News: The health benefits of hugging it out

Would you stand in line to receive a hug? Canadian followers of the Indian guru Amma will spend hours waiting

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Would you stand in line to receive a hug? Canadian followers of the Indian guru Amma will spend hours waiting for an embrace during the humanitarian leader’s stop in Toronto today.

Amma, a spiritual leader who has been recognized by the U.N. for her humanitarian work, is known as ‘The Hugging Saint.’ During her visits, followers receive tokens with numbers (seemingly not unlike the numbers you take at the deli counter) to reserve a spot in line to receive Amma’s darshan or spiritual teachings in the form of a  bear hug.

I heard this story while listening to CBC Radio this morning, and it really caught my attention. I don’t know about you, but I live in a world where hugging strangers is verboten. But it’s a lovely idea that the sorrows of the world could be lifted one hug at a time, as Amma suggests.

While the fact that hugs can solve global problems is up for debate, scientific research does suggest that hugging has health benefits. For example, a 2005 study conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina suggests that frequent hugs are associated with lower blood pressure (and therefore reduced risk of heart disease), especially in women.

Guru Amma does have her critics, but people who have received her embrace describe the experience as intense. She’ll be hugging it out in Toronto from July 19-22.

Who was the last person you hugged?

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