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This is a guest post from YBC's amazing intern, Madison, who graciously agreed to attend a laughter yoga class and share her experience and thoughts on the blog for our Weird Health Trends series. You can follow up with her on instagram @ybcsneakpeek and on twitter. Hope you enjoy! xo Candace
When Candace asked me to attend a Laughter Yoga Class, I wasn’t sure what to expect. An hour of voluntary (read: forced) laughter with complete strangers? Sounds awkward. And it was. That is, until suddenly things became not so forced, until the ridiculous, undulating sounds of “ho, ho, ha, ha” became true, uncontrollable fits of laughter.
Can you recall the last time you laughed so hard that tears welled up in your eyes? That your knees buckled and your body swayed, totally possessed by the guffaws springing from your chest? Most likely, you were with someone else, sharing a moment of unmitigated levity.
Interestingly, laughter is not present in babies from birth. Rather, laughter is a skill that babies develop within the first few months of life. It is a tool for communication, an inherently social function. The social nature of laughter is evident within the practice of laughter yoga. The sounds of participants simulated laughter soon trigger the genuine artifact. Silly vocal exercises and feigned smiles give way authentically beaming faces.
These laughter exercises not only make you feel good in the moment. They also offer proven, long-term health benefits. Studies have shown that laughter offers some benefits similar to that of a moderate workout. Laughter causes blood flow to open up. It lowers stress levels, which in turn strengthen the immune system and aid in relaxation and sleep.
Laughter yoga is a mindfulness practice and like any mindfulness practice, you gain more benefits the more you do it. We benefit from meditation the most when we take it out into the real world. When we approach our mindfulness practice as a preparatory exercise, we create the opportunity to reframe our thinking in every activity we do- on and off the mat. In one exercise, our instructor Robert Rivest asked us to play out a typically negative encounter (for instance, an argument with a coworker or opening up an empty checking account), and, rather than get upset with the situation, simply practice laughing. Such an exercise is a great way to transfuse negative, high energy.
The oft-dispensed advice when feeling nervous and anxious is to relax. But relaxation and anxiety differ energetically. When the body is infused with high-energy anxiety, it can be difficult to move to a space of low-energy relaxation. Laughter offers the option of giving that high energy somewhere to go. It retains the intensity while shifting towards a more positive valence.
At the beginning of the session, I certainly felt nervous energy (because, "this is weird" and "awk" and "what if I'm not good at it???"), and (per usual) I immediately attempted to stifle that energy, to bring it under control. We began the session by mixing physical and vocal exercises. We simulated laughter while spinning in circles- raising our hands over our heads, throwing our heads back, exuding deep, guttural laughs. It was silly, and that was the point. I found myself relinquishing pretension, becoming less self-conscious with every chortle.
Though I strongly believe in the benefits of yoga, I constantly find myself bumping up against my ego during practice. I have to remind myself that it is ok if my outer hip doesn't come in contact with the floor during pigeon pose, or if I wobble, shake, or even tumble down during inversions. If I'm not mindful, my yoga practice becomes another vehicle of control, rather than a means of release. But laughter rejects control. It rejects solemnity in favor of uncontrolled displays of joy. We swayed and rolled around on the ground; we looked like lunatics. And it was fine. As I listened to the silly voices around me, my need for control faded away. My utterances of simulated laughter transformed into real, unrestrained LOLs. I luxuriated in the child-like playfulness of it all. And after the class was over, the effects lingered. I felt happy, open, and eager to lose myself in laughter again.
How about you? Do you think you could make laughter a part of your mindfulness practice?
We scoped out some activewear perfect for a laughter yoga class - check them out below. Disclaimer: These are affiliate links which means YBC earns a small commission when you click on them. These links do not change the cost of the product to you. Thanks for the support!