I go to yoga for many, many reasons-for the sangha (community) of wonderful people I meet, to continue to grow on my spiritual path, and for the peace that it gives me.
But, to be honest, sometimes I go to be touched.
I used to be embarrassed by this-realizing that I was launching into poses hoping, wishing the assistants would notice me and guide me further into a pose. I wondered, am I sexualizing my yoga practice? ??
Is it un-pure of me to want someone (male or female) to lay their hands on me, to ease me further into a forward fold, to ground me in my twists or to rub my back in Child’s Pose?
Luckily, around that same time, I attended an assisting workshop with the amazing Rusty Wells of Urban Flow Yoga.
I left with a good understanding of healthy boundaries and respect for touch-and also with a better belief into why touch is more important.
Studies have shown that premature babies thrive in environments where they are touched more and anyone who has a massage understands the healing power of touch.
At Burning Man, I was lucky enough to start every day hugging lots of camp mates (and sometimes getting pulled into their cuddle puddle!) and experiencing touch all day. I probably spent almost an hour each day in some sort of embrace, sexual or non-sexual. From snuggling with a sweet man every night to kissing and caressing beautiful people on the dance floor, by the Temple, even in front of the Porta Potties!
But, when I came home-back to city life-I felt lonely.
And, it’s no wonder. Our Western culture is especially touch deprived compared to the rest of the world.
A study was done in the 60s (when, arguably, Americans were in a touch-friendly hippie state) where they observed people from different cultures interact at a cafe.
And, what did he find? For 1 hour they observed and saw:
-Friends in England touched each other zero times
-In the US-just twice
-In France they touched 110 times !!
-And, those sexy Puerto Ricans touched 180 times!!
Touch is a powerful thing-we are wired to connect with each other on a physical level and touch creates intimacy and trust-even among strangers! Massage therapy can decrease pregnancy pain and even calm cardiovascular stress.
The connections I witnessed (and experienced) were amazing and transformative.
Now, my challenge is to bring more of this into my everyday life. I work in tech, so I doubt my software engineers would appreciate group hugs and high-fives.
Instead, I’m spending more time with close friends and loves, more time on the mat (both teaching and being taught), increased experiences and more one-on-one time vs. rushing off for the next activity.
The result? My yoga students compliment my assists and hug me after class now, a close friend and I settled a conflict that kept us apart too long, I receive luscious phone calls and texts from a man who loves to rub my feet.
And, yes, I do go to my yoga studio multiple times a week to receive that sacred, healthy, healing touch that fills my soul and reminds me of why the practice is so important. If you see me on the mat, expect a big sweaty hug from me after practice-you know you want it!