Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Feel Better - Have You Hugged Lately?

The irony that this week is national hug week has an odd thematic happenstance. On a recent yoga retreat with Dana Flynn and Jasmine Tarkeshi at Kripalu in the Berkshires, the culmination of the retreat was for each person to make up a yoga posture.

Now, had we been given that mandate on the first day, everyone might have rolled eyes, crossed arms, and refused. But after a long weekend of hanging out together, eating healthy food and getting enough sleep, it's amazing how capable we feel of overcoming creative anxiety.

Aside from this creative endeavor itself being a metaphorical hug, a self hug of sorts, amazingly multiple participants in the retreat created self-affirming poses. With names like "Patience Warrior", "Peaceful Pigeon", "Infinity Eagle" and "Kindness Warrior", many of the shapes folks created were all about being gentler and kinder to ourselves. One woman even expressed that having recently moved to a city in the Northeast, she's been feeling so touch deprived that she signed up for salsa lessons just to feel human contact.

Studies of animal behavior show that primates respond directly to increases in the level of warmth and comfort they are given in their formative months with decreasing levels of anxiety and aggression. While it is true that many of us satisfy the need for warmth and kindness with our spouses or partners, just as often days and weeks pass without any loving touch whatsoever.

So take care of that hug jones, whether you are conscious of it or not. Don't have any hug-friendly friends or family in your circle? Give yourself a hug or even hand massage. Rest your face on the heels of your hands and slowly rub the muscles over your forehead, jaw and cheekbones. Pause in the tub to rub your sweet feet or give your own neck some kindness. This body of yours is indeed a chemical reaction chamber and stirring the pot has the capacity to release powerful stored up energy. Why not make the most of yours?

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