The most important thing I have learned as a massage therapist, which was really just a reinforcement of what I already know, is that Touch is absolutely essential to our Wellbeing. Tiffany Field,Founder of theTouch Research Institue, pioneered research in the field of Touch.
As a person who really enjoys a good hug, I already instinctively knew this. 16 years ago, when our first child was born, he spent a very short period of time in the neonatal intensive care unit. His blood sugar was low, and he was quickly released. What I noticed when we were there, though, was that the parents of premature babies, were physically heartsick at being unable to hold their newborn babes. Imagine if you will, now, the child, who has been embraced by the womb of his mother for nine months, and now is laid upon his back, without the protection of his mother, nor her warmth, nor her smell, nor her rythmic reassuring heart beat. It's a cold world! So both are suffering without the physical and emotional connection that flesh to flesh contact provides.
What I learned through observation was that the nurses, with their hands through the armholes of the incubator, were massaging these day old infants--of course in the most gentle and reassuring way possible. Babies who are massaged, whether premature, or full term, simply stated, thrive better. Massage therapy in and of itself decreases heart rate, increases circulation, slows down respiration,induces a state of relaxation and alert awareness, and speeds the healing and regeneration process. It is a fact that babies in orphanages who are not held and nurtured beyond feeding and bathing and changing, and are typically developmentally delayed. Without the eye contact and physical interaction, they even become averse to touch and cuddling--it becomes foreign-- and fail to physically, emotionally and intellectually thrive like babies who are cared for in the conventional way.
So, flesh of our flesh, bone of our bone, what would make us as adults, any different? Starved of touch, of human interaction, we Fail to thrive. An author whom I am very fond of, Thich Nhat Hahn, suggests in his book, Peace is Every Step, the 3 breath hug. Try it the next time you are in the position to give and recieve a hug. It may seem odd at first, to you both, since most hugs don't last nearly that long. The longer your breath, the more value you will receive, the more "connected" you will become. It's even better if your breaths coordinate with one another, but that's another blog, and another time