by Terri Stewart

Neuroscientists point out that touch releases oxytocin into our systems. Touch has several categories and corresponding changes on your body:

  • Handshakes and pats on the back actually release small amounts of oxytocin. Of course, we need to be clear with our permission boundaries and that the person is not hyper-sensitive to touch or has a history of abuse. Perhaps this is why passing of the peace is so popular in churches that practice it. The drawn out shaking of hands and hugging goes from person to person! Upping everyone’s oxytocin!
  • Touching someone you love actually reduces pain
  • Holding hands with someone you love alleviates pain and helps you get through difficult situations. They did this experiment:

One fMRI study scanned married women as they were warned that they were about to get a small electric shock. While anticipating the painful shocks, the brain showed a predictable pattern of response in pain and worrying circuits, with activation in the insula, anterior cingulate, and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. During a separate scan, the women either held their husbands’ hands or the hand of the experimenter. When a subject held her husband’s hand, the threat of shock had a smaller effect. The brain showed reduced activation in both the anterior cingulate cortex and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex— that is, less activity in the pain and worrying circuits.

  • Hugging five times a day has been shown to increase happiness
  • Can’t hug or shake hands or any of that? Massage has been shown to release serotonin and dopamine and decreases cortisol.

So there’s the science. I don’t think it is advisable to randomly walk up to people and start hugging them. So how do you design a ritual around touch? Or around hugs? Pretty sure this will take two people. And I’ll admit it, I am a non-touch person. I’m a little hyper-sensitive to touch so I generally go on high alert when being touched. It’s awkward. But I do like hugging a safe person.

Ok. Let’s see what we can do.

A quick research reveals to me that touching animals also releases oxytocin as does touching yourself. Woot! We’re in!

Sacred Space

To form a sacred space, I think I’d like a circle. Surround yourself with the things you love in a circle around you. Flowers, in a grove, books, pictures, art supplies, music sheets, candles, your gratitudes, or be in the center of a labyrinth…whatever it is that you love. And it doesn’t need to be a lot of whatever it is. Shoot, you could be in the middle of your favorite work space! Choose to be standing or sitting, whatever makes you comfortable.

Declare Your Intention

Today, I choose to reconnect with myself. To accept my body as a gift of comfort and joy.

Photo by Spirit Fire (CC BY)
Art by Spirit Fire
(CC BY), flickr

Do it!

Now, we’re going to travel chakra by chakra, visiting the body’s energy centers by direct touch. For some of us, our range of motion is limited. Adapt each item as you are able. Also, where possible, touch your direct skin. Take your shoes off!

  • Touch your feet (root chakra). The root chakra is for grounding and security. For some of us, our feet and ankles are weak or damaged. Acknowledge this while accepting the connection to the earth. Hold each touch for as long as you desire. Do a breath practice while holding your touch. When you breathe in, think or say “Root of life,” on your exhale think or say “Thank you.” Do this five or more times.
  • Touch the area below your naval. This is the sacral chakra. Sacral means sacred or holy and it also is the sacrum at the base of your spine. It is for relationships and emotions. This may be a difficult area for many. I have two c-section scars and of course, it is not as flat as I’d like. Set those thoughts aside. Do a breath practice while holding your touch. When you breathe in, think or say “Sacredness of life,” on your exhale think or say “Thank you.” Do this five or more times.
  • Touch the area at your solar plexus. This is for vitality or power. When singers sing, they use their diaphragm to give them power! When you take big breaths that reach every part of your lungs, you touch the diaphragm area. This may be difficult for those who are affected by asthma or even if you have a cold. Accept the limitation at the same time you hear its strength. Do a breath practice while holding your touch. When you breathe in, think or say “Power of life,” on your exhale think or say “Thank you.” Do this five or more times.
  • Touch the area at your heart. This is for love, connection, and balance. Let go of any short comings you feel and move into the gift of your heart. Do a breath practice while holding your touch. When you breathe in, think or say “Power of love,” on your exhale think or say “Thank you.” Do this five or more times.
  • Touch the area at your throat. This is for communication and healing. Let go of any short comings you feel and move into the gift of your voice. Do a breath practice while holding your touch. When you breathe in, think or say “Power of voice,” on your exhale think or say “Thank you.” Do this five or more times.
  • Touch the area at your forehead. This is for intuition and understanding. Let go of any short comings you feel and move into the gift of your knowing. Do a breath practice while holding your touch. When you breathe in, think or say “Power of wisdom,” on your exhale think or say “Thank you.” Do this five or more times.
  • Touch the area at the top of your head, or the crown of your head. This is for transcendence or enlightenment. Let go of any short comings you feel and move into the gift of the cosmos. Do a breath practice while holding your touch. When you breathe in, think or say “Power of all,” on your exhale think or say “Thank you.” Do this five or more times.

Closing

Let your hands come to a gentle rest in your lap. Breathe in, breathe out. Bow or tip your head downward. Breathe in, breathe out. Move your hands back as possible, tip your head back, open your chest area. Breathe in, breathe out. Return to neutral.

Namaste.*

Onward!

Self-Soothing Behaviors: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25628581

Translations of namaste: http://www.wakingtimes.com/2014/11/08/meaning-namaste-many-translations-one-universal-intention/

© 2016, words, Terri Stewart, All rights reserved; illustration as indicated above

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