That's what the old song says. It has always seemed like sound advice to me. So, with that in mind, I decided to try something new. Laughter Yoga.
I do "regular" yoga--Hatha yoga, really--on a sporadic basis, and I have been exploring Yin Yoga, which I really like, so Laughter Yoga was not such a far stretch. My yoga guru and good friend Heather, who operates the Ananda Center for Balance here in Fort McMurray, was offering a Laughter Yoga Leader training workshop. It just all came together.
Seven other intrepid souls and I joined Heather for two days of breathing, laughing and stretching, and it was AMAZING. And the best part is that I am now certified to lead others in the practice, so I don't have to stand around laughing by myself. (I figure if I am in a group, it is less likely that I will be carted away by the men in little white coats...)
Laughter Yoga is not like your standard yoga, where you twist yourself into a lot of shapes that not even pretzel dough could achieve. You simply stand, or sit, and do a series of exercises designed to enhance your breathing and lift your spirits. The technique was developed by an Indian medical doctor, Dr. Madan Kataria, after he noticed that patients with a positive attitude recovered faster. He started out using jokes to get people laughing, but the jokes wore thin pretty quickly. He then developed methods of getting people to laugh for no reason at all, starting with making laughing sounds like ho, ho and ha, ha, ha. It seems that the body does not differentiate between laughter that is real and laughter that is pretend. So we pretend to laugh, and soon, for most of us, we are laughing for real.
And we laugh. And laugh. The literature for the program tells us that 10 minutes of healthy laughter is the equivalent of 30 minutes on a treadmill. I believe that--after the multiple sessions over the course of the workshop, I was exhausted. And exhilarated!
We also addressed letting go and playing. Many of the exercises in Laughter Yoga are designed to release a childlike sense of wonder and play. We wore silly hats and played make-believe games. And laughed. Looking into the eyes of someone who is laughing will set off another spate of laughing, too. So we laughed some more. It was a marvelous release, and I really do feel better for having laughed so hard for so long.
I am now working to laugh alone, though I still feel a little self-conscious laughing at myself in the mirror. It came much more easily today, and I suspect tomorrow will be even easier. I'm a laughing fool.
There are 8 of us who are certified to lead LY now, along with Heather, and we have founded a LY Club here in town. It is free for anyone who wishes to attend and the details are on Ananda's website. Our inaugural session will be on Sunday, April 17, 3-4 pm. And for those of you who are planning to come to Fibre Week, there will be laughter there, too. The where and when TBA.
So, if you see me dancing around, clapping my hands and laughing like a loon, do not assume that my cheese has finally slid off my cracker. I'm just doing yoga.