I am certainly not one of those people who would necessarily relish being hugged, unexpectedly, by a complete stranger or upon meeting someone for the first time, but I do love hugging (and being hugged by) those who I am comfortable with, especially my children. I also know a number of folk who harbour an active dislike of unsolicited hugging – including one friend in particular who has a thing about ears – and so I am not by any means endorsing the idea of abandoned hugging in general. That said, I found this article by Marcus Julian Felicetti very lovely, and thought it would be nice to share to encourage those of us who do hug, to do it more often, and for those who don’t, to consider all the benefits of the simple act (and for those of you thinking of attending a yoga class at my yoga studio in Stellenbosch, fear not: unlike Marcus, I am not known to hug my students, unless they very specifically request me to do so!).
Hugging therapy has been proven to be a powerful way of healing. Research shows that hugging (and also laughter) is extremely effective at healing sickness, disease, loneliness, depression, anxiety and stress, and it is said that a proper deep hug, where the hearts are pressing together, can benefit you in the following ways:
1. The nurturing touch of a hug builds trust and a sense of safety. This helps with open and honest communication.
2. Hugs can instantly boost oxytocin levels, which heal feelings of loneliness, isolation, and anger.
3. Holding a hug for an extended time lifts one’s serotonin levels, elevating mood and creating happiness.
4. Hugs strengthen the immune system. The gentle pressure on the sternum and the emotional charge this creates activates the Solar Plexus Chakra. This stimulates the thymus gland, which regulates and balances the body’s production of white blood cells, which keep you healthy and disease free.
5. Hugging boosts self-esteem. From the time we’re born our family’s touch shows us that we’re loved and special. The associations of self-worth and tactile sensations from our early years are still imbedded in our nervous system as adults. The cuddles we received from our Mom and Dad while growing up remain imprinted at a cellular level, and hugs remind us at a somatic level of that. Hugs, therefore, connect us to our ability to self love.
6. Hugging relaxes muscles. Hugs release tension in the body. Hugs can take away pain; they soothe aches by increasing circulation into the soft tissues.
7. Hugs balance out the nervous system. The galvanic skin response of someone receiving and giving a hug shows a change in skin conductance. The effect in moisture and electricity in the skin suggests a more balanced state in the nervous system – parasympathetic.
8. Hugs teach us how to give and receive. There is equal value in receiving and being receptive to warmth, as to giving and sharing. Hugs educate us how love flows both ways.
9. Hugs are so much like meditation and laughter. They teach us to let go and be present in the moment. They encourage us to flow with the energy of life. Hugs get you out of your circular thinking patterns and connect you with your heart and your feelings and your breath.
10. The energy exchange between the people hugging is an investment in the relationship. It encourages empathy and understanding. And, it’s synergistic, which means the whole is more than the sum of its parts: 1+1 = 3 or more! This synergy is more likely to result in win-win outcomes.
There is a saying by Virginia Satir, a respected family therapist, “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.” Eight or more might seem quite high, but while researching and writing this article I asked my child, “How many hugs a day do you like?” She said, “I’m not going to tell you how many I like, but it’s way more than eight.” That really made me smile and touched my heart. And, I realized how organic and deep the need for hugs is.
As a loving father, I get plenty of hugs from my little princess and her Mamma. And as a yoga therapist, I often give and receive them from my students at the end of a session. I find that love, is a miracle drug.
Published August 10, 2012 at 11:52 AM
About Marcus Julian Felicetti
Marcus became a yoga teacher soon after discovering yoga at University. His classes are fun, passionate and often intense. They offer students the chance to go deep within and connect with their breath and release their emotions. Marcus communicates his love of yoga through guiding each student with insight and compassion, weaving ancient wisdom with simplicity and an emphasis on the student’s experience. His primary objective is to teach a system of yoga that fully integrates the body, mind and spirit, and channels that energy to its highest potential and purpose. Marcus continues to grow his own yoga practice everyday while remaining passionate about helping others connect to theirs. He teaches private one-on-one yoga in Sydney. His business Bodhi Yoga provides quality corporate yoga classes to companies in Sydney. Website: bodhiyoga.net.au