THE HUG. It’s one of the simplest gestures in the world, and delivers some of greatest benefits human beings need and crave. Hugs build trust and compassion, they increase oxytocin levels (the bonding and happiness hormone), they reduce blood pressure, and hugs can even make you smarter! And, they’re 100% free. So in the spirit of this joyous time of year, we are thrilled to welcome Dashama, our brand new Joyology* Expert, who has a hug-filled holiday health challenge that you’re going to love!And last week, she kicked it off at the Santa Monica Pier giving out free hugs to strangers – and filmed the whole thing for us! Don’t you just love her already?*Joyology was coined by her friend, and the man who made the music in her Free Hugs video, Mr. A-to-Z himself, Jason Mraz.Are you ready for CHALLENGE #7?Here’s what to do:Pledge to hug someone – anyone! – every day for two weeks.When:Monday, December 12 – Christmas DayWho Says?Dashama is an internationally known Yoga Teacher, Author, Healer and Healthy Lifestyle Coach. Founder of the Global 30 Day Yoga Challenge, Journey to Joyful TV, Perfect 10 Lifestyle and Pranashama Yoga Institute. She is an innovator in the field of yoga, mind/body transformation and healing… and believes in the power of hugs!Why?Straight from our National Hug Your Boss Day blog post (even CEOs need hugs!)…5 Reasons Hugging is Healthy1. REDUCED BLOOD PRESSURE AND RISK OF HEART DISEASE It’s proven that hugs lead to less stress; after hugging, there is a reduction in your body’s cortisol level. Cortisol is the hormone associated with stress. Less stress equals lower blood pressure, which significantly reduces your risk of heart disease.2. OXYTOCIN INCREASE Hugs increase oxytocin – the “bonding” hormone. In a study, when couples hugged for 20 seconds, their levels of oxytocin increased. Those in loving relationships had the highest increases.3. STRENGTHENS SOCIAL BONDS Hugs symbolize trust and compassion. Giving someone a hug has the potential to make them feel more comfortable around you in the future, to trust you more, and to make them feel that you are truly on their side.4. IMPROVES MENTAL HEALTH Hugging, like therapy or yoga, can help clear your mind and make you happier. But, what’s more, is it can even strengthen your mind long-term. Hugging and touch has been shown to reduce symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, such as restlessness, pacing, vocalization, searching and tapping.5. HUMAN TOUCH IS IRREPLACEABLE In the same way a massage can deliver the healing, happy benefits of human touch, a hug can really do a body good.How to get started:Join the Challenge Event on Facebook and tell us about your hugs! Maybe you’ll continue to hug your husband each and every morning and night, or perhaps you’ll hug a friend in need… or go Dashama-style and give them out for free in the street. Whatever you do, we want to hear it!What’s in it for me? (HUGS & GIFT CARDS!)Giving a hug = getting a hug! Everybody wins. Plus, once you join the Facebook event and start sharing your hug stories, you’ll be eligible to win one of two $50 Spa & Wellness Gift Cards by Spa Week.More on Dashama:Dashama’s personal approach to yoga as a lifestyle and life path to awakening to more joy, love and abundance on all levels is unique and highly sought after. Read more about it in her book, Journey to Joyful.She developed Pranashama Yoga from years of personal practice as well as training with some of the greatest masters of our time. This fusion style is designed to help you heal, strengthen, tone and balance your body, become centered and balanced in your emotions and clear any blocks to accessing your highest potential in life.Check her out in all sorts of positions!And one of her favorite positions: Sun Salutations. Learn more about this ritual, which a big part of Dashama’s famous 30 Day Yoga Challenge, in this video.Visit Dashama’s website and YouTube channel to learn more about this wonderfully spirited and inspirational human being.Now, here’s a big virtual hug from the Spa Week team – for you Dashama, and for everyone!