Contributed by: Lola Rephann
Touch is essential for well-being and emotional balance. In our society today, we’re often over-sexualized and under-touched. Fed a strange diet of messages that say we must be sexually attractive and provocative to merit touch, there is no model for non-sexual yet intimate healing contact. Even within our own families, we’re not guaranteed touch as many children grow up with absentee or preoccupied parents who are themselves conflicted around how and when to touch their offspring.
The visual sense heavily dominates our society, and our tactile sense (touch/feeling) is often under-developed. Touch or feeling is the sense associated with the Heart Chakra. The heart chakra is related to our heart and lung health, thymus gland (immunity), and blood and blood circulation. Giving or receiving a hug exerts gentle pressure on the sternum which stimulates the thymus gland and helps regulate the body’s production of white blood cells!
Another way to give and receive healing, non-sexual touch is through the practice of Thai massage. Thai massage is uniquely suited to our society today with its complex social dynamics between men and women, people of different ethnicities and sexual orientations, religions and socio-economic statuses. In Thai massage, we do not need to take our clothes off, use any lotions or oils, and we often practice in a group with other massages taking place around where you are receiving yours. This built-in safety in the Thai massage setting helps unravel some of the power dynamics and complexities around touch.
If you’re craving touch but don’t like the setting or vibe of Swedish massage or spas, Thai massage may be perfect for you. It’s incredibly relaxing yet also energizing, feels great to both give and receive, and helps us develop our repertoire of touch and feeling. It’s also something you can do anywhere. Stop, drop and Thai massage!
If this isn’t enough to convince you to give Thai massage a shot, here are five more reasons why touch is good for your health.
- Greater trust between individuals. Our skin is full of nerve receptors for touch. The heart chakra is linked to arms and hands, so when we touch or are touched, our nervous system releases oxytocin, the “love” and “bonding” hormone, which may explain why we feel compelled to divulge our current life story to our hairdressers. Learn Thai massage with a loved one, and you’ll have a perfect tool to use when you need to drop your shields and get into a more open space with one another.
- Decreased anxiety and violence. There is a whole sub-genre of psychology concerned with how we were raised as children called “attachment studies.” Studies have proven that children who do not receive adequate touch do not develop at the same rate as children who do. Not only could they be physically smaller, but show stunted social and emotional development. In extreme cases, this leads to anxiety and violence. Even as adults, lack of touch can make us edgy, restless, and prone to feeling isolated and unloved. Touch is one of the surest ways to soothe the savage beast. It’s hard to feel anxious and angry when waves of beneficial bio-chemistry are coursing thru your veins.
- Economic gain or success. Wow, really?! This statistic blew me away, but studies have shown that NBA teams whose members touch each other more win more games. Touch confers a feeling of safety and security. These are 1st Chakra issues. Without a sense of safety or stability, it’s hard to do anything. Touch helps people feel worthy. Self-worth is a priori for success.
- Greater non-sexual intimacy. Touch is a vast language. We take in so much information thru non-verbal cues, like body language, tone of voice, and touch. Developing our repertoire of touch and our sensitivity for what different types of contact feel like goes a long way in teaching us how to communicate in non-verbal ways. In today’s environment where our interactions are often short and quick, mindfulness around how we’re communicating is more important than ever. Yoga helps us develop mindfulness. Thai massage takes our mindfulness practice one layer deeper because now we extend it beyond ourselves into relationship with another person. Practice Thai massage and watch your skill in the field of touch expand!
- Overall wellbeing. Humans need touch to thrive. We can survive without it, but we it will be tough to thrive in an environment with little or no touch. Studies are now proving that physical contact is essential for optimal functioning of human being, emotionally, physically and mentally. Touch helps boost our immune system, reduce our stress, heart rate, and blood pressure, improve our ability to learn, enhance our ability to cooperate with others, and reduce emotional disturbances.
Experience healing touch in a safe setting at my Partner Thai Massage workshop on Saturday, Nov. 18th from 2-4:30 pm at Yoga in the Heights. You’ll learn, practice and receive a 30-40 minute sequence. Don’t have someone to sign up with? No problem! Everyone will get matched with a workshop partner. Register here