Why are we so terrified to touch each other?
I'm sitting on the aeroplane coming home from an incredible few days in Johannesburg.
I've spent time in wonderful studios with amazing teachers and dedicated students. I spent 5 hours (in different classes and workshops) touching people, massaging people, connecting with them, their energies and their bodies.
I spent time with my family, hugging, kissing, dancing, chasing, smiling and loving. We touched each other with love and kindness.
But sitting on the aeroplane now my elbow touched the human next to me and they flinched away. That one TINY action gave me pause and got my mind running on hyper-speed.
If someone brushes past us in the airport we pull in towards ourselves...if we accidentally touch someone else in a Yoga class we feel uncomfortable and I want to know why we are so terrified of non-intimate touch. Why are we afraid of holding a friends hand or patting a stranger on the back? Why do we avoid touching people we don’t know, sometimes even people we do know?
I absolutely understand and totally agree with getting consent before touching someone intimately or non-intimately, but it’s that knee-jerk reaction we all have if someone touches us, the immediate pulling away and into ourselves that I don’t understand. We are physical beings, we need touch to survive. When I’m massaging and touching my students in class (always with consent) I sometimes wonder if I’m the first person in their lives touching them today, this week, this year. I am such a tactile person and tend to reach out way more than I pull in. In fact, this is a personality trait of mine and has lead me to a lot of heartbreak in my past. Because of this trait, I’ve had to learn iron-clad boundaries in order to protect myself emotionally but my love of touch has remained the same.
When I studied Yoga therapy in India we committed to doing an hour a day of Seva or karma service. Because I’m a massage therapist and aromatherapist, I was given the task of massaging my fellow students, of relieving their tired bodies of aches and pains. While I was massaging we would talk and share. I think because I was doing spiritual work and very connected to the people I was serving I started receiving little thoughts or ideas in my head regarding these human’s lives. In the sessions, I would convey these little messages to the person I was massaging and every time I did it, there was a gasp and a comment like “How could you possibly know that?”.
I realised I was tapping into their energy, pain and trauma through my hands. I could read their bodies and use my hands, my energy, my love and my service to shift and release their stuck emotions that had been caught in the body. Every day, with each fellow student, we both ended up in tears with a major breakthrough or shift happening on the same day or a few days later.
I am not massaging at present but I still use this amazing gift every day with my students and the people in my life. When I touch someone I receive messages from their bodies, little pops of information that I now know need to be addressed in a loving and supportive way. I even received a quick message from the human sitting next to me on the plane.
Writing this now has got me thinking. Maybe this is the exact reason why we’re so afraid of touch, because it may communicate something about ourselves to others and make us vulnerable. It may let them know something that maybe we haven’t discovered yet for ourselves. I also believe we all have this ability to communicate through touch if only we had the want and opportunity to explore it as I did. Maybe touching others opens a string of connection with them and because we don’t know them, we think they may misuse that connection or see behind the masks we put up.
One of my favourite Yoga Sutra's is:
“Through kindness, compassion and friendliness,
I have this tattooed on my arm and I am committed to living this every single day. It teaches that being open and connecting with others and being vulnerable actually makes you strong. We’re generally taught that might is right and being hard and aloof makes you strong, but more and more we humans and our society are learning that being sensitive and emotional doesn’t make you weak...it makes you powerful beyond measure! Showing yourself openly and honestly to others gives you a strength that comes from deep within you. Dropping those perfectly sculpted masks we put on every day and showing the world who we truly are brings radical self-acceptance and self-love. Nothing can make you stronger than truly accepting and loving yourself.
It is my favourite thing to get my hands on other humans, to assist, massage and hug my students, to hold hands with my friends, to kiss my family. I constantly crave touch and connection and I think that is why I was drawn to teaching Jivamukti Yoga, massage and to volunteering with the dog rescue organisation, Sidewalk Specials. In my classes when we move into Warrior 1 pose, the instruction is to reach your hands up, keeping a hand to heart connection, so that “your hands are always doing the work of your heart”. I try to live by this every damn day.
My closing message to you is don’t be afraid to connect with others, don’t be afraid to drop the mask, the Light behind that mask is remarkable and the world needs you to SHINE as brightly as you possibly can.
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