Ashley Brodeur doesn’t play the sound of rain during her Feelosophy yoga sessions. During her “All the Feels” restorative class, Billie Eilish’s genre-blurring sounds thud through the room in a way that keeps pace with the beat of your heart. But this isn’t the only thing about Brodeur’s sessions that makes them unique.
Feelosophy offers classes that pair respectful hands-on touch with deep stretch yoga. While the lyrics of the music transports the mind so that it won’t race in silence, the aspect of touch anchors the body in the present. The class begins with us on our backs, and the touch starts with a feeling of warmth. Brodeur rubs the Feelosophy and Evrēdā Skincare “Feels Blend” of grapeseed oil and lavender essential oil between her hands, and lets them hover for just a moment before our faces. Then she gently massages our necks and heads.
Brodeur, who founded The Feelosophy after almost nine years of teaching yoga, incorporates touch into her classes because she wants to help people feel free to move their bodies and to experience touch with no strings attached. This isn’t as simple as it sounds. After a few years of teaching yoga, Brodeur found that her students greatly appreciated the moments when she would offer hands-on adjustments, such as a gentle press on the small of the back during the child’s pose, or a relaxing shoulder rub in pigeon pose. We, Brodeur observed, were starved of touch.
Most people, Brodeur says, deal in the currency of touch. That is, they use touch as a means to an end, as opposed to touch as an end in itself. There are not many places where one can go to receive touch for its own sake, in a way that might replenish. At one point during the class, Brodeur has us lie on our stomachs so that we might feel the push of the ground — so that we might feel the weight of our unique existence. We are here, we exist — this affirmation, seemingly simple, is something Feelosophy hopes to provide.
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Brodeur, who is working toward her masters in counselling psychology, explains her philosophy by talking about sensorimotor psychotherapy. This is a form of therapy that looks at the physical symptoms of trauma and works with the body to process it. Animals, Brodeur says, if they experience trauma, will tend to discharge it. “They’ll run away, they’ll yelp, they’ll howl, they’ll do something physically in their body to complete their trauma experience.” Humans, on the other hand, don’t do this. “If you experience a trauma, we tend to stunt it, and then we ruminate on it [through] our thoughts. So that’s why humans can be easily triggered and retraumatized.”
During the class, Brodeur has us run the tips of our fingers down the length of our body. Self-touch, she says during the session, is something we take for granted. But it is the touch from another that is lacking in our everyday.
“Touch is a basic human need,” she says. What makes us human is the ability to connect through touch, “but we keep developing technology and things to make us more efficient, but it’s actually pulling us away from human connection.” The cause of modern-day loneliness is the dearth of intimate connection, which is why it’s possible to feel loneliest in a crowd — it’s an inability to have one’s consciousness seen and recognized by another consciousness. “They say that New York is one of the loneliest cities because everything is there for you on your phone,” Brodeur says. Every need can be fulfilled through this or that app, and “more and more, we’re pulling away from humans, and I think people are getting to be more lonely,” she says.
Brodeur doesn’t just want to touch you, though. She also wants to spark conversations around touch. Touch is not just sexual or abusive. “Touch can be something that is supportive,” Brodeur says. Or self affirming. But this is a perspective on touch that we must attain. So a conversation about it must be had first. Brodeur hopes that with Feelosophy, she can rewrite the narrative around touch, that she may explode some of our stifling ideas of what touch looks like, that she might reclaim it from abusers, or a hypersexualized image.
The class ended with us lying on our backs again, but with Brodeur’s calming touch on our calves and feet. From head to toe, this session kept the mind from wandering to errant or unpleasant thoughts, kept the consciousness in the moment and experiencing the movements of one’s muscles, the body’s strength, and a oneness, by virtue of the feel of the ground, with the surrounding world.
If this experience sounds like something you’d like to get your hands on, then fear not. Brodeur and Feelosophy are hosting a pop-up studio at Stackt Market from Oct. 2 to 9. Head over to their site for more information.