The Importance of Touch
by Dr. Erika Helene - Naturopath and Ayurvedic Practitioner
Parenting styles and codes of behavior, as well as the digital world have led to a society in social isolation lacking in touch and sensory experiences. New political trends augment this feeling of insecurity in troubled times. Various studies confirm that people need the sense of touch for their physical and mental health, stability and self-confidence.
The holistic use of touch leads to a life in balance and stability, thereby supporting long-term health and satisfaction.
Ayurveda is essentially a holistic system of health care, covering all aspects of life, the environment, body and mind, emotions as well as our awareness. Thus, Ayurveda exceeds the purely physical touch. Touch is used in a targeted manner in Ayurvedic health care, in diagnostics and therapy, in the partner discipline yoga, in the conscious use of the senses in nutrition and mindful awareness of the whole environment.
An insecure society lacking in touch
A lack of physical affection on behalf of elderly and single people leads to feelings of loneliness, estrangement, helplessness as well as physical and mental problems. Self-mindfulness is missing. The digital world has taken over priority status before human encounters.
Body and mind need to function, but both are, due to a lack of time and stress at work, sorely neglected. In the worst case, repressed emotions and problems in the past can be the reason for avoiding physical contact. Times of insecurity and unknown political developments are the main current cause of additional anxieties.
Studies prove: touch is vital for survival
During the last 10 years many studies have confirmed, that the human being needs physical contact for its physical and mental health. It was proved, amongst other things that touch:
- promotes discipline, satisfaction, a positive train of thought and courage,
- reduces anxiety and has a calming effect,
- lowers the cortisol level and reduces stress,
- alleviates depression,
- alleviates chronic arthritic pain,
- strengthens the immune system,
- lowers blood pressure, and
- has a supportive and alleviative effect in cases of cancer.
The prerequisite for the positive effect of touch is mutual agreement allowing physical contact.
The concept of holistic touch in Ayurveda
For more than 5000 years Ayurveda has been pursuing and practising the concept of holistic touch:
- Touch in Ayurveda has an extremely profound effect on the body, mind and emotions, through silence and the healing mechanisms found in nature, through words spoken between the Ayurveda practitioner and person and through hands during diagnostics and Ayurvedic massage.
- Touch in Ayurveda is holistic, since it has an effect on all aspects of life: the environment, body, mind, emotions and awareness. It generates feelings of wellbeing, relaxation, emotional harmonization, security, comfort, belonging and stability. Through contact with the skin, the largest sensory organ, Ayurveda therapy strengthens the immune system and the psyche, removes mental and physical ballast, restores balance, aids regeneration, cure and rejuvenation.
- Not only an individual approach with various forms of touch (massages) and materials such as oils, decoctions, silk gloves, gauze sachets (boli), powdered herbs, but also the quality of the touch is necessary to balance the various disorders during the therapy and to reactivate the healing mechanisms in body and mind. The mind-set of the performing therapist and their energetic quality play a significant role in the positive effect of every touch.
- Touch as part of everyday culture. In Ayurveda, touch also plays a significant role in our daily routine to preserve good health, in the form of self-application (self-massage), or of family members. Even before conception, during pregnancy and in baby massage, touch belongs to Ayurveda for genesis and health maintenance.
- Touch in nutrition. When eating, all senses are addressed, the sense of taste, smell, touch and hearing. Nutrition touches the person as a whole. Particularly the flavor of a substance (Rasa) has a direct effect on the Doshas.
- Touch in Yoga, the sister discipline of Ayurveda. In Yoga, touch is used in a targeted manner to transmit information from the instructor to the student by means of physical contact. This deepens the Yoga student’s experience, improves their alignment and leads to deeper relaxation, increased stability and greater stretching in the individual exercises.
- Mindful awareness. Not only in nature, but in any environment it is essential to steer one’s attention to sensory perception, to engage oneself in an experience, to consciously listen, sense, and feel, but also to let go, relax, recognize and be a part of the whole.
At the Ayurveda Parkschloesschen, a five star health resort in Germany, touch is holistically incorporated into all aspects of the guest's experience; providing guests with inner and outer strength, health and profound happiness.
Today, one of my patients told me that a few weeks ago she was so disappointed in herself and feeling completely down. The reason for it was that she had two weeks off, alone without her daughter, and she was actually looking forward to it! Not having to follow the usual schedule each day, not having to rush, enjoying lots of time for herself. (...)
We begin our lives as a fragile being that needs all the attention and care necessary to survive, learn and grow. Under this protective umbrella we begin as explorers experiencing the myriad sights, sounds, tastes, textures and smells. (...)
“Honey, you know we’ve got an invitation from my parents this weekend for dinner. My brother’s also coming.” – “Oh no, does he have to? I can’t stand him, he’s so dominant, he always scolds me, you know that.” – “Please, not this again… I can’t hear it anymore.”… (...)