I came across Laughter Yoga earlier this year, when looking for something completely different to do. Initially dismissing it having never done yoga before I thought it wasn’t for me! However, having come across it once, it kept cropping up again and again. Initially I thought it was something I wouldn’t do, but actually when I began to explore beneath the surface of this new ‘modern age’ approach to laughter I started to see some of the benefits.
I initially booked onto the workshop with the view of self-care, time away and a weekend for myself. Self-care for me as a practitioner is important and exploring the concept of the Happiness movement I could begin to see how Laughter Yoga may fit into that. Not only was it beneficial for me, but potentially something of benefit to us all.
I nearly talked myself out of attending as my internal chatter began to question what I was doing… I can’t learn Laughter Yoga with a group of strangers! What would people think? Connect with my inner child and play!!!!
Actually, why not? So I did!
Our group was ten willing participants somewhat reserved and slightly anxious to say the least, ready to learn how to be Laughter Yoga Leaders. Yes, not only was I participating for the first time, but I had actually signed up to do the whole weekend course of laughter and become a Laughter Yoga Leader, not the one hour session!!!
I think the first hour was the most serious the group was all weekend, after that we learned whole heartedly to laugh our way through the learning process. The best way to learn is to actually experience a Laughter Yoga session ourselves and participate fully; so we did!
Laughter Yoga is about letting go of the conscious mind and engaging in a playful childlike manner. A Laughter Yoga session lasts for approximately one hour and uses exercises to generate laughter to encourage the group to interact together and before long genuine laughter flows, becomes deeper and more infectious. As the laughter continues more oxygen enters the body and stress levels reduce. Not only is laughter an internal exercise for the body, but the face gets a good workout too. This can be fairly energetic, but you can do as little or as much as you want. In order to gain maximum benefits from a Laughter Yoga session deep belly laughter needs to be experienced for between 10 and 15 minutes. (Laughter Yoga Leader Manual, Rev Ed 2014, p.5-10)
And finally, a grounding exercise which reconnected us back to earth and ready to head back into the real world. The feeling that followed was pretty amazing. My body felt as though it had a real workout, both inside and out.
So how was Laughter Yoga discovered?
It was developed by Dr Kataria from Mumbai in 1995 while researching the benefits of laughter on health. After exploring laughter with a small group of people he discovered that laughter can be created without a reason. Using his wife’s knowledge of yoga (Madhuri Kataria) it combines laughter with deep yogic breathing which brings more oxygen to the body and brain. Laughter is initiated by eye to eye contact and childlike playfulness. The concept of Laughter Yoga is based on the fact the brain/body cannot differentiate between real and fake laughter, if done willingly. (Laughter Yoga Leader Manual, Rev Ed 2014, p.5-10)
The understanding that laughter is good for us is not a unique concept. Looking historically Norman Cousins, 1979 identified that 10 minutes of laughter provided him with nearly two hours of pain free sleep, Dr William F Fry explored the physiological aspects of laughter and linked it with increased heart rate being good for respiratory issues and producing endorphins, Dr Lee Berk, Phd conducted studies on the impact of humour on heart and stress levels and Dr Hunter (Patch) Adams, MD understood the link between laughter and healing. (Laughter Yoga Leader Manual, Rev Ed 2014, p. 5-10)
It has been identified that adults rarely laugh compared to children and in some cases this could be down to the stresses and strains of daily life. The actual figures vary according to which article you read and I think individual circumstances do have an impact as to how true those figures are. Regardless, Laughter Yoga helps breakdown barriers and inhibitions and helps move people closer together. Laughter Yoga is suitable for most people, of any age, however there are some exceptions so please check before undertaking.
So, what did I achieve? I learnt how to run a Laughter Yoga workshop, learnt how to generate laughter in a childlike playful manner that can access deep breathing and generate positive changes. Gained a greater understanding of the physical impact of laughter and how it alters the body’s breathing abilities and the importance of grounding afterwards. During the process I gained several new friends, laughed a lot and took some time for me to explore something different.
Fancy joining a group?
Picture: rawpixel (2018) ‘People’ [Online] Available at: https://pixabay.com/en/squad-man-group-group-together-3370836/ (Accessed: 8 May 2018)
Bergland, C (2016) ‘How self-initiated laughter can make you feel better’. Psychology Today blog, 18 September.[Online] Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201609/how-self-initiated-laughter-can-make-you-feel-better (Accessed: 30 April 2018)
Busman, K (2018) ‘Laugh more feel better.’ Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humour blog, 2 March. [Online] Available at: http://www.aath.org/index.php?option=com_dailyplanetblog&view=entry&year=2018&month=03&day=01&id=1:laugh-more-feel-better (Accessed: 30 April 2018)
Gerretsen, I (2016) ‘Laughter yoga class review: The unexpected joy of letting go in public with total strangers’ Independent, 12 February. [Online] Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/features/laughter-yoga-review-a6869446.html (Accessed: 8 May 2018)
Laughter Yoga International University (Rev Ed 2014) ‘Certified Laughter Yoga Leader Manual,’ Laughter Yoga International University, pp. 5-10. (Accessed: 8 May 2018)