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So both knew it would be an adjustment when COVID triggered social distancing, lockdowns, and quarantines. But neither of them realized just how hard it would be to go months without hugging.

About me

This copy is for your personal non-commercial use only. One woman has her hands tangled in my hair, gently caressing my scalp, while three men massage my body — one, kneading my feet, the other squeezing my right thigh and the third, rubbing my stomach.

I paid for cuddles and i’m not ashamed of it

Despite only meeting them an hour ago, it feels surprisingly normal. I was hesitant to attend my first cuddle party — a growing lifestyle trend — but as my body is being touched, platonically and tenderly, it becomes very clear why more people are paying to fulfil their craving for physical affection. It feels nice. No, more than nice.

It feels like I belong. Ami Rokach, author of the book Longing, Intimacy and Loneliness.

From an early age, touch is crucial for our well-being — just look at the volunteer baby cuddling program in place at hospitals across Toronto and the country, instituted because studies show skin-to-skin contact helps premature babies with growth, immunity and more.

When my long-term boyfriend and I broke up a few months ago, and I moved out on my own in a new city away from my parents, the itch for intimacy grew deeper.

Human contact is important

I was trying to solve the burning question: How do I, as a single woman looking for intimacy without any sexual strings attached, safely fulfil my desire to be close to someone? When she started her business inshe faced suspicion that her cuddle groups and one-on-one sessions were a front for sex work. So, what exactly happens at a cuddle party? Well, I showed up 30 minutes early to the party, which I found through a private Cuddle Toronto group on meetup. It was acknowledged that sexual feelings may arise because touch is sensual, but they must not be acted upon.

Once the other attendees showed up, we did a workshop on consent. Another thing I noticed was the gender imbalance — there were five of us in total, three men and two women.

How you cuddle your lover can say a lot about your relationship

Women tend to be more hesitant attending coed cuddle parties in fear of it being unsafe, according to Reid, which is an ongoing issue in the cuddle community, especially with the rise of the MeToo movement and consent culture. But, the reality is, skin hunger affects us all.

The first step in addressing this aspect of loneliness? Acknowledging the need for touch, then going about satisfying it in a safe, non-sexual and consensual way.

Like a touch yoga class, perhaps? Ashley Brodeur founded Feelosophywhich offers restorative yoga classes with plenty of hands-on adjustments and massage when she noticed how much her students craved touch during their practice. Now, she offers Feelosophy pop-ups in Toronto, Vancouver and Kelowna, as well as a yoga retreat in Portugal next summer. If a touch yoga class or cuddle party is a little too out of your comfort zone, Brodeur recommends starting with self-touch. Be more mindful when you put on your lotion or wash your body in the shower — that way you can figure out what type of touch feels best for you.

Throughout the one-hour practice, Brodeur and her assistant helped us stretch deeper into our poses with their gentle, but powerful hands and rubbed our scalp and shoulders while we rested in Savasana pose. It felt incredibly relaxing and healing.

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Hugging during a pandemic

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How to cope when covid steals loving touch, hugs

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