Don't expect to launch straight into an advanced cuddle position. A good cuddle requires the person you're snuggling to feel at ease, says Hasnain MirZa, founder of the Montreal professional cuddling service CuddleMe.
Start with a chat. Ask your companion open-ended, non-judgmental questions about themselves, such as "How's your day so far?" or "How are you feeling?" But don't blast them with questions, MirZa says. Keep your body language "open" – offer a genuine smile, don't cross your legs or arms, and maintain eye contact. Speak in a "mellow" tone of voice.
Once a person warms up to you and you've developed a connection, suggest moving into a cuddling position. A good starting position, MirZa says, is to sit on one end of a sofa with a pillow on your lap, and have the other person lie down with his/her head on the pillow facing forward.
You can then gently rest a hand on his head or shoulder.
MirZa, who is a respiratory therapist at Montreal's Royal Victoria Hospital, started his cuddling business in 2014 after an encounter with a lonely, tearful patient during Christmas made him realize how much people suffer when they're socially isolated. A self-confessed hugger who estimates he gives 50 hugs a day, MirZa is a proponent of the mental and physical health benefits of physical contact.
His clients, on average between 25 and 35 years old, are deprived of affection, he says, and many seek CuddleMe's hour-long sessions when struggling with the death of a loved one, a breakup, or work- or school-related stress. (The $90 sessions are strictly non-sexual.)
Many have experienced childhood trauma such as child abuse, family violence or bullying, he says. Some suffer from social anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder. The starting position on the sofa with one's head on a pillow is often enough to unleash the waterworks from MirZa's clients. "I've had clients who've cried for 55 minutes of the session. Just letting everything out … just unbottling their emotions," he says. Another popular position is to sit side by side on the sofa with shoulders touching and a hand on the other person's knee, MirZa says.
And for those comfortable with more advanced positions, spooning – with both people lying down on their sides, with one's front nestled against the other's back – is a favourite. (MirZa always insists on the use of a pillow as a buffer, so genitalia never touch.)
Before touching or getting into any of these positions, always ask the other person if he or she's okay with it. And let them open up at their own pace. A successful cuddle, he says, can be transformative. It can make an edgy, lonely and emotionally reserved individual feel tranquil and blissful.