Most of us are touch-starved. Some of us go for days, weeks, even longer without a hug or healthy, affectionate contact. Be honest with yourself. How often does someone touch you in a loving, caring and satisfying way? We know that if babies don't receive caring touch and consistent attention, they run the risk of emotional, cognitive and even physical delays and deficits. But what about the effects of touch-starved adults? I recently learned that symptoms include irritability, anxiety, insomnia and depletion.
So how do you get the touch you need and crave? Just like the asana and breath work we practice, we need to also practice touching ourselves. I remember one of my first workshops with Ana Forrest and we were belly down moving into Boat (aka Locust Pose). She cued us to grab our butts. I complied, but was borderline mortified by the fact that I was touching my own rear in a room with 75 other sweaty people. The next day, we started practice with Brahmeri, a buzzing breath that you direct and vibrate into different areas of your body. She told us to put one hand on our genitals and the other on our perineum and buzz into our privates. I was flabbergasted, my face hot with embarrassment and disbelief. Were people really going to do this?! My eyes darted around the room and I realized I better quickly get with the program. I did it and I realized how disconnected I was from my own touch. My hands were clumsy, awkward and I was unskilled at putting my own hands on myself.
In my Forrest Yoga training we spent hours every day learning how to touch our students - gently, deliberately, and with the highest quality of care and energy. Ana calls it, "touching your beloved." But even more important, we practiced touching ourselves. Because if we don't know how to place our own hands on our beloved body in a loving, nurturing way, how can we do this for others?
One of my new rituals is to touch myself daily, and I'm not talking about the autopilot stuff like scrubbing my face or putting on SPF. Before I go to bed I grab my Castor Oil (so good for dissolving scar tissue) and I rub my feet, my legs and my belly. I've learned that I like a slow, soft touch. I touch myself with purpose and care and I focus on how to make myself feel good. It's this amazing time that I practice self-care and intimacy with someone I love deeply - me! It's also changing how I touch the people in my life - especially my husband, my twin boys, my dogs and cats. It's changing the quality and understanding of touching my students, too. Giving and receiving touch has become an essential daily vitamin in my life.
A long story to say, start touching yourself! Make it simple. For one minute (or longer), focus on an area of your body that's easy to reach. Let your instincts guide you as you touch yourself in a way that feels good. Throw in a sweet smelling lotion or some apricot oil with a little splash of peppermint or your favorite essential oil. Experiment with touching yourself in different ways and with different intentions depending on your mood or what you need. Do this for 7 days in a row and feel for what happens. Does your own touch make a difference in how you feel? How does it change how you touch others? Does it effect how receptive you are to someone else's touch? Does it make a difference in how you communicate about what kind of touch you want in your life?
If you need a bit more direction, check out these short videos. One guided pose with self-touch perfect for the morning and another self-massage sequence to get you ready for bed.