Cuddle healing catching on in the Valley

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

GILBERT, Ariz. -- Need a hug? If so, Firefly Cuddle Healing in Gilbert might be the place for you.

Founder Jane Ysadora offers hugs, spooning, hand-holding and straight up cuddling services out of a healing room located inside Gilbert Yoga.

"Cuddle healing is the practice of deliberately connecting through touch," Ysadora said. "The purpose is to be able to open your heart and connect with one person, so that you can bring that into your everyday life and feel more connected all the time."

The yoga teacher, who has a background in marketing, started her cuddling business last September.

She says a typical session begins with a guided visualization, so that the client can relax and connect with the body.

"Then we'll start with some lesser contact, like touching hands and talking or looking into each others eyes, and maybe move through different cuddle positions as the session goes on," she said.

Her clients range in age from 20 to 80 and come from all different backgrounds.

Ysadora says from a scientific perspective, the benefits to cuddling are significant.

"Cuddling raises oxytocin, which boosts the immune system, eases symptoms of depression, relieves stress," she said.

In addition to the physical benefits, Ysadora also points out a number of personal or spiritual gains that come from this touch healing as well.

"As yoga instructors and students, we know the value of that heart connection. There's something magical about it. There's an actual energy field that shifts the way people feel when they connect that way," said Cassandra Wallick.

Wallick is the founder of Gilbert Yoga, and she's also Ysadora's friend.

"We're excited to have her here. I think it's an amazing therapy. I know that it does people a lot of good," Wallick said.

As it turns out, there are a lot of people who could use a hug.

Since opening, Ysadora has had a steady flow of clients seeking out her services. In fact, she says there are weeks where she will book as many as 20 one-hour sessions.

3TV asked if anyone ever has come to a session with the wrong idea of what exactly it is she's providing.

"I've been very lucky as far as clients go," she said. "I have really stellar clients."

That's her way of saying she is clear from the outset with clients that these cuddle connections are purely platonic.

While there may be some naysayers who do not believe Ysadora's cuddle healing can actually help anyone, she points to her clients' results.

"I've had clients tell me that cuddling has cured their depression. I certainly don't make any claims to cure people's depression, but I have had clients report very positive results from bringing this kind of connection into their lives," she said.

The cuddling does come at a cost. Ysadora charges $60 an hour.

Right now, it appears as though she's got the market cornered here in the Valley. Cuddling in general is growing in popularity elsewhere as well.

"Samantha just opened her cuddling shop in Portland and they have four cuddlers there, and the Snuggery's been running in New York for a while and I believe there's one in San Francisco," she said. "People need hugs. Everybody needs a hug, so I think that's why it's becoming so popular." 

Ysadora says while some may find the healing a little uncomfortable at first, they usually settle in pretty quickly.

She says Firefly Cuddle Healing and Gilbert Yoga are partnering up for a special Valentine's Day yoga-cuddling event, which blends the best of both worlds.