Self-touch to boost immune function
I participate in a world wide therapists' forum that has been very important to me in these times of pandemic. Recently I shared there my concerns with the effects of lack of touch- imposed by social distancing- on our immune function and I offered a little write up of a self touch Eutony practice, to try to mitigate that somehow... This is also a good soothing technique to help regulate pain and the nervous system.
The audio link is at the bottom of this post.
Here is my original post:
With this pandemic we have been restricted from so many things and have been necessarily focusing on listing things we want to AVOID to improve/protect our communities' situation. One of these things is avoiding touching -each other, and even ourselves. All very necessary!
In the spirits of also highlighting the things we CAN DO in our favour, to aid with our current situation, I wanted to first invite you to reflect on the impacts of this lack of touch in our immune systems and then offer a technique on self touch, as a modest contribution to this community. Ashley Montagu in the 70's already showed that touch is a sine qua non condition for the immune system to develop, since birth.
More recently, this interesting article https://www.newyorker.com/science/maria-konnikova/power-touch shows another poignant example on the power of touch. It starts by describing the difficult situation of children in institutional homes in Romania, and then says this about adults :
"In one set of studies -http://pss.sagepub.com/content/26/2/135, out this month [March 2015], touch was shown to boost the immune systems of people who had been exposed to the common cold. For two weeks, researchers monitored a little more than four hundred adults, asking them not just about their social interactions but about how many hugs they’d gotten over the course of each day. Then the subjects were quarantined in rooms on an isolated hotel floor, where the researchers proceeded to expose them to a cold virus. The virus was quite effective: seventy-eight per cent of subjects were infected, and just over thirty-one per cent showed signs of illness. But not everyone was equally susceptible. The people who had experienced more supportive social interactions battled infection more effectively and exhibited fewer signs of illness—and, when you tease apart the effects of social support and hugging, touch, in itself, accounted for thirty-two per cent of the reduction effect."
So, in the hopes to help mitigate the effects of social distancing in our access to physical touch, I wanted to offer this simple practice of self-touch that I learned in Eutony somatic practice. It can be practiced everyday, for therapists and clients, maybe even together - on-line together.
(In times of pandemic, make sure you wash your hands before you practice this:)
- find a comfortable position either lying on the floor, or seated on a
chair. If it's ok for you, close your eyes to remove the visual stimulation.
- Notice what you notice, sense what you sense, and welcome it all.
- take a moment to just tune in inwards and observe your internal atmosphere.
Noticing your internal rhythms, your breath, your thoughts. Noticing your
supports, the parts of you that feel supported and the parts that feel
sustained. Maybe there is a point when you notice the weight of your bones,
surrendering to gravity, and being supported by the floor or the chair.
- then notice the sensations you have on your skin. Maybe getting curious
about the sensations on the skin covered by the fabric of your clothing,
compared to the skin exposed to the air.
- and then place your hands on you somewhere, and just let it be there. It
can be your thighs, hip bones, or your face, just let it be there.
- Not moving, not pressing, just landed there. Making contact.
- observe what you observe.
- maybe there is a point when your mind finds itself noticing the temperature
of your hands..., compared to the temperature of your body...
- maybe there is a moment when your mind wonders, and distracts, and that
- maybe there is a moment when you notice the weight of your hands, and its
shape, and how its positioned over the shape of your body.
- as you breathe
- maybe there is a point when you notice the texture of the surface your
hands touch - your skin on your face, or your clothing on your hips or thighs.
- slowly start gliding your finger tips through this area, very gently, as
if you were painting it, with a very light touch and very slow motions,
giving your brain time to process the subtle variations in your experience.
There is no rush...
- take your time to really explore it, maybe a few minutes.. maybe several....
- let your curiosity guide you...
- if you are exploring the face area, you can expand to the scalp, very
- and then take a pause. and let the pause be a pause.
- let your brain savour the waves of after taste in your experience. In your
sensations, -of temperature, weight, volume, tingling- in your breathing,
in the very willingness of your mind to be focused, without judging.
- When you are done, bring your hands to your chest and take a moment to
thank yourself for offering this moment for you:D
Several of my clients are front line care providers of some sort. After that post I did this practice with a client who is a nurse and was expressing fear of going to work. At the end of the practice she voiced a sense of being strong! I then sent her my write up and realized that it is hard to practice it while reading it. So I thought why not recording my voice for her? This is what inspired me to do this session I offered to the therapists community, where I recorded this audio.
Part of the practice will be vertical - sitting or standing - and another part can be done horizontally, if you would like, lying on your back. This can be done anywhere where you feel well supported- on your couch, bed or maybe even on a yoga mat or blanket on the ground. If horizontal is not a good option for you, you can still be seated, but maybe make sure your skull can be supported on something - pillow or wall behind your chair- and the space behind your knees is also supported on something. Take some time in advance to build a little nest for yourself. Sometimes having a small blanket handy, to cover your body in case you get cold during the quieter moments, can be a good idea.
For the vertical part some of you may want to walk around for brief moments (in the beginning and the end) and that may work even in small spaces.
Click on the link below to listen to the audio. As you listen you will notice that there is often silent moments during the recording, and this is just to allow time for your experience.
Hope you enjoy this practice!