When your spirits are low and you reach out to your mother, friend, or lover for a hug, it has the effect of comforting them in return. This may simply be that they are happy that they are able to help you and make you feel better, or it may fulfill within them the basic desire to connect. Physical contact strengthens the bonds between giver and receiver.
Scientific research has barely scratched the surface of the physical, emotional, and mental benefits to be gained through therapeutic touch, a portion of which are outlined below.
Specialized forms of touch can bring physical comfort and relief during pregnancy, and in post-natal care, massage treatments can help the new mother get back into shape. Baby massage provides a significant boost to the infant’s wellbeing and continual massage throughout childhood into adulthood eases the body’s transition through these phases. More and more, the benefits of therapeutic touch are accepted by the medical community, and physiotherapists are employed for their services in post-operative care, physical trauma, sports injuries, behavioral difficulties, and much more. For example, therapeutic touch can be used to treat injuries such as muscle strains and sprains, reducing pain and inflammation and the formation of scar tissue.
The physiological effects of touch have been widely observed by therapists for centuries and modern research now supports their observations. However, the physical level of therapeutic touch is only one of three layers penetrated during a massage treatment, the other two being the emotional and spiritual level of the individual. Massage is a great tool in stress management as it relieves anxiety and promotes calm.
This principle is taken a step further in countries such as China and Japan, where acupressure and Shiatsu respectively use massage in combination with pressure points to restore the body’s vital energy or Chi. The hands are the instruments of healing in many world spiritualities – in Reiki, for example, the practitioner channels healing energies through the hands – and even as tools of divination – palmists claim that by tracing the lines of the hand they can divine personalities and destinies, and clairvoyants believe they will achieve psychic insights through touching another being.
Western therapists are less likely to take an approach to touch with the intent to impart healing through the Chakras or meridians, but there are other ways in which they may enhance the power of their hands. One such method is by combining touch with aromatherapy.
Touch And Aromatherapy
To fully understand the role of touch in aromatherapy you must first understand the role of aromatherapy as a comprehensive healing system. The potent essences extracted from the plant kingdom have the power to treat a wide range of emotional conditions: apathy, grief, loneliness, depression, low self-esteem, stress management, panic attacks and insecurity, heartbreak, irritability, insomnia, low energy – the list is endless. Essential oils can also treat physiological complaints – balancing problematic skin or decongesting blocked sinuses, to name but a few. And the most popular method of use for imparting these healing oils to the body is through the medium of touch – massage.
Massage warms the body tissues and makes them more receptive to receiving and absorbing the essential oils. It also brings benefits of its own to the treatment: it tones the skin, boosts sluggish circulation, stimulates and energizes, or soothes and calms. With the addition of essential oils, chosen for either their physiological or psychological effects, the healing power of touch is made more powerful.
Touch in aromatherapy may be as simple as stroking the hand of a frail, elderly person, to reassure them that you are there and they are not alone. It does not even have to be skin-to-skin contact, you can brush someone’s hair lightly with essential oils, letting them luxuriate in the scent and feel pampered, loved and beautiful again.
The role of touch in aromatherapy is to give to those wonderful plant essences the quality of human touch and all the additional benefits that are associated with it from your earliest memory. The power of scent may be used in aromatherapy to evoke past experiences, to relive happy times and bring that emotion to the present. Do you remember when your mother would use her healing hands to rub away your pain: what did she smell like, what was the scent of that day? This is the true power of aromatherapy, to heal the body, mind and spirit, through the unconditional love that is connected and bound to touch.