Laughing is said to be good for the mind and body. Taking that advice to heart, numerous people are flocking to laughter yoga – an exercise that encourages people to laugh while practising yoga. Despite its name, laughter yoga does not require practitioners to bend and contort their bodies into difficult poses.
Developed in 1995 by an Indian doctor and his wife, the exercise only requires people to take deep breaths while doing simple yoga poses. With over 6 500 laughter yoga centres in 65 countries around the world, this craze has certainly gone global – and now there are numerous classes springing up all over Ireland.
If you don’t have a sense of humour, stop reading here. If you do, laughter yoga might be the class for you — exercise with some hee hees ( and the occasional Yay!) thrown in for good measure. Seeing that I occasionally challenge myself to do something that can’t be done with a glass of wine in my hand, laughter yoga seemed like a fun idea, so I decided to join the Laughter Yoga Dublin class to find out what it was all about.
Members of the group regularly gather to chuckle and chortle their way to health. During a class they wave their arms, clap, hug total strangers – and laugh hysterically for around 45 minutes.The combination of unconditional laughter and yogic breathing is said to stretch muscles and trigger endorphins – the chemical in the brain known for its feel-good effect.
I walk into the class, located on Dublin’s Baggot equipped with a mat for floor stretches. ‘You’re not going to need that,’ Eugenio says, throwing his hands up to heaven like a preacher. ‘What on earth have I let myself in for? ‘ I think to myself. I consider bolting out the door, but it’s too late, the lights have been dimmed, the pan pipe music is playing and the door has been firmly shut.
There are about 20 people in the room, a mix of different colours, creeds and nationalities, and most people are dressed casually, in leggings, t-shirts and loose tracksuit bottoms. I notice three incredibly good looking men who seem to have come on their own (thought that was worth mentioning), a few free-spirited hippie types and around five tightly wound professionals who, presumably, are there for the exact same reason as myself – to find a little stress relief.
Initially, it is quite awkward because there seem to be quite a few first timers here, like me, but within seconds Eugenio is directing us through a range of warm-up exercises.We start off by chanting ” Ho ho ho. Ha ha ha. Hee hee hee!” The theory being that fake laughter invariably leads to real laughter and this warm up session produces a few nervous giggles and the occasional guffaw from the class.
After the warm up, there is the ‘Laugh and Play’ segment of the session. 20 minutes in I’m dancing with wild abandon, hugging strangers and my stomach is hurting I’ve been laughing so much. 10 minutes after that and I’m crawling around the floor, miaowing, pretending to be a cat.
This is no joke: a dozen people are wandering around with their hands in the air, laughing hysterically, squawking like chickens and talking gibberish.Now limbered up, they suddenly form a loose circle and begin clapping and chanting before they resume a group stretch.
Not exactly what I’d expected but it is nothing short of fantastic.As adults, we never get the chance to play and scream – the way children do – and I find the experience strangely liberating. After 45 minutes, the class finishes up with one last group laugh.
We hang our heads and bend our backs just in time for the big vertical descent, followed by the liberation of uncontrollable laughter.When it’s over there’s a strange post-coital awkwardness amongst the group. We all know we’ve shared something real and intimate. We’ve exposed ourselves and that’s taken a certain amount of courage.
Rosy-cheeked and high on endorphins, I tell myself that I am in love with everyone in the room. About a year’s worth of anxiety has simply melted away and I’m beaming with joy.
The beauty of laughter yoga is that anyone can do it and it has numerous health benefits. And unlike some advanced yoga classes, which look as if only humans born without bones could join in, this form is great for beginners. But one word of advice – you’ll need to leave your inhibitions at the door.
Laughter Yoga Benefits
* Strengthens the immune system.
* Burns calories.
* Relieves stress.
* Reduces blood pressure.
* Reduces pain by increasing endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers.
* Improves lung capacity and oxygen levels.
* Provides a good massage for internal organs.
* Like yawning, it is contagious.
* May help prevent heart disease Sources: Psychology Today, The Scientist, University of Maryland Medical Center study.
WHAT: Laughter yoga
WHEN: Friday, August 4, 2017
7:15 PM to 8:15 PM
WHERE:The Harvest Moon Centre
24 Lower Baggot Street,
PRICE: EUR8.00 /per person
Images: Flickr Creative Commons
Stress Relief with Laughter Yoga
Photos by Samantha L. Justice