So, I couple years ago, I came across a yoga class called “Laughter Yoga”. I knew at some point, I had to check it out. My first thought was “what is THIS?” I mean, with all the different styles of yoga out there today, I have to say it had me curious, to say the least.
But like everything else, and for so many, it took me some time to get there. It was offered only once a month, so limited times were available. Of course, something would always come up restricting me from attending the class each month. So I finally decided to make it a priority. I put it on my calendar, told myself I would go, and made sure I would attend at all costs. And now, I’m reaping the benefits, and so relieved I got myself there.
It’s been noted that laughter is a great “cure” for many issues. Stress, for one, is one of the most prevalent issues damaging our bodies these days. Allowing oneself a good belly laugh increases endorphins, and helps aid in muscle relaxation.
So how does it work? Well, when you get into a good belly laugh, a great amount of oxygen gets into the system, much like yoga breathing, that stimulates and awakens the heart, lungs and surrounding muscles. At first, the body gets stimulated, and raises heart rate and blood pressure, but then as endorphins are released, the body immediately comes back to rest sending a great relaxed feeling running through your entire body.
For someone like me, with a history of anxiety, the idea of an “energetic” class made me a bit nervous. Certain styles of yogic breathing can increase my anxiety, like kapalabhati, where you intentionally pulse the belly to get that inner fire erupted, increasing heart rate and blood pressure and use that to “get out” stress. Knowing that we “fake it till you make it” sounded a bit like that idea, but the effects were definitely different here. It doesn’t bring you up, and keep you up OR bring on anxiety. You see, when in a laugh, the body can’t do more than two things at once, so, you can’t be anxious while laughing. It’s been said that you can’t “get anxious” when concentrating on the breath either, like in kapalabhati, but those of us who have anxiety know that, it can, and in fact, does happen. Laugher is natural, not forced, and even though we sort of “force” the laughter at first, the real laughter takes over and the natural affects of the body take over.
Another wonderful quality of the laughter yoga is, unlike traditional yoga where the focus is on the individual, you connect together with the people in the room. We laugh together working with each others’ energy, which is very soothing and safe. But the true gift, is the feeling that we are doing this all together. We are experiencing together, we are safe together. So, there is no fear, there is only comfort. It was an overall feeling of community, love, and understanding of one another.
The best piece of this experience, was what I learned about myself. There was a section of the practice where we were guided to drape our arms down towards the floor and cry it out. (Not real crying, just acting out the tears and movement.) We were instructed to then bring our arms up over our heads and turn those tears into laughter and laugh it out. What threw me was when we were down in the crying part, with arms draped, I felt comfy. This was my comfy spot, my go-to place, my place of solace. I also found it difficult to turn those “tears” into laughter as we raised our arms up. Hmmmmm… This was a HUGE eye opener for me, for it was at that moment I realized I enjoy my sorrow. When things go wrong I turn to the negative instead of the positive. Ergo, I need to laugh more, and I need to smile more. I need to take life a bit less serious. While in that downward crying section, I saw my kids. I saw my husband. I saw any friend I had in the past that I became friends with “because they made me laugh”. Wow. I need to allow more laughter in my life. Just, in general, to be happier. Period. End of story.
When I left the class, I felt calm. I was relaxed, and I felt safe. I felt connected with the people I was in the room with, and the world felt a little smaller and a bit warmer to me. To top the night off, I had a great nights sleep.
Laughing is therapeutic, it is fun, and especially when we are stressed, it is necessary for overall well-being. It helps keep us positive, and brings us the warm gushy feelings inside we all deserve.
So grab your friends, grab your family and get gigglin’!
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