When was the last time you had a really good laugh? I reckon it probably wasn’t like this.
There I was in a circle of strangers talking gibberish (literally. nonsense words.) and then ‘showering myself with laughter’ How was I feeling? – Quite surreal and pretty stupid to be honest, very awkward and really not keen to make eye contact with the 30 strangers around me.
Fast forward an hour and my face is hurting from smiling and laughing so much, I feel light headed, full of energy and bonded. I’d even go as far as saying I’d picked up a few new friends.
I have spent a long time thinking about how to describe the class and there’s no getting round the fact that if I tell you – without you having experienced it – it sounds completely bonkers. (Pretending that you’re riding a bike, playing volleyball, sumo wrestling while hysterically laughing for example)
To break it down Laughter Yoga combines unconditional laughing with yogic breathing. The Laughter is created through body exercises in a group which turns into real and contagious laughter. Scientifically the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter and you get the same physiological and psychological benefits including the release of endorphins and seratonin (a natural antidepressant) with reduced adrenaline and cortisol which help you feel relaxed. It also gives your insides a work out, boosts your oxygen intake to the brain and boosts your immune system!
I found my class through Meetup and our Angela – our laughter leader, made the group instantly comfortable with her effortless charm and huge smile. The group was a mixed bag. Confession – I expected a group of tied dye wearing hippy types (not that I’m against this breed of folk – it’s just what I expected) Instead I discovered a whole range of people of different ages, backgrounds, cultures and countries (India, France, Norway, America, Ireland and that’s only the ones I could remember!) Some were (brilliant) regulars, others had been a while ago and quite a few were first timers like me. We did an introduced activity where we had to laugh every time anyone said their name, where they were from and what they did – a bizarre experience but the laughter was warm not mocking. Amongst the group were a computer programmer, a grandmother, a radio host, a dancer, an accountant and 3 nurses* to name a few (*an excellent group of ladies I accosted prior to the class over hearing them talk about it and who consequently become my giggling comrades.) The class begins with more gentle laughter exercises and builds to quite a dynamic level (you need to yogic breathing to get your breath back!)
Laughter Yoga is not for the faint heart-ed. You have to laugh – on command – for a long sustained period (about an hour)..And I’m not talking about a giggle – I mean big hysterical belly laughing. We did it outside so passer-by would regularly stop (stare) to see what this group of (clearly) mad people were going jumping around in hysterical laughter.
There is no doubt about it, it’s quite a weird experience but perhaps no stranger than a drama workshop. Don’t get me wrong – when you’re doing it – it feels mental. But once you let go and just go with the flow it becomes liberating, fun, surreal and bizarrely enjoyable!? By the end of the class we were whooping and clapping as if we had just completed a sell out West End show. I felt on a genuine high and afterwards instead of going home (it was 8.30pm on a school night after all!) everyone stayed and had a drink and socialised. I had some great conversations with some interesting lovely people.
Personally Laughter yoga isn’t going to be something I do every week, but I plan on taking it up every few months or if I ever felt down. It is a bit crazy – yes. Is it also totally brilliant – definitely and I highly recommend it. Even if you never go again – you’ll have a laugh.
This week people – Laugh more. Then tell me about it!
To find the fabulous School of Laughter class which I attended click here
To read more about Laughter yoga click here
Laughter Yoga International click here