Give yourself a hug – self massage for everyone

Right now, many of us are living alone without friends and family, or partners and spouses, due to the Covid-19 virus restrictions, and I know that some people are starting to feel the lack of touch.

We Shiatsu practitioners are missing our tactile work – it’s our job and we love it. I am always grateful when someone invites me to use my hands-on bodywork to support them. If we are living on our own, we as well as others are untouched at this time, and there’s a limit to how long that can go on before we really miss it. Babies die if they do not receive human contact, and we adults may also feel bereft if we have none. So, what to do?

[Sara] Outen [who cycled, kayaked, and rowed 25,000 miles around the Northern Hemisphere} rarely felt lonely on that journey, but admits the lack of physical contact was sometimes tough. When she needed comfort—particularly when she was strapped onto her bed for three days straight during a raging Pacific storm—Outen found it soothing to place her hands over her heart and to breathe into the physical connection she’d created.

She also found solace in talking to herself: “Having someone to look after during times of fear makes things less scary; when you’re shattered, having someone to help with tasks is comforting,” she says. “Because I was alone, I would become those other people for myself.” From CNTraveler and Women Who Travel

Easy ways to feel nurtured and nourished

Here are some easy ways to bring the warmth of human contact back, some tried and tested methods to help ourselves feel nurtured and nourished. Whether we are living solo, or even if there are others with us who are nervous about getting close or who do not go in for the sort of touch we need, these can fill the gap.

You are in control!

The absolute best thing about self massage is that you are in control of the touch you receive. You can choose to use a light or a strong hand; you can do it quickly, or slowly and meditatively; you can be focused on an outcome, or you can do it in a relaxed and laid back way, making it up as you go along. Everything goes. It’s up to you. At a time when we are being told what we can and cannot do, this may help to get back a sense of agency.

Basic guidelines:

  • Make sure that you enjoy it – if not, stop
  • You can try this for a few minutes or make a longer session for yourself
  • You can do it several times a day or once, or whenever you like
  • Why not try listening to some music at the same time? My favourite at the moment is The Ghost in Your Smile, by Les Tres
  • Make sure you are warm, but that the room is not airless
  • Keep experimenting and never do anything that you don’t like
  1. Scrunching

My students will recognise this rather unprofessional term! It could go by the title of squeezing, or even better, you could make up your own name. Using the whole of one hand, place it on a squashy part of you (arms, legs (usually the insides are squashier than the outsides), tummy, sides of the body) and scrunch up your hand, just a little.

Place the flat of your hand on a squashy part of you
Scrunch up your hand up, grasping the flesh, and hold until you have had enough

You can hold as long as you like, or add more pressure. When you have finished, let go and move to another place.

Move up the arm and repeat. Simple!

If you are feeling thrown off balance by the daily changes, you may find that this is especially useful. I find the insides of the legs (the Yin sides) are particularly satisfying when I am feeling like that.

If you are very lean, be extra gentle. Relax the area (for example, the muscles of your belly may be held tight) and imagine you can grasp a great handful of flesh, however little flesh you actually have.

2. Rubbing

This is pretty self explanatory, but I have often found that I forget the obvious things, so I am including it here anyway. You can do this on top of clothes or use a gentle friction straight onto the skin.

For the face: You can make small up-and-down rubbings with the your forefingers, either side of your nose. Also, slightly rough sweeps along the underneaths of your cheek bones, outwards, if your sinuses are blocked.

We are subject to a lot of new rules and regulations nowadays, and if you find them mentally restrictive, this can cause internal retriction, so this might give you some relief.

Make a bridge over your nose
Rub down and up as carefully or as briskly as you like
Still using the edges of the forefingers, rub outwards under the cheekbones
Up and under and towards the ears to clear the sinuses

You can also do bigger brushes out from centre to extremities anywhere on the body: arms and legs (remember to do all sides of them), sides of the body, front of the torso and hips, and even your back. They can be very gentle, or vigorous and enlivening.

This type of movement can have the effect of clearing out and letting go of any pent-up feelings which need to be released.

For example, rubbing the arms: flat of the hand starts at the shoulder…
Slides down to the elbow…
…and sweeps off at the fingertips, all in one direction

Placing the flats of your hands on your kidneys and rubbing around and around in a cirular motion is warming and invigorating. If you have back ache or are weary with what is going on, this is the one to try.

3. Laying on hands

Rub your hands briskly together for one whole minute until they are tingling, then place them somewhere you need a little extra love. It could be a sore place from working at home on a not-office chair, or somewhere cold like your lower belly. It could be in the heart area of your chest.

Warm hands for a warm heart

Good for the emotions, this may be reassuring it you are overwhelmed or distressed.

4. Give yourself a hug

Wrap your arms around your shoulders, feel the warmth of them, and give yourself a great big bear hug! It is rather hard to convey this in static photos, but if you know what it feels like to have a good hug from someone who loves you, then perhaps cast your mind back and embody it for yourself. It is good for you if youare feeling lonely. And remember to smile at the same time!

Using this with family and friends

Finally, you can use these techniques with other people, but listen carefully to them and yourself. Make sure that you get lots of feedback about what they like and do not, and only do what they want you to do if you feel OK with that too 🙂

Go on – give yourself a bear hug!

Please share any other movements or ideas which you like, ones which feel good and helpful at this time. You can use the comments below.

A Hugging Meditation by Kay Scorah

Koalas Photo by C.Valdez on Unsplash