Touch and intimacy are basic human needs
We have become a culture of isolation and desensitization.
We work, we self-medicate, we hook up and watch life happen through the filter of social media. Intimacy has become a romanticized notion from an era gone by. This detachment is destroying the fabric of our lives and our communities.
From a 2017 article in The New York Times, The Power of Touch, Especially for Men: "It should be great news that something free, widely available, and lacking in harmful side effects is so good for us, but it gets ignored in a touch-averse culture like ours. Yes, Americans are generally gregarious but, unlike, say, Italians, Greeks, the French, or Latinos, that friendly intimacy is largely limited to our mouths." According to Jay Skidmore, former chairman of the psychology department of Seattle Pacific University, “Social-cultural trends in America have focused for decades on reducing touch.”
Humans, humanity -need more touch, we need more intimacy, more connection, more community.
Create for yourself a comfortable seat, close your eyes, and think about the warmth of a hug, the sensation of being held and felt. Breathe with yourself and connect to the feeling inside, the sensations internally. How your heart responds, the tempo, how your blood feels, how it flows through you. Connect to the energy you feel, see it, perhaps in color or maybe just as a vibration. What form does it take for you?
Touch has a dark side. Every. Single. Humans need touch but not every human feels safe in accepting it. Trauma can lead to a disconnect from intimacy and leads to shutting down the positive feelings it provides. In fact, for some, touch feels scary, dangerous, and uncomfortable. As humans, it is vital for us to accept that not everyone can meet us where we are. Creating a safe space is essential to our connection, physical or not.
In yoga, we are at a tipping point with touch. The old-school view on adjustments has teachers manipulating and “fixing” postures, moving bodies in ways that may be unwittingly destructive and traumatic. We all, sadly, have these stories. Another view has teachers touching “every single person, every single time” This style of assist is disconnected, arrogant and purposeless.
There IS a middle road, a place where we use verbal and non-verbal consent to facilitate intimacy, trust, and perhaps touch in a way that is instructive, kind, and peaceful. May we continue to skillfully address, assess and adapt these styles of touch.
Humans need touch and intimacy to thrive but just like anything else in this world, we each have an internal experience that can never be fully shared. This mystery, this personal dialogue is the intimacy with self and it may be the most powerful type of them all. Yoga provides us with a skill set that allows us to become extremely knowledgeable about our personal needs so that we may be better communicators with the world around us.
As our world wades through historical trials, striking at the heart of our collective, our ability to be intimate communicators is more important than ever. In this time when touch is somewhat taboo and we're all learning how to express compassion and connection in new forms, with new rules -it is paramount that we cultivate the skills of intimacy, which help us as individuals, internally. Get closer to yourself. At this moment in the world, the cultivation of connection to self, that intimacy, is more important than ever.