The Importance of Hugs

A practice partner shared a success with me the other day. His daughter had been working on some tough spelling words and was getting pretty frustrated. Knowing that practicing was next on the to-do list, he could see that her frustration would likely spill over. As they got started, the signs appeared. He asked her to put her instrument down and he gave her a big, long hug. He asked if she were frustrated with the spelling words and she said that they were really hard. He agreed. They sat that way a while and then eventually went back to a shorter, less intense practice session.

There are many benefits to a hug between student and practice partner. It enables us to share so many feelings: happiness, sadness, acceptance, encouragement, and joy. It helps to build trust and a sense of safety, which help us make open and honest communication. Hugs instantly boost oxytocin and serotonin levels, which make us feel less lonely, isolated, or angry. They help us build self-esteem because they show us that we are loved and special. Hugs teach us how to give and to receive, and that love flows both ways.

I have a rule in my studio that while I am adjusting the foot stool and bench, my student must hug his practice partner. Wimpy, one arm hugs are not accepted and he will be required to redo the hug until I am satisfied that it has been done properly. (I always look for the practice partner’s bulging eyes to be sure!) Some of my students receive a hug from me after the ending bow, and they scold and remind me if I forget this tradition. Some students don’t like hugs, and that’s OK with me. I ask if they want one and, if not, I suggest a substitute, like a hand shake or a pat on the shoulder. Although those are less satisfying for me, I always defer to the comfort level of my students.

In what situations would adding hugs benefit your practice time?