Have you felt the warm fuzzies when another person's kind words, concerns and heartfelt wishes touch your soul. When a gentle hand offers reassurance, a hug which holds you in a safe embrace, a snuggle with your pet.
Touch soothes: it is the language of compassion, helping us bond and connect with others, with ourselves.
Have you noticed what is happening to touch and the modern day Yoga class not withstanding our day to day occurrences with others? It's rising to become a big No, No - taboo in fact to touch someone! Can we find a middle path that serves those who are longing for touch to transport change and invoke well being? As a facilitator of Yoga practices can we grow in our understanding and confidence to educate about safe touch and its exemplary benefits?
Some studies have indicated that touch may be known to trigger PTSD and trauma responses in some individuals. And yes this certainly may happen, yet touch itself can also be the vehicle required for healing. Perhaps you live with anxiety or trauma yourself. I’m certainly no stranger to it. In fact, it was my ongoing experiences of anxiety, panic attacks and ongoing emotional triggers that led me to yoga to begin with.
The Truth about Touch
The truth being, my own initial turn around of entering the phase of healing past childhood trauma, was receiving safe touch both on and off the Yoga Mat. By safe touch I mean, a trusting body therapist, hands on Yoga enhancement and the use of props or aids which reclaim touch as a source of delight and pleasure that changes the way the physical and emotional body receives information through sensations that directly effect wholesome healing.
Sensations begin as signals generated by touch receptors in your skin. They travel along sensory nerves made up of bundled fibres that connect to neurons in the spinal cord, from here signals move to the thalamus (an area of the brain), which relays information to the rest of the brain. Next stop is the somatosensory cortex, where signals are translated into a touch perception.
Touch is proven to release many hormones, recent discoveries of modern neurobiology show the role of oxytocin— as a nourishing antidote ,a slow releasing elixir which successfully lowers blood pressure, calms the heart rate, generating feelings of deep connection and well-being, through warmth, touch, and movement—Oxytocin is the brain’s naturally occurring neurotransmitter of “calm and connect.” Oxytocin is what propels us to “tend and befriend” rather than fight, flee, or freeze, (your stress triggers).
As a down-regulator of the body’s stress response; it is the brain’s direct and immediate antidote to the stress hormone cortisol and it is the neurochemical foundation of trust, connection and nurture.
The fastest way to release oxytocin and come into a state of calm, connection, trust is through warm, safe touch. Any warm, loving touch—hugs, holding hands, massage, or bodywork—can trigger the release of oxytocin and bring the body back into a state of calm and peacefulness. Even our own touch, as a reminder of the touch of others, can have this result.
Tactile stimulation is known to increase your oxytocin levels, which is in turn associated with an increase in feelings of wellbeing, relaxation, trust and connectedness. Touch has also been shown to alleviate depression, improve immune function, reduce pain, enhance attentiveness, with recent research has revealed that exposure to oxytocin can create a lifelong change in the brain.
A Yoga practice that includes both applied safe touch and the use of props to engage a re connection that successfully channels the stress responses is worth integrating.
Below you can find ways that offer up the use of touch to intentionally activate the release of this neurochemical potion that delights in delivering our nervous system back to equilibrium, towards a range of resilience.
A road to recovery.
A return to wholeness through touch, especially for anyone whom lives day to day with the effects of past trauma or dis embodiment is a welcomed guest to any resilient or recovery programme.
Heartfelt gratitude as a practice for the emotions. - simple meditations and visualisations to invoke heart resonance
Creating a Felt Sense in your Yoga Practice - a body awareness process to encourage embodiment
Practices with Mudras to increase Felt sense - Using hand mudras create positive pathways of reassurance
Using a basic prop to increase touch receptors in the belly and forehead. -Learning the bodies natural access points to efficiently and effectively change the state of consciousness.
This is why touch in Restorative Yoga - Yoga Nidra and (can be applied to fit in with general Yoga) can be integrated via props which holds the body, blankets that give weight and nurture and why gently placed hands on in specific areas of the body known as "access points to increase the effects of touch placing hands on to these some of these "access points" brings about an effective change for anyone.
If you are interested in learning more there is a workshop coming up on May 2nd. Or you might like to join in to one of the Restorative or Yoga Nidra training levels.
Cathie has been practicing Yoga since 1991 and teaching since 1997. A senior level 3 teacher with Yoga Australia she has studied alternative therapies for nearly 3 decades. Her style is Hatha based , with a Restorative and Guided Meditation- Yoga Nidra component. The spirit of Yoga is a grounded practice that slowly builds energy, improves breathing. Based on Yoga's eight step system. Emotional wellbeing is enhanced through positive intentions and visualisation. Enquire about our new online courses and training, day retreats and restorative classes. Sign up to our newsletter to receive discounts to courses and sessions.. Cathie can be contacted via:- www.spiritofyoga.com.au