If you've never partaken of a laughter yoga session, chances are you've maybe pondered already what it could entail: Do we practice belly laughing while we do headstand? Do we sit in pigeon and tell each other off-colour jokes? Maybe we just get lifted on our own manic delight & float through the universe like this crazy human:
In the end none of these three truly get close, it's more so something you have to experience for yourself. But to do so is well worth it, because in exactly the same way that we yogis strive for years to harness the subtle energies of our breath to cleanse & revivify ourselves physically, mentally & emotionally, getting deeply immersed in laughter can offer these same treasures in mere minutes.
Some tangible benefits of laughter itself:
~Tones the core - When we laugh freely we are rapidly contracting our abdominal muscles in a way that promotes stability through center
~Improves Respiratory & Cardiac Health - Ever laughed so hard as something that you felt near passing out with sheer joy? Hearty laughter quickens the breath & blood circulation, allowing more efficient circulation of oxygen throughout the body. This is why we feel that warm afterglow long after the belly laughs have ceased & we've wiped the tears from our eyes.
~Reduces Stress- The physical act of laughter naturally reduces the prevalence of hormones like cortisol and epinephrine, thus greatly reducing the state we sometimes find ourselves in of being 'wired for stress.' Reduction of these hormones has a wonderfully beneficial effect on immune system health as well
~Dissolves social conditioning - Milton Berle once said that 'the shortest distance between two souls is a shared laugh.' When we're really absorbed in a moment of mirth with someone, so much social patterning as resistance freely falls away
Now, all of these benefits and more are derived from incidental laughter as we move through our day, and this laughter usually requires a stimulus: a witty meme, an inside joke from a friend, someone letting a fart go in an elevator, etc.
But something odd & unexpected happens when a group of people get together & start laughing for no reason whatsoever: the act of laughing is mechanical at first, but the more we share the collective sound & sight of laughter around us, the more the analytical mind quiets down , the more the laughter flows freely without particular stimulus, and the more the body & mind are able to reap these benefits enduringly. Think about how good you feel when you stop to take a few deep, mindful breaths. Now think about how good you feel after a 90 minute yoga class of mindful breathing. The benefits deepens into our very cells, and patterns us toward continuing to be receptive to this same nourishment in times to come.
Laughter Yoga as a specific practice was begun by a Physician in Mumbai, India a few decades back, and since then has expanded to untold numbers of laughter gatherings and clubs all over the globe. Think of the sun just rising over a pristine, tree-filled park in India. Now think of it filled with hundreds of men, women & children, washing their hearts with laughter to start their day. It may seem ludicrous, but that is precisely why it is of such benefit.
So come join this mirthful gathering of humanity, make a joyful noise, and heal, both inwardly & outwardly. All it takes is a chuckle.
Join Graham this Saturday, January 24, at Yogalife Studios South from 2:30-5:30 for the giggle-fit of a lifetime! Register here.