During the last few decades much has been researched and written about the importance of touch. Particularly in the Western world the taboo of touch became entangled. Much has changed for the better through the opening of science from a pure material point of view to an empirical research and phenomenology.
The holistic anthropology in itself and in its relation to the surroundings is in its revival in the Western societies. Having achieved outstanding results and progress in surgery and epidemiology, medicine today is opening towards the supplementary methods of alternative medicine and naturopathy. Admittedly, those are not scientifically provable but they speak for themselves in their effects. In the medical system of Ayurveda the role of those two different perspectives and approaches is clearly defined from the outset. Rational, psychological and spiritual therapy is in combination with the holistic approach of Ayurveda. They have a mutual effect in the recovery process of the patients. The basis is the rational therapy that treats the disorders on the physical plane. Psychological and spiritual therapy is based upon and cares for the mental and spiritual development. Ayurveda helps humans to get access to their souls, trains self-perception and strengthens self-responsibility in relation to their own person and to the environment.
“Touch connects us to the world we live in.”
The touch of the senses leaves impressions. There are many different ways of touching and being touched. What kind of touch strengthens, and what weakens?
The skin is the borderline between inside and outside. Any form of touch is mediated by the contact with the skin, be it the skin of the body, the eardrum, the retina or the mucous membranes. Through the fine nervous system of the respective part of the skin – skin is the largest organ and also the sensitive organ responsible for feeling and perception – the touch pulse is transported to the brain, where it is processed. Here, the decision is made by the brain as to what kind of quality of touch is perceived, and which message is transported.
The vibration of the tone touches the ear. The wind brushes over the skin – we feel. Light touches the retina of the eyes – we perceive the world. The tongue with its fine taste buds brings us the joy of tasting and with the nose we discover the world of fragrance. It seems that without touching, perception of the senses is not possible. Touch connects us with the world we live in. It creates the room for relations and communication. Its presence is indispensible for a healthy development of the physical matter.
Touch connects humans both with the environment and with the inner world, it touches the senses and brings into contact with feeling and thinking. It signifies both life and development. Without touch the soul withers. The mental and physical development can be significantly hindered.
When we feel pain we lay on our hands in order to alleviate. When a child weeps we put our arms around in order to calm it. The need to give and receive secureness and alleviation of pain through physical closeness or through touch with the hands is older than the human history. It is a basic need of the most living species and vegetation. Sunlight touches the plant, activates the metabolism and photosynthesis. Rain provides nourishment to the plant, air cares for oxygen and wind and insects ensure fertilization and reproduction.
“The skin is a highly specialized intelligent barrier.”
To take touch responsibly
It is worth to have a conscious look at the term “touch”. How do I touch with my hands? How do I touch with my thoughts, my words and the way I look? What do I want to share through touch? What do I perceive through touch? What do I feel? What does my touch trigger in my counterparts? How do I want to be touched? This means that I take responsibility for myself and for my relation to “me” and to my environment.
Most people associate Ayurveda with wonderful massages, harmonizing body, mind and soul. Massages count among the main treatment methods of Ayurveda in prevention and in Ayurvedic medicine. Through the massage the skin is not only nourished, protected and stabilized, massage also harmonizes the vegetative nervous system, reduces stress and supports in healing of psychosomatic diseases. Imbalances of the bioenergy Vata (element ether and air) mainly manifest in the field of the nervous system and in the musculoskeletal system. In this part, Ayurvedic massages with forceful herbal oils reaching the organism over the skin can support the recovery process on a holistic plane and they satisfy the basic human need for touch.
Indeed, the skin is not only the largest organ and sense organ, but it is also a highly specialized intelligent barrier against the outside world, because it offers protection from coldness, heat and radiation, pressure, shock and friction, avoids entering of microorganisms and harmful substances, loss of water and warmth. Likewise, the skin is the mirror for emotions and the soul.
Who does not know idioms such as:
- To get under the skin
- Changing skin
- Something makes my skin crawl
- Not wanting to be in someone else’s bodies skin
- To risk one’s own skin
- To flay somebody alive
- To save one’s own skin
- The leopard can’t change its spots
- To feel comfortable in one’s own skin
- To have a thick skin
- To jump out of one’s own skin
- To fit like a second skin
The skin restricts and protects – these are two important aspects of our lives closely correlated to touch. Demarcation is not only a physical protection for the body or the physical dissociation from other persons, it also preserves us from feeling too much or too intensely.
Massages surmount barriers
Ayurvedic massage helps to lovingly loosen and surmount the barriers of touch, which have been built-up as a result of fear and injuries. The warm oil enveloping the body, the evenly stroking movements, and the loving devotion of the therapist nourish the need for touch on a physical, psychological/emotional and spiritual plane. Space is given for confidence, release and devotion. The physical forces and the immune system, as well as metabolism are strengthened, Agni, the digestive fire, is kindled. The impulse for an intensive cleaning on the physical, mental and spiritual plane loosens blockages in these fields. The tissues rejuvenate and musculoskeletal complaints are harmonized or eliminated. Muscles, tendons and ligaments are nurtured and their elasticity supported, waste products are removed. The endocrine system is stimulated and eyesight improved. Mental blockages are harmonized and can be dissolved. After regular application the entire body radiates wellbeing, strength, stamina and youthfulness.
The touch of massage trains self-perception and awareness. It strengthens the person’s self-responsibility and the self-healing forces. The manner in which nourishment influences the senses, the body and the mental and spiritual feeling plays an essential role in the Ayurvedic doctrine. How do perception, feelings and mental state react upon touch with various fragrances, taste and deliciously prepared meals? The individual constitution of the person influences in what scales the particular scents, tastes and the way of preparing are realized that is perceived within in a range from pleasant to unpleasant.
Ayurveda in combination with yoga offers effective methods to train one’s own perception, insight and self-responsibility on the journey to oneself. Maybe this is the first step to think about and expand the term “touch” in its significance in order to realize the sensory perception in its whole variety:
What happens to me under the various forms of being touched? How do I see the world, how does it appear to me? How does the world look like after a change in my perspectives? How do I get into contact with my environment? What is my attitude, which words do I select? Which effect do they have?
Consciously perceiving touch trains the awareness in the interaction with one’s own person and with the environment. Touch can heal our souls, the spirit and the body – this is an exciting project on the path of self-healing.
“My hand is God. My hand is unlimitedly blissful. This hand conserves all healing secrets That heal with its gentle touch.“ From Rigveda
…..to be continued