Celebrate National Hugging Day With These 5 Self-Caring Yoga Poses

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How did National Hugging Day begin?

Originating in the USA in 1986 and celebrated worldwide, January 21st 2021 is National Hugging Day! Its purpose is to encourage people to hug loved ones more, show affection, share emotions and revel in the well-being benefits of a tight squeeze.

The date was chosen to help combat the January blues, as SAD (seasonal affective disorder) is typically worse in winter and Blue Monday – allegedly the most depressing day of the year – falls on 18th January. The act of hugging can release feel-good hormones oxytocin and serotonin and create an immediate sensation of support and love. No wonder the Norse word ‘hugga’ means to comfort. Humans have been embracing for thousands of years; even hugging skeletons have been unearthed dating back to Neolithic times. 

Hug variations include a group hug (anything more than two huggers), bear hug (a powerful arm wrap), the one-way hug (sideways, with one person offering an arm around the other person’s lower body) and the man hug for those who find public displays of attention a bit awkward.

Whether you’re a keen hugger or not, National Hugging Day will be extra challenging this year due to social distancing, lockdown, travel limitations and the lack of celebratory occasions. Although we’re missing out on a lot of hugs, us resourceful yogis have a solution. You can still get your hug fix by embracing your household, support bubble, pets and yourself!

That’s right – simply cross your arms in front of your chest, gently hold your shoulders and squeeze. Float your eyes closed and inhale and exhale deeply. 

Embrace these poses for an instant hug

Practising yoga and mindfulness is the perfect self-care act to combat spells of loneliness or despair you may be experiencing this National Hugging Day. Find time to focus positively on yourself and gain a sense of mindfulness, gratitude and calm. Certain yoga poses draw energy inwards to your heart as if to hug yourself – placing your hands in prayer for namaste for example or wrapping your arms and legs in eagle.

We’ve selected five caring poses that you can try at home to give yourself a hug on National Hugging Day (or any time you need a tight squeeze and chance to stretch, open up, unwind and breathe deeply).

1. Pavanamuktasana or wind-relieving pose – suitable for all yogis, this pose gently massages the abdominal organs to release cramps or bloating and eases your lower back as you recline on the mat and hug your legs in. Either take a gentle hug of the knees to the chest or lift the shoulders away from the ground and reach the hands to opposite elbows as you hug the shins in.

2. Hindolasana or seated shin hug/cradle pose – anchored on your mat, open up those hips and stretch your glutes whilst hugging your shin. If you can’t hook the elbows all the way around the knee and the foot, gently hold the ankle and the knee with your hands and hug your shin towards your chest.

3. Uttanasana/Paschimottanasana or standing/seated forward fold – a variation on these postures which usually see hands reaching to the ground or to the feet. Feel a release of the whole of the posterior chain, back and neck whilst aiming to hug your chest to your legs. Keep a bend in your knees as much as you need to, relax the head and the neck completely.

4. Gomukhasana or cow face pose – another variation on traditional cow face pose to give your ankles, hips, thighs and shoulders, a deep stretch as you wrap your arms around yourself. Stay seated upright or round the spine slightly allowing the elbows to drop towards the top knee and rest your head between your arms. Breathe deeply into the top of the shoulders and back ribs.

5. Ardha Matsyendrasana or half lord of the fishes pose/seated twist – with your knee bent in a seated position, hug into your leg as you twist away, stretching the chest, shoulders, upper and lower back. Maintain length in the lower back, as you inhale sit tall, as you exhale gently twist and hug your leg in towards your ribcage.

You can also join us for a 15 minute sequence which threads each of these hugging postures together. This will be available from 9am today…


Remember to inhale and exhale for at least five breaths and take time to enjoy your hug.

Happy National Hugging Day to all our yogis and teachers!