Metamorphic practitioner Audrey Pasternak claims to have cured everything from dyslexia to obesity
An elegant grandmother with coiffed hair and pearls is stroking my feet. She is a therapist giving me a treatment called the metamorphic technique. Its devotees claim it leads to transformations in their lives - and fast.
Although it it has been around since the '60s it is now enjoying a burst of popularity, particularly among London's fashionable Primrose Hill set. Indeed, many hot film and fashion folk are now putting their feet into the hands of the aforementioned therapist, Audrey Pasternak, Europe's leading metamorphic practitioner.
The metamorphic technique is facilitated by the therapist working on the client's feet, hands and head. Pasternak claims spectacular results with everything from dyslexia to relationship problems.
"I've seen people lose weight, stop smoking and babies move from the breech position," claims Pasternak, who has practised for 20 years and pioneered the technique in the UK. "It's particularly good for pregnant women," she says.
Patients including Jonathan Yeo, artist and son of former Tory minister Tim Yeo, swear by the treatment. So I decide to give it a go. I am looking for something to help me stop feeling stuck and let me fulfil my potential. Pasternak massages my bare feet while I loll on the couch in The Life Centre, Kensington. Her eyes and nose start to stream. "Often, as negative energy is drawn from the client, I yawn or cry," she explains. I feel a profound sense of peace and relaxation. The hour-long session ends with her stroking my hands and gently massaging my head.
Afterwards, I feel elated but tired. Strange, given that I have simply been touched. After my second visit, I feel shivery and shaky. "People often get headaches, backache or panic attacks," explains Pasternak. "It's the body releasing old patterns." By the third appointment I'm very perky and have made some improvements in my work life.
"A lot of my clients come to me feeling trapped in their current situations," she comments. "Then they make changes in their relationships and careers."
The metamorphic technique was developed by Robert St John - a leading naturopath and reflexologist. His aim was to help handicapped children release emotional blockages.
By lightly massaging certain areas of the feet and hands - the spinal reflexes located at their sides, to be precise - St John maintained that the technique acted as a catalyst to the underlying energy or life force. It was said to release the blockages - trauma is believed by practitioners to be held in the body on a cellular level - and promote the body's innate ability to heal itself.
"It's not difficult to accept the premise that your body holds onto memories and patterns that are blocking you from moving onto a more healthy and fulfilling life, is it?" asks Pasternak.
Later, Dr Robert Lefever, an addictions specialist and former GP explains to me: "There is a limit to what scientific medicine can achieve. So I have no qualms in considering what the metamorphic technique has to offer."
Some clients see immediate improvements while others attend weekly for as long as it takes. "Results can be particularly fast in children and adolescents. I don't know why," Pasternak says.
So if it is so effective, why is it not available on the high street? "The technique will never be hugely popular because it requires people to change," responds Pasternak. "And most people don't want change."
Of course, the results may also be primarily due to a placebo effect and there is no hard scientific evidence to back it up. Many people remain sceptical that profound outcomes can be achieved in this way. "You don't have to believe," asserts Pasternak, breaking into an irrepressible smile. "It works anyway.