A human touch is something so simple, yet has a great potential to heal. Most of us probably can recall a time when we found healing in someone’s touch – it could be something as simple as a a hug from a friend or loved one. There was no magic in the person’s touch, yet somehow it made us feel better. Is there a secret behind this? Just out of curiosity, I did a little bit of reading, and discovered that the effects of a human touch are more than skin deep. A touch on our skin stimulates pressure receptors that in turn would send signals to a nerve bundle deep in our brain (called the vagus nerve – if you’re interested in the biological term). This results in slower heart beat and decreasing blood pressure, which explains why we feel relaxed when someone touches us in a warm, friendly way.
Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to learn more about touch and healing at a Strala workshop given by shiatsu expert Sam Berlind. Since it was my first time learning about shiatsu, I had no idea of what the experience would be like. At the beginning of the workshop, we chose a partner to do a simple experiment with. One of us would lie down on a mat, and the other would sit in such a way that our hips would be next to each other. The idea was that the center of our bodies would be closely aligned. We all took a few moments and a couple of deep breaths to relax, then Sam asked the person sitting to place both hands on the person lying down. Instead of giving specific directions, he suggested that we let our hands lead the way. We stayed in this position for several long breaths, and later we performed similar experiments on other areas of the body. There were no complicated techniques or fancy medical terms to be learned – Sam made the steps sound so easy and simple that anyone could do it.
Throughout the workshop, I noticed that the touching method we were learning was very much similar to the way we practice yoga at Strala. There were no rules; instead we learned to use our intuition as a guide in deciding how we would approach and treat the person in front of us.
Observing with relaxed eyes. Observation is a simple way of diagnosing that can be done by anyone. Observing with relaxed eyes helps us to identify areas in a person’s body that need to be touched or treated. The method is intuitive, but somehow it works. There is no way of measuring the accuracy of this method, except by asking for feedback from the person being treated. I assume that the accuracy of our intuition would increase with practice, and it also depends on how well we know the other person.
Touching to be present to the other person, not to fix them. In other words, touching is a way of establishing a relationship simply by laying our hands on someone. There is something incredibly relaxing and peaceful about being connected to someone in this way, and it works both for the person being touched as well as the person touching. When I observed other pairs experimenting during the workshop, it seemed as if the two people in each pair slowly became indistinguishable from each other. They were breathing together in harmony, and their bodies looked as if they were melting into one form.
Giving as much as we receive. The treatment process is a two-way traffic. The two people involved support each other, and neither one is responsible for the other. Although we were learning how to help others by touching, Sam wasn’t only concerned about the person receiving treatment. At times he was more concerned with the person giving the treatment. He encouraged us to be comfortable while giving the treatment, not only to prevent us from unnecessarily straining ourselves, but also to help us to relax. Just like in yoga, being tense and rigid will not lead us to a good place. The moment we come to be at ease, that is when the treatment starts to work.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? The 2.5-hour workshop flew by, and I walked away from the workshop not only feeling completely relaxed, but was also glad to discover yet another way to help and be present to others.
Monika found her passion for yoga at Strala, a place she considers as yoga home immediately after her first class. When not practicing at Strala, she invests herself in discovering simple and easy ways to live a healthier lifestyle. To combine her interests in writing and healthy living, Monika contributes regularly to the Strala blog, through which she hopes to share her experience and help others in their journey to wellness.