I first heard about Laughter yoga when Fearne Cotton talked about it on her radio show. Thought it sounded interesting but I didn’t give it another thought. Fast forward a few months later and today I find myself at a Laughter yoga class. What can I say? I saw a sign for the class and it had to be done.
Here I am, it’s a small class, five people including me and six others all wearing the same purple t-shirts so I’m assuming they are making up the numbers (turns out I’m right, apparently this type of yoga is done best with a crowd). Once our instructor welcomes us in prayer, we begin with clapping – palm to palm clapping – to which chants are added HO HO HA HA (reminds me of the scene in ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ when Matthew McConaughey and Leonardo DiCaprio are at lunch and Matthew starts beating his chest and chanting Hmmm). This warm up is done to increase energy levels.
Next to follow are deep breathing exercises and then for the next fifty minutes we continue to do the breathing with stretching and different types of Laughter exercises including one that had me fake milking a cow. The instructor keeps repeating that we want to attain a child like playfulness. We are encouraged to make eye contact with each other as this encourages laughter. Anyone want to pretend to be a lion with me (yet another exercise we did).
SOME FACTS: Laughter yoga was created by Indian physician Dr. Madan Kataria. The concept of Laughter yoga is based on the scientific fact that the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter. One gets the same physiological and psychological benefits. Clinical research show that Laughter lowers the level of stress hormones (epinephrine, cortisol, etc) in the blood and it helps to change your mood within minutes by releasing endorphins. Yes its true people laughter really is the best medicine.
MY VERDICT: Before I went to this class, someone said to me ‘Laughter yoga? Come on yoga is yoga – don’t bastardise it with all kinds of weird variations.’ And he is right, that is exactly why I was intrigued in the first place and having done the class I’m still not sure what the ‘yoga’ component was meant to be and I did feel a sense of the ridiculous at first, but eventually fake awkward laughter gave way to real laughter and it felt good.
And although I have never had a problem laughing or laughing in public for that matter, as this is a physical rather than a mental laughter you are left feeling uninhabited. If I had to describe how I felt after the class I would say energized and open – kind of loose if that makes sense.
I’m not sure I’m going to convince the skeptic in you to give it go except I will say when does it not feel good to laugh? I would say give it go if you are up for anything, in need of a laugh or just plain curious. Laughter clubs are popping up everywhere and my class was free so you are not left out of pocket (well I did make a donation).
I will leave you with this fact: In the 1950s people laughed for an average of 18 minutes per day, but now the average is just six minutes. I think we all could do with a little bit more laughter in our lives – wouldn’t you agree?