Laughter is an instant vacation. ~Milton Berle
One day while on Facebook I saw an event called Laughing Yoga and before I knew it I had signed up and called the yoga studio to pay my registration fee. Originally, I had seen Laughing Yoga featured within the documentary film about yoga, Enlighten Up! and at the time it seemed to me like an interesting concept. What appealed to me most was that no yoga experience was required and all that was needed was the ability to laugh. I had never taken a single yoga class. But, this I could do and just thinking about it brought a smile to my face.
If laughter was an instant vacation, then what a trip I was about to embark on!
Definition: Laughter is an audible expression or the appearance of happiness or an inward feeling of joy (laughing on the inside). It may ensue (as a physiological reaction) from jokes it is in most cases a very pleasant sensation. Laughter is used as a signal for being part of a group — it signals acceptance and positive interactions with others. Laughter is sometimes seemingly contagious, and the laughter of one person can itself provoke laughter from others as a positive feedback.
Laughing Yoga was created in India by Dr. Kataria in 1995 with his first laughter club. It is Pranayama, “yoga breathing” and unconditional laughter. His concept: The scientific fact is that the body cannot differentiate between fake or real laughter. It has both physiological and psychological benefits to the individual. Laughter is simulated as a body exercise in a group; with eye contact and childlike playfulness, it soon turns into real and contagious laughter.
Today there are over 600 Laughter Clubs in 6o Countries throughout the World.
The yoga studio itself was quite beautiful and minimalist in its décor filled with bolsters, blocks and sticky mats. It was a perfect setting for the normal zen like calm that would soon erupt into hearty laughter.
Our instructor Graham welcomed us with a brief introduction into Laughing Yoga, what to expect and we introduced ourselves. He then asked if there was anyone who did not practice yoga and as I looked around at the small group of Lululemon wearing, Hippies, hard bodies and yoga experts. The voice in my head went, “Oh shit!” I smiled and timidly raised my hand. He quickly acknowledged that we wouldn’t be doing any difficult poses but it would include stretches and simple poses. I silenced the voice in my head and was relieved that I wasn’t going to have to contort my body into a pretzel!
We began our class with a 15 minute unison vocal meditation in lotus position (cross legged for those not familiar with yoga terms). During the vocal meditation, focus on the sound of the words and the effects on the different parts of the body. Vowel sounds were pronounced as we traveled through a series of yoga poses and stretches on our sticky mats. It was an interesting experience to hear the harmony, tones and musicality of the sounds in the different positions. What was particularly more interesting was how my body responded to the sounds. Throughout the several simple playful exercises, different patterns of breathing continued to bring more oxygen to the body and brain.
Yoga brings the body to a relaxed state and during the exercises you soon find yourself immersed in a giddy, joyous state connecting with your inner child. The one you continually push down. The one that wants to jump in puddles, laugh at in appropriate times or who laughs at cartoons or silly jokes. Throughout the class, I noticed the edges of my mouth curving in an upward state.
One of the suggestions is to fake your laughter if you are not “feeling it” through the exercise or “fake it ‘til you make it” and before you know it you are laughing spontaneously. Perhaps the moments of how absurd it looked contributed to the such moments. The laughter becomes contagious and before you know it, the whole room is laughing! There were times when I was laughing so hard that I could feel my whole body vibrating with energy. The energy filled my entire body as the laughter came from my core.
One doctor who has studied laughter says, “Laughter is a mechanism everyone has; laughter is part of universal human vocabulary. There are thousands of languages, hundreds of thousands of dialects, but everyone speaks laughter in pretty much the same way.” I was once again reminded that we are all connected. It was an amazing experience and one that I am blessed to have been a part of.
Next week, I begin my beginner’s yoga course and I will enroll in the next Laughing Yoga course. My smile has returned.