I remember years ago during my last semester of college, I attended a Restorative Yoga class with one of my all-time most favorite yoga teachers, Billie Jo Joy from Art & Soul Yoga in Cambridge, MA. My college boyfriend and I had broken up after dating for 3.5 years, and I had been really busy finishing up school. During this yoga class, the teacher came over and gently put a blanket over my body to stay warm. Suddenly I was overcome with such a powerful emotion. I remember tearing up, thinking to myself about how human closeness is so important for health and happiness.
So… fast forward through time to when my son was born. He was born prematurely at 32 weeks because I had preeclampsia. He was in good health, but needed to be delivered early because my blood pressure was so high. Throughout the entire time he was in the hospital, I began to learn about the importance of Kangaroo Care or “skin to skin”. The health benefits from Kangaroo Care are EXTAORDINARY for improving an infant’s health, and often skin to skin reduces the amount of time they are in the hospital. (You can read more about the benefits of skin to skin AKA Kangaroo care here).
After my son came home from the hospital, I found a Mama & Me Yoga class that we could go to while still living in Portland, ME. The class was held at Lila East End Yoga Studio and was called Itsy Bitsy Yoga… it was oh-so-amazing. Parents learned massage techniques for their babies, as well as simple yoga postures for newborns, pre-crawlers, crawlers, walkers, etc. We also learned about the importance of crossing the midline. Parents were able to socialize, and there was even reflection time in the classes. I loved everything about this. And I loved learning about infant massage. Every night, I would massage my son, and it soon became our routine. As difficult as it may be for me to stick to “daily routines”… massage has never been a problem. Still to this day, 3 years later, he asks every night for me to rub or scratch his back.
So… a few years ago I attended a workshop through ChildLight Yoga called Children’s Yoga Primer for Preschool Educators. In this 2.5 hour workshop, there was one MAJOR piece that stuck out the most for me- something called Rest and Press. The instructor was explaining to us how this can be useful for children with sensory challenges, and to also help calm the energy of a classroom of energetic preschoolers. We took turns practicing this during the workshop… and not only does it feel amazing, but it only takes a minute or two to do. I also witnessed firsthand how much my nephew responded to Rest and Press after he was feeling upset while visiting us about a year ago. I told my sister about the workshop, and how to do Rest and Press and she told me how whenever she would do this with him at home, he calmed down almost immediately.
Fast forward through time again, to this past week… at the preschool where I work, the children have a 30 minute rest time after lunch. They get to look at books, and listen to soft, soothing music while they take some time to rest. One day, I thought I’d try going around to each child and ask if they wanted me to rub their back. Every single one said yes. And do you know what happened? Two of the children asked me to come rub their backs again… and rest time was very restful. Usually, a few children will get up and ask when rest time will be over, but not one child did that day. I’d like to continue doing this at rest time (as long as the children are okay with it)to see how the children respond, and if they continue to rest more successfully. I mean, if you had a scheduled rest time each day where someone would rub your back, how nice would that be!?
This brings me back to the benefits of touch and massage. In a very generalized way, I’d like to say that human beings thrive with contact from other humans… feeling loved, appreciated, cared for, etc… all of these feelings help with improving both mental and physical health. Here is an article about the benefits of touch.
Have you used massage with your babies or children? How does touch affect you? I’d love to learn about books, techniques, or any other resources you have to share!
Now go hug someone!