By Teresa Dornellas

We yogis are big huggers. Well, I know I am. There is nothing more comforting than a full body, warm, tight hug. It implies so much: care, comfort, closeness, support, belonging – to name a few.

Hugging is one of the many things I never thought I’d one day miss so much. Because in my life, it’s always been plentiful. Being part of the yoga community and owner of a yoga studio, I got my healthy dose of hugs on a regular basis.

Then, our lives were suspended by the pandemic. Social distancing is the new norm. There’s a lot that can be done via telecommunication, and many of us are taking full advantage of technology to stay connected and keep providing our services. But none of it can replace a hug.

As it turns out, hugging has health benefits too. One study shows that it can reduce stress on both the hugger and the one being hugged. It can also boost your immune system and heart health.

Hugs can make you happier! Oxytocin is a chemical in our bodies, also known as the “cuddle hormone”. When hugged, touched or sitting close to someone else, oxytocin levels rise. Oxytocin is associated with happiness and less stress. It’s interesting to note that “oxytocin release is stimulated by birth and lactation in mothers. It’s also found to be higher in mothers who provide more affectionate parenting. In fathers, oxytocin was increased with more stimulating contact”. You can read more about this study here.

Hugs also help us to communicate with others. Most of our communication happens verbally, but touch is another way to communicate love, gratitude and sympathy.

So, if you are quarantined with others, make a point of hugging them today. Several times a day. Hugs are free and healing.

As for me, I will be hugging my cats as much as they allow me to. And I will be sneaking in some kisses too! If you are considering adopting a pet, this is the perfect time to do so! There are so many organizations working right now under social distancing standards, but ready to pair you with your perfect companion. Visit ASPCA website for details.

And, when this quarantine is over, watch out! I will become a hug machine. But for now, I send you all a virtual hug with all the love I can muster. Be well, stay healthy.

Till we meet again in person.

Theresa Conlon

Theresa is a Yoga Alliance certified instructor (200-hour RYT) who has been teaching since 2013. She is skilled in various yoga styles including Hatha, Ashtanga, Vinyasa Flow, Restorative, and Meditation. Theresa also brings an extensive dance background to her yoga practice, which includes teaching both modern dance and ballet. She has over 40 years of dance/theater performing experience and currently showcases her choreography as part of Bergen Dance Makers, a dance collective in northern New Jersey. Theresa’s yoga classes offer a calming mix of traditional asana postures and creative movement flows, supported by energy-moving breath. Students of all skill levels are invited to find ease and peace in their bodies/minds/spirits through the joyful bliss of yoga movement.

Carrie Parker Gastelu

Carrie Parker Gastelu, E-500 RYT, has been teaching yoga since 1993. Carrie began her journey when Yogi Raj Mani Finger initiated Carrie into the ISHTA Yoga lineage after training with Mani’s son, Yogi Raj Alan Finger. In addition, she has studied many other yoga traditions as well as anatomy, physiology, movement, and awareness practices to create an eclectic style all her own. She is known for her honest, non-dogmatic yet passionate approach.

Carrie is a regular speaker and contributor at conferences, websites, and print publications and has been featured in Fit Magazine, the Yoga Zone Book, and in the Yoga Zone Video, “Flexibility and Stress Release.”

Lisa Podesta-Coombs

When Lisa found yoga in 2008, she started to find herself again and it set her on a path of health and healing. She received her 200HR RYT certification from Raji Thron of Yoga Synthesis, and her 30HR Chakra Yoga Teacher Training certificate with Anodea Judith and holds a Y12SR (Yoga of 12 Step Recovery) certification. She is also a Holistic Health Coach (certified through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition). Lisa believes we’re all on a journey of learning how to trust ourselves; she helps her clients build that trust by supporting them in creating better habits for a better life through various functional movement modalities like yoga, barre, Pilates & strength training, mindset, and whole food nutrition.

Forever a student with a passion for people, holistic health, and self-actualization, Lisa is always embracing opportunities to advance her education to better serve; Ayurveda workshops & immersions have been of particular interest as she continues to deepen her knowledge of and experience with food as medicine and she recently completed Unleash Her Power Within, a transformational program of rediscovering our truest selves, powered by Tony Robbins.  

As she continues to give herself space and grace to nourish her natural self and actualize her potential, Lisa continues to share the gift of movement as medicine to inspire authenticity & health in body, mind, and spirit. You can expect mindful, accessible, dynamic, playful, and uplifting classes from Lisa.

Tanisha Sutton

Tanisha’s yoga journey began when she was an undergraduate student studying at university. Changes in her health coupled with anxiety over grades, relationships, and life in general, forced her to search for healthy lifestyle choices she could implement to help manage the stress that she was experiencing as a new adult. A friend of hers suggested that she attend some community yoga classes to help with the anxiety and increase her daily physical activity. Initially, she was reluctant and filled with all these false ideas about yoga and the people who practiced yoga. Like many others, she was concerned that her body type and lack of flexibility automatically excluded her from being a student. Curiously yet hesitantly, she journeyed on to her first class and began laying the foundation for a home and public practice that has supported her over the years.

On this journey, she has discovered that yoga has nothing to do with appearances nor is there anything, but an open mind needed to begin. She intends to provide you with a gentle yoga session that is safe, inclusive, and accessible. Her classes are an expression of self-love and are a deliberate choice to tend to ALL the parts of our being that are neglected, ignored, or disregarded during the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Through meditation, deep breathing, and gentle movement we will collectively share space to observe, rest and re-set. Tanisha is honored to share her practice with you and looks forward to seeing you on the mat!