They say that laughter is the best medicine, and no one can deny that the positive effects of a good belly laugh can last for hours.
Laughing Yoga first appeared in 1995 when a doctor introduced the combination of playful laughter and deep breathing techniques. Since then, Laughter Yoga has become a thing across the world. I’ve heard about it on and off for a while now but didn’t really know what it was. My friend Sally set my one of my first challenges to try a class.
It took a while to find a class to join but, helpfully, the lovely people at ‘Friends of Cannizaro Park’ in Wimbledon were putting on an outdoor event which included a one hour Laughter Yoga class. I was determined to drag Sally with me, so we booked a couple of places.
Fake it till you make it
The principle of Laughter Yoga is a kind of fake it till you make it; if you start with a pretend laugh, before long it turns into a genuine laugh. And, importantly, the body can’t tell the difference, so the feel good hormones are the same!
I’m not gonna lie, we felt a bit stupid at first; very self-conscious and unsure of what to expect. There were about eight of us in the class and, looking round the room, I think we all felt a bit the same!
The class facilitator was Tish Dodson from Jiva Health, and she talked us through a number of exercises designed to bring about laughter. It’s akin to drama classes I’ve been to in the past; movements and “games” that have you clowning around and inciting laughter from the pit of your belly. There’s something beautifully freeing about being childlike and silly as a 50-year-old adult, and the challenge is to put your feelings of embarrassment to one side.
Interestingly, there’s a simple movement that resets the room after every exercise, where you clap in time with a: “Ho ho! Ha ha ha!” Followed by a: “Very good, very good, yay!” We were taught that, if any of us descended into uncontrollable laughter, tears or other emotion, we could reset ourselves very quickly. And it worked.
I think the highlight for me was pretending our hands were puppets that were chuckling to each other. Ridiculously daft, but very funny – see the photos… We then got to lie on the floor and throw a full-on toddler tantrum – that also felt pretty good, I must admit! We have video evidence of that one…
Would I do it again? Heck yeah, and I’d be less self-conscious next time.