“Well I guess it would be nice if I could touch your body” ~ George Michael
Or, as defined by my dictionary
Touch (n): the act or state of touching; state or fact of being touched
Recently my mum was in hospital. She’s in her late 70s, has severe MS, and was suffering due to other illness. And there’s only so much you can do in that position, as a visitor, as a daughter, as there are only so many crossword clues or conversations you can have about the outcome of the General Election.
But on being tasked with removing her nail polish, I decided to focus on the physical. I cleansed and moisturised her face as best I knew how, using massage techniques gleaned from Caroline Hirons YouTube videos, I brushed and detangled her hair, and I spent time rubbing in hand cream, each finger, each fingernail, along her forearms. Anything that could help form a different connection, anything that might detract from the grim awfulness of being ill and debilitated in a hospital ward.
Because touch is such a very special thing. The physical closeness of one body next to another. I live on my own and I cherish the hugs I get from my friends, as the warmth of another person in your presence is so hard to go without.
And so, with all these thoughts of caring for my mother, of physical closeness, of human compassion, swirling in my head, I went to my first yoga class in about 15 years.
It was a tiny class, just the 4 of us including the instructor. It felt a safe space, a warm and caring space. And as I tried to work through my Downward Dogs and my Warrior poses there was a moment when the instructor, in her soft and direct voice, asked if she could touch me. I have been touched plenty of times in my life where my consent was not considered relevant and this gentle respectful approach moved me. And of course I said yes, I was in her yoga class after all.
What followed was the softest yet insistent touch that moved my body into a much better position, aligning my head, my spine, my hips, my feet. Unlike a privileged man passing me on the pavement, this touch demanded nothing of my body. Rather, it was supporting me, supporting my body, helping me move and be the best me I could be. I don’t think I have been touched liked that since perhaps when I was learning to walk or learning to swim.
Plato said that at the touch of a love everyone becomes a poet. I think at the touch of a yoga teacher I have realised I am more loved, more supported, than ever I knew.
Such a simple thing, to touch another person, yet I doubt many of us ever realise the impact we have on one another.
If you want to talk I’m curious about what touch moves you? Contactable, as always, on a comment box-shaped postcard.