Touch… for Your Health

As the weather begins to cool, it becomes easy to retreat into our caves. Hibernation syndrome starts to kick in (particularly amongst those of us who live in pedestrian or bike culture), we crave more sleep as the sun sets earlier and earlier, or we start to feel that change of season cold and stay inside to rest. While listening to our bodies is important, various medical practices believe that going the route of the hermit may not always serve us, especially if we are not feeling well or if we are low energy. In fact, safe touch with another human being in sexual or non-sexual ways can heal various physical and mental ailments.

A recent articleHolding hands on wooden background in Women’s Health magazine, “The Amazing, Beautiful Power of Touch,” discusses new studies about the many ways non-sexual touch can help cure physical and emotional ailments. [1] Massage, for example, has been shown to trigger immune-building cells. In addition, it stimulates the brain to release hormones that relieve stress, reduce pain, create a sense of peace, and sometimes even happiness. [2] Even a soft touch on the arm or back when you’re not feeling well… Perhaps it depends on who is doing the touching but in situations that feel safe, how do you feel when someone you trust makes even that small gesture? If you’re not sure, notice your body’s response the next time someone touches you in a platonic way.

Safe sexual touch can trigger similar responses according to many schools of thought. As my acupuncturist said to me the other day (and as if we need another reason), Marvin Gaye had it right: sex can be healing. This is a core tenant of ancient Indian Tantric philosophy as well as Traditional Chinese Medicine. Tantric beliefs posit that deep healing can result from sexual acts that stem from spiritual connection (as opposed to ego, pleasure-driven motivations). See for example, Dr. Rafe Biggs’ writings about the ways Tantric practices have enabled him to heal parts of his body and sexuality following a severe accident that left him quadriplegic. [3] Even WebMD asserts that doing the deed can cure the sneezes and a recent story published on CNN’s website claims that kissing can HELP migraines and cramps. (There goes the ol’, “I have a headache excuse…”) [4]

Whether we are in the mood to connect with other humans or not, platonically or sexually, if the opportunity arises and you are considering it, or you are craving connection, know that this can be a gift that you give to yourself. Ya know, for your health…

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[1]  Sushma Subramanian, “The Amazing, Beautiful Power of Touch,” Women’s Health magazine, March 7, 2014. See also Norine Dworkin-McDaniel. “Touching Makes Your Happier,” CNN Health.com, January 5, 2011.

[2]  See Ironson, G., Field, T.M., Scafidi, F., Hashimoto, M., Kumar, M., Kumar, A., Price, A., Goncalves, A., Burman, I. , Tetenman, C., Patarca, R. & Fletcher, M.A. (1996). “Massage therapy is associated with enhancement of the immune system’s cytotoxic capacity.” International Journal of Neuroscience, 84, 205-217; Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2008 May; 42(5):414-22. “Pilot study evaluating the effect of massage therapy on stress, anxiety and aggression in a young adult psychiatric inpatient unit.” Garner B1, Phillips LJ, Schmidt HM, Markulev C, O’Connor J, Wood SJ, Berger GE, Burnett P, McGorry PD.

[3] Dr. Rafe Biggs, “Tantra as a Healing Modality.” AwakeningBody.com, August 2008.

[4] Kara Meyer Robinson, “10 Surprising Health Benefits of Sex.” WedMD; Valerie Reiss, “8 Health Benefits of Kissing.” CNN Health, February 7, 2014.

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