In a recent Article for The Yoga Bubble, where she is a guest teacher on the Yoga Teacher Training courses, Grace tells us why living a touch-full life is so important to her.
'To Touch or Not To Touch?' that is the question, along with... Why do we touch? Who do we touch? How much should we touch-and is there a correct way to do it? Recently, amongst the yoga community the question of 'should we even touch at all?' has also arisen, particularly where hands on adjustments are concerned. For me, a life without touch is unimaginable, I have become passionate about spreading a better connection with touch, on and off the mat.
This topic quickly becomes a sensitive and personal discussion. So, to get off to an objective start, I decided to look towards the tangible world of Science.
There’s a science to touch
According to neurobiologists, touch is the first sense to be developed in the womb. It plays a critical part in our early development as human beings and is communicated directly to the brain’s emotional-processing areas; its any wonder the subject gets personal! A nurturing, respectful and consenting touch between humans physically releases a hormone known as Oxytocin into the brain. This hormone helps humans to trust, be more comfortable around each other, set boundaries and increases loyalty. Experiments in leading neuroscience have shown that if touch is lacking or misused these essential developments are interrupted.
You can find out more science here, or tuck into David J. Linden's book 'The Science of Hand, Heart and Mind'
Sensitive to touch
As a teacher of Ashtanga yoga, l choose to include tactile adjustments in most of my classes. Being ‘hands on’ gives me access to a direct way of connecting with my students practice. I find the new depths, the small, detailed changes in the practice are much more accessible when you can literally point someone in the right direction. What started as a passion for the correct alignment has become so much more.
Off of the yoga mat I value the way touch brings comfort, closeness and wordless encouragement between humans. A big cuddle, the occasional touch of an arm or an affectionate squeeze of a hand, supports my intentions when communicating or discussing.
The more I touch, or receive touch, the more I feel that I need it.
How much can we really communicate through touch? Why not explore it for yourself with this playful experiment?
Out of touch
Why are some people so relaxed with expanding their 'personal space' boundaries, while others are restricted or uncomfortable and still others sadly seem to see no boundaries at all? The compassionate side of me believes that misuse of physical contact usually comes from a lack of understanding, or misplaced intention. Perhaps the reality is darker, but the understanding should be the same. This powerful route of communication must be treated with authenticity and respect. The integrity of interpersonal relationships is made vulnerable when bad experiences block its development. I believe that a practice of well intended, consenting touch could establish and strengthen these boundaries and better our understanding of interpersonal contact. Perhaps under the right circumstances, with full consciousness, it could even be healing.
a touching conclusion
Could yoga help? One of the reasons why I love teaching yoga is how present I am during my time with students, and this seems to grow the more I teach. Whether it's through hands-on adjustments, or touch based relaxation, if I keep to my centre and hold a clear intention, a connection is always found. But this is not limited to teaching or practicing, what started with yoga became so much more.
Can a few moments of conscious, well placed touch during a yoga class do more than just guide students into their practice? Can't we all just touch each other a bit more? Do you share in my dream of weekly Cuddle Puddle Parties? I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject. GF