Today’s Hottest Trend Is Human Touch

I don’t remember her name.

It definitely started with a B. I work with someone named Brinley now, and it wasn’t that, but it sounded similarly unique and pretty.

I’ll never forget when she said to me, “People need to be touched more.” I balked, amazed she had the guts to say it aloud.

We were standing in the front lounge of the San Diego yoga studio where she taught and I was in teacher training. I lived at the studio that summer, sweating almost daily in the heated classes, taking a shower afterwards, and leaving in the same grey cotton sundress and flip-flops, my wet hair hanging down my back.

In training, we learned adjustments, where the teacher puts her hands on your shoulders to remind you to relax, or turns your hips to be square to the front of the room. Simple adjustments make sure students are doing the post correctly so they don’t get injured. Some adjustments are more intense. In Supine Twist, when you’re laying on your back with one knee pulled across you and your face looking the opposite way with your arm stretched out long to the side — a teacher will come and press your shoulder down to the floor while pushing your hip deeper into the twist. This feels amazing. For these adjustments, we learned to use our palm and never cup our hand, and always maintain a positive intention. Energy flows between bodies.

People do need to be touched more, I agreed. The teacher, we’ll call her B, was right. I grew up with friends who weren’t frequent huggers, and rarely dated. When I got a haircut, I was embarrassed at how delighted I was to get a head massage.

I took adjustments with me to Chicago, where I taught morning classes at a third-floor yoga studio near my apartment just north of the city. The studio had recently changed owners and sometimes I would only have one student — a woman who looked about 30, wore on-trend yoga clothes, and wasn’t in a hurry to go to a job after the class was done. Because it was just her and me, I always did multiple adjustments, finishing the class by pressing my thumbs into her biceps, then lifting her head and setting it back down, something I picked up from the teachers at the studio I did training.

When I didn’t teach at a studio anymore, I no longer got access to free yoga. Because I knew how to teach, I couldn’t justify paying. So I shifted to doing short yoga routines in my apartment and going on long runs. Six years later, I was living in San Francisco, and for the first time in my life, had a net positive savings account. When I built out my monthly budget, I was making more than I was spending.

Before I did anything rash, I relished this new reality: money to spend. After considering the options, yoga classes were high on the list. Maybe, I considered, I can find a class with a teacher who gives adjustments every class, like I did for that woman in Chicago. At $15, a yoga class is cheaper than a haircut or a massage. Maybe it’s a small class, or a teacher like B, who believes in touch.

I’m not the only one who wants to be touched more. In Touch, a novel by Courtney Maum, main character Sloane is a trend forecaster who, after years of shaping the advent of new technology products and the automation and efficiency they provide, decides things are swinging back the other way. It’s an epiphany Sloane comes to on the New York subway:

“Sloane’s head was suddenly filled with images and colors. Something frozen inside her head had cleaved. People were going to pay to get close to other people … a movement in which people paid a premium for more contact, not less.”

Technology’s replaced my need to ask for directions, to talk to a bank teller, to interact with a grocery store clerk. But to Sloane’s point, we will compensate for the decline in human contact by adopting products and services that require it.

When a friend who works at a fitness startup recommended Ritual Hot Yoga, I tucked it away. I was still finishing up the ten classes I had bought at a studio in Castro, at the bottom of the hill near my house. When I met a girl at a party who taught there, I looked up the studio’s website.

“Ritual Hot Yoga classes are 50 minutes of fast-paced, sweaty flow followed by a cool eucalyptus towel and mini-massage.”

Mini-massage? This is my studio.

Sloane was right. Classes at Ritual, which just opened its second studio, include studio amenities like water bottles, mats, towels, showers, and essential oils, but we all know I’m really paying for human touch.

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