Laughter Yoga and the Happy-Loop
Today I learnt something new: You can “fake it” and it still feels like the real thing! Laughter, that is!
Thanks to GINA, an awesome new social enterprise, I was able to experience my very first Laughter Yoga session. The session was led by Sandra Wathall of Laughing Hearts, based in Kings Heath, Birmingham, who gave us a brief explanation of the history and benefits of Laughter Yoga, gently reassured us about the strangeness of it all and then launched straight into a good half hour of chuckling, giggling, guffawing and big belly laughing!
I really didn’t know what to expect, but as always, am open to anything that will enhance health. Sandra made us feel very comfortable and relaxed with a gentle warm up of some simple movements while giggling- a bit like a synchronised Giggle-Wiggle! It really did make me laugh. I wasn’t sure if I was laughing because everyone else was or if I was really laughing because I found it funny! I suppose it didn’t really matter. After our warm up we did a series of “laughing exercises” or “games” which made it easier to trigger the laughing process. The strangest thing happened : would you believe it, we were all off : a chortle here, a titter there until a little snort set us off uncontrollably into louder, deeper booms and howls! After each bout of hysterics we’d all take a moment to breathe deeply and stretch with a lovely forward fold, which was a welcome respite. Laughing big style is hard work! I could feel it in the base of my skull, as could the others,my jaw and soon in my belly after a while too.
We finished up with a simply wonderful relaxation which gave us a chance to let all those good happy feelings to be absorbed into the body. I believe that all exercise should end with a deep relaxation to gain maximum benefits of the physical workout you have just performed. And after a good old laugh, the slow meditative relaxation left me with a deep sense of calm, warmth and contentment. Infact unusually mellow I would say!
So how does this work?
Laughter Yoga combines laughing with deep yogic breathing. We know through scientific research and personal experience that laughing is good for us. It releases endorphins, reduces levels of stress hormones,provides pain relief, improving our body’s physiology and bringing positive mood changes. Pranayama breathing brings an increased flow of oxygen to the body and brain helping us maintain an energised state.
The best thing about it is that when you “fake it”, a feedback mechanism is triggered which switches on in your brain, which in turn feels good, then stimulates those smiley muscles again, which makes you laugh more and feel even better and on and on…like a Happy-Loop!
It’s also an external and internal workout for those hard-to-target bits of the body! That diaphragm is working hard along with the abs contracting, the shoulders moving and lifting and all those facial muscles that haven’t been used in a long time!
It connects people socially. So contagious is laughter that I found just hearing the person next to me laugh was enough to trigger my next bout .Even just looking at a person smile elevates the mood and reduces stress and perhaps improves you social interaction with them. Certainly, after the session was over, we were chatting and smiling, more openly and freely. This was a short session but I can imagine sharing this experience would likely increase bonding within a group. This type of activity would be a great ice-breaker: the room of aloof,distant colleagues or nervous strangers, will soon become a place of warmth, camaraderie and easy chit-chat.
So, I would say, if you get a chance, go for it. But start with an open heart , allow your mind to let go, let your body relax and you will feel, not just an emotional release, but a physical release , as your stresses slowly ebb away. If you can’t get to a workshop or class, then think about how you can actively bring more laughter into your life to improve your well-being. Laugh heartily with friends, watch funny films or try and start a “laughter wave” amongst your unsuspecting friends.
Remember “A good time to laugh is any time you can.” ~Linda Ellerbee
For more information contact
Laughing Hearts www.laughinghearts.co.uk 01214446578
GINA is a social enterprise offering unparalleled opportunities for people affected by rape and sexual abuse to Grow, Inspire, Nurture and Achieve.www.gina.co.uk