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.