa.
Finding the right practitioners and the right chairs-reflexology sofas-was Conti's biggest challenge.
"I interviewed tons of people," Conti said. "I had to be sure each of them was a perfect fit. The good part was: they each had to give me a treatment!"
Now her 11 practitioners-three men and eight women-are one happy family. Each has a different style and skill-set: one worked with Olympic athletes, one works well with children, several are what Conti calls "true healers."
They welcome all ages, from babies to the elderly. Private party packages and "Tough-guy Tuesdays" are popular, but clients also include cancer patients, autistic children, military wives from Camp Pendleton, and assisted-living residents from La Vida Del Mar.
Conti loves to watch their faces, to see how different they look as they leave, compared to the way they came in.
"That's what makes it all worthwhile," she said.